Monday, July 25, 2016

Whole Wheat Bread - Some notes

Whole Wheat Bread - Some notes

Baking bread is not quite as intimidating as you may have imagined. It does however require patience and perseverance. I tried several times to make the perfect whole wheat bread and although my loaf is not perfect, it is as near as it gets. After a lot of baking, reading up, and watching youtube videos, I made a list of tips and lessons learned. I hope the following list helps make your whole wheat bread baking experience more pleasurable. I also read a few books one of which helped me immensely. You can find it on Amazon.

Click here for the recipe I follow written by PJ Hamel.

Below is the list of ingredients I tweaked for the context (cup is 240ml)

Maida 1 tsp (Original recipe doesn't encourage the use of all purpose flour but I find it makes the bread taste better)

Whole wheat flour (from the mill down the road 😊) 3.5 cups (original recipe says King Aurther's Whole Wheat white flour which we don't get)

Nestle Dairy whitener - 1/4 cup (original recipe says bakers special dried milk)

Orange juice - 1/4 cup (Or juice of half a lemon)

Honey - 1/8 cup (original recipe says 1/4 cup)

Veg/Olive oil - 1/4 cup (tried this with sesame oil and it tastes fine)

Butter - 1 tsp

Salt - 1/2 tbsp

Instant dry yeast - 2.5 teaspoons

Some seeds (toasted-pumpkin, flax, onion and white sesame)

Warm water - 1.25 cups approximately

The procedure given in the original recipe is foolproof even if this is your first time making bread. So, I dedicate my post to a few hints, tips and lessons that will hopefully make your bread baking experience pleasurable.

  1. Oil is essential. It doesn't help the yeast multiply or strengthen the gluten strands, but helps smooth the surface and prevents carbon-dioxide from escaping so keeping the yeast alive and active.
  2. The teaspoon of butter in the list of ingredients (which isn't there in the original recipe) improves the flavour of the loaf, especially if you are using sunflower/saff-flower/sesame oil.
  3. Rubbing a little butter on top of the finished loaf makes the crust tastier.
  4. Be economical with the seeds. If you try to put too many, they will fall off the finished loaf and get wasted. Onion/kalonji seeds go particularly well with wheat bread although flax and sesame are good too.
  5. Instead of adding the entire quarter cup of oil to the dough, use 1/8 cup while mixing the dough and the rest while kneading. This way, kneading is easier and smoother and you don't have to use additional flour to knead.
  6. For shaping the loaf, tip the risen ball of dough on to a oiled surface on the counter and pat it out. Then roll it like you would roll a mat. Tuck the edge and the sides and pick it up and tip into the greased tin fold facing down. The reason is that if the log or the loaf is loose and wobbly, the risen loaf collapses in the oven. If you read all comments on the King Arthur's blog, you will get this information but I didn't and my loaf collapsed 😒
  7. Even if you get a large orange, limit the orange juice to a quarter cup (80 ml). If oranges are not in season, use juice of half a lemon. I never did make whole wheat bread without the juice of orange or lemon although I have no idea what the juice of either lemon or orange does. But when I substituted lemon for orange it still worked and that is that 😀
  8. Knead the dough till it is glossy and smooth. If you poke the dough with your index finger, it must bounce back almost immediately. That is the indication that the gluten is completely developed. If it doesn't bounce back, knead more.
  9. Do not go by the timing given to determine if your loaf has risen enough. Poke the loaf with your index finger again. If it bounces back however slowly, it still has time. But if it doesn't bounce back, it must go in the oven immediately because it has risen full capacity and is on the verge of collapsing.
  10. Watch a good video on kneading. It is basically stretch and fold and it takes at least 4 turns to stretch and fold the entire dough one time.
  11. Keep the dough tacky(looks sticky but doesn't really stick to your hand). If you ended up adding a little too much water to the dough, just bake it for a little longer so it dries out a bit. Once my bread broke in half and it was a sad thing to happen after so much kneading and expectation.

Now for the crust

  1. Grease the loaf tin lightly. If there is excess oil/butter, it will make the crust oily.
  2. Higher the baking temperature, thicker and harder the crust.
  3. I read somewhere that baking the bread for 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (centigrade) and then reducing the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius for the rest of the baking time helps make a thin soft crust. But I never tried.
  4. I don't preheat the oven but bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. I just came up with the temperature and time after a few attempts because baking at 180 for 40 minutes didn't quite dry the loaf. Excessively moist bread crumbles easily which is no help when making a sandwich or toasting a slice. I also keep a few ice cubes in a microwave-oven-safe dish over the turntable beneath the loaf tin. If you use a OTG, I suppose you can just throw in the ice cubes at the bottom of the oven.


I also made multigrain bread replacing a total of one cup of whole wheat. It was very dense but tasted very good indeed. Procedure in the next post.