Friday, January 8, 2010

The Easiest 100-Percent Whole Grain Bread Ever

A selection of whole grain breads
In honor of Mother’s Day, a fitting tribute might be to eat food that’s good for you, as moms often urge their children. 

While yesterday’s health food might be today’s junk food, one thing that’s undeniable is that whole grains have a place in a healthy diet. Well, there's paleo ... but still, many folks feel that whole grains can be part of a normal diet.

Like many things that are good for you, whole grains have a reputation for not being as tasty as their white, de-hulled, polished and branless counterparts. That doesn’t have to be the case.

One of the easiest ways to introduce whole grains to the family table is to start using white whole wheat flour, available at most supermarkets. White whole wheat is lighter in color and flavor than traditional whole wheat, and can be substituted for white flour in most recipes. Much of the time, no one will notice the difference.

But that’s just a first step. Why not use recipes created for whole grains so they really shine? This recipe does just that, resulting in a loaf that’s dark, moist, and a little bit sweet from the molasses. And it really is easy.

Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads

A little more of a challenge was bread I made from a recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. If you’re into bread baking, you may be familiar with Reinhart’s earlier books. This new one focuses specifically on whole grains. Reinhart’s theory of whole grain baking often involves multiple steps over a few days. Day one usually involves making two simple doughs, and then letting them rest.

The next day, the two doughs are combined, and other ingredients are added to make the final dough. Reinhart calls this the epoxy method, because the combination of the two doughs creates something that’s better than either would be alone.

A recipe in this book can run three or four pages and also refer to other pages for shaping or baking instructions – more words than this whole column. He also expects that readers will be familiar with baking terms like the windowpane test.

Also, measurements are precise and sometimes odd amounts. For example. the Transitional Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread that I most recently baked requires 5/8 teaspoons of one ingredient and 3 1/4 tablespoons of another. However, those measurements are also given in weight, so it’s easy if you have a good scale.

While Reinhart doesn’t dumb-down his recipes, the instructions are clear and easy to follow. And although you can’t decide to bake a loaf today and eat it tonight, the results are well worth waiting for.

So, if whole grain baking is in your future, you don’t have to rely on the few recipes you might find in older cookbooks and you don’t have to feel like you’re punishing yourself every time you eat. New ingredients and new recipes do make a difference.

The Easiest 100% Whole Wheat Bread Ever
Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking
Many of the bread recipes in this book include orange juice, which is said to counteract some of the bitter taste some people find in whole wheat. Water could be used instead.

11/4 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons molasses
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
11/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 bread pan. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat the mixture vigorously for about 3 minutes by hand or with an electric mixer on medium-high speed.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour. This dough won’t fill the pan and it will remain flat on top during baking. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the bread for about 45 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes. When done, the bread will be browned on top and will be 190 degrees in the center if you check with an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it rest for five minutes before turning it out on a rack to cool. You may need to run a knife around the edges to loosen it. Let it cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.