I’ve had many requests for this post, and I am finally getting around to it!!
First off, I know there are LOTS of differing opinions on wheat/gluten out there. Some people do have an intolerance, but like with anything else, I feel that a whole food diet made from scratch with real food and consumed in moderation is generally fine. However, whatever works for you and your family is best for you. A staple in my family is a homemade whole wheat sandwich with natural organic peanut butter and homemade sugar-free jelly. Consumed with a side of veggies and fruit, I’m pretty happy with my kids eating it nearly every day.
I’ve had a bread maker of some kind since we got married in 2007. I started off with a simple 1.5lb loaf maker and I mainly made premixed boxes of white bread throughout my senior year of college. But it wasn’t cheaper, it took time, and I simply didn’t love it that much. Then we moved *a lot,* and had a kid and I lost the desire to make my own bread. But about a year ago, I purchased a fancy-schmancy bread machine on the recommendation of a friend, and started the process of learning to make my own bread.
I have tried LOTS of recipes and variations and finally found my consistent favorite!
Now I’m going to preface this with the information that I use organic wheat berries and grind them up into whole wheat flour right before I make bread. This changes the water absorption, flavor, and aeration of the flour, all of which impacts the measurement and production of the recipe. So I have had to do a lot of adapting to get a recipe that works well!
I started with this honey whole wheat recipe in my bread machine. But EVERY.SINGLE.LOAF fell in the middle. We called it cat bread because when you sliced it, it looked like a cat’s head and pointy ears. Not ideal. I tried changing the amount of yeast, the amount of water, changing the adds in, the rising time, etc, but nothing worked. (My sister in law did have success in my machine with this recipe using store bought whole wheat flour.)
I tried a couple of other whole wheat recipes, but I could never find a simple one with real food ingredients that preformed consistently. So I tried switching wheat types. I had been using a hard red wheat berry so I switched to a hard white wheat berry, but I saw very little difference in the bread (besides the color, white wheat berries produce a ‘white bread’ look while red wheat berries are a more traditional whole wheat color.) I now use soft white wheat berries when making anything that doesn’t need to rise (cookies, cake, pancakes, pizza dough, etc) as the harder shell associated with the hard wheat berries are very granulated and noticeable in those items. I still use hard red wheat berries for my breads.
I finally found this whole wheat bread recipe which had the simple, real food ingredients I wanted, however it wouldn’t fit in my bread machine. So I made it by hand, mixing and kneading. And it worked. I consistently got tasty loaves that didn’t fall. But they still were not rising well (rising can be affected by the length of kneading, temperature of the room, humidity, and length of rising time. It’s trial and error to get it figured out for your particular house.). It was edible but still denser than I would like, a common issue for 100% whole wheat bread.
Then a friend mentioned I should look into sprouting or soaking my wheat first, to reduce the phytic acid and make the nutrients in the bread easier to digest and more readily available. (By the way, go back and read that soaking article, no really, do, it’s important.) In researching the benefits of soaking I finally stumbled upon this recipe. This traditional soaked whole wheat bread is AMAZING. Like knock your socks off good. And I have yet to have a loaf fail. (I’m not going to write out the whole recipe here as it’s not mine to share, but once again, here’s the link: http://theelliotthomestead.com/2012/08/traditional-soaked-whole-wheat-bread/)
It is not only simple and very quick, it uses very few ingredients and produces a well risen, light, barely sweet whole wheat bread that looks like store-bought but tastes even better! I HIGHLY recommend it. One thing I love is I don’t have to carefully measure the freshly-ground wheat because after letting it sit overnight, I am able to easily add in more flour if the consistency is too wet- something that is not easy to do in a bread machine! (oh, and I do use honey, which might make it denser, but barely, and I use less than she calls for.) This bread freezes wonderfully in a large ziploc bag (I usually have to cut mine in half to make it fit), so I will often make a double batch (four loaves total) and stick the other three in the freezer, but we go through a loaf in about 2-4 days!
And guess what- I sold the expensive bread machine. Now all I need are a couple of bowls and bread pans. Sometimes simplicity is the way to go!
So pull out your whole wheat flour and go shock someone with your homemade bread!