The Best Whole Wheat Bread

Whole Wheat Bread

*Update (3/2014): In 2010, I added a 3rd whole wheat bread recipe (Darcy’s recipe) and since then, over the last 4 years, it’s pretty much the only one that I make. The other two recipes are delightful, but if you are wanting to know which one I use weekly to make my family’s bread, it is Darcy’s recipe.

For the last several years, I’ve been making all of our family’s bread. It seemed like a daunting task at first but now it is such a part of my routine that it barely makes an impact in my day (and the bread is done start-to-finish in about 2 hours or so).

I make a bread every week or so and freeze it after it has cooled. I’ve found that slicing the bread before I put it in a freezer bag makes my life much easier because I can take out a slice at a time and avoid the dry, crumbly, homemade bread phenomenon that my kids despise when I am making their sandwiches.

I simply pull out a slice or two of bread and microwave it for 25 seconds at 50% power. Woila! Tender, fresh bread ready for sandwich making (or for a nice slather of butter and jam).

I know that many of you have your own favorite whole wheat bread recipe. There are so many good ones out there.

I’d like to share with you my favorites. I alternate making these and love them both equally. Both recipes produce a light but sturdy loaf, perfect for sandwiches or just for eating with dinner.

And don’t even get me started on homemade bread for toast in the mornings. Oh, divine.

The first recipe is one perfected by my friend, Mel’s, mom. Her bread has quite a legacy and lives up to it’s fame. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to fit what I normally have on hand (as in, I never have dough enhancer so substituted gluten and powdered milk).

It is a bit lighter in texture than the second recipe, due to a couple cups of white flour.

The second recipe is one I’ve had for years and mimics the recipe from the notorious Bosch bread mixer. It has less oil than the first recipe and a few other different ingredients (like honey instead of sugar).

Here are a couple tips I’ve found to help with breadmaking:

  • I follow Bosch’s recommendations and use instant yeast. Because of this, I only ever let my bread rise after shaping the dough into loaves and placing them in the pans. They rise once in the pans and then I put them in a cold oven, turn it on to 350 degrees and bake for 32 minutes exactly. It turns out beautiful, not burned, loaves. (Update 03/14: I’m learning that each oven is different; after moving into a house with a different brand/style of oven, the cold oven method doesn’t work as well for me anymore because the oven “rapid preheats” and is an option I can’t turn off. Most recently, I let the bread rise high above the pans and then put it in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes. The moral of the story is to do what works best with your particular oven.)
  • I have a specific loaf pan that I absolutely swear by: The Chicago Metallic Commercial Bread Pan. I’ve done side-by-side baking comparisons with my other non-stick loaf pans, dark loaf pans, glass loaf pans, and hands down, every time the Chicago Metallic pans turn out a perfect loaf. The edges don’t get burned, the bread slides out perfectly without leaving crusty remnants, and they are heavy and durable. Love them. I use the standard 1-pound loaf pan (which is the equivalent to the 8 1/2-inch by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan).
  • As long as we are talking brands, let me tell you another product I love for breadmaking: these perfect bread bags. I was sick and tired of trying to stuff my loaves in ziploc bags or other ill-fitting plastic bags. These bags are perfect. I freeze the bread right in them and they are the perfect size. (Incidentally, I also order my vital wheat gluten from King Arthur Flour.)
  • I personally like to use white whole wheat flour. I prefer the light texture over red whole wheat but either kind will work in these recipes. I used to grind my flour with a Nutrimill wheat grinder, but now have a Wolfgang Flour Mill. Here is a post on popular wheat grinders and another on wheat/wheat grinding in general for more information.

Granted, bread making can be time consuming but the rewards are worth it when my son heartily exclaims that he doesn’t want to eat the French Toast Sticks at school and would rather have a sandwich on mom’s bread (and this is the kid who hates sandwiches). Hallelujah for the exit of French Toast Sticks in his diet.

One Year Ago: Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan
Two Years Ago: Asian Chicken Salad

Darcy's Whole Wheat Bread {The Recipe I Use Most}

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Ingredients:

  • 15-17 cups wheat flour (about 80 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1000 mg Vitamin C, crushed, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 6 1/2 cups very warm water
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup honey or sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl (or stand mixer, like the almighty Bosch), mix together 5 cups of wheat flour, yeast, vital wheat gluten and Vitamin C (or lemon juice or vinegar). Add the warm water and mix well. Add the oil and honey (or sugar) and mix again.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Add the salt and start the mixer (or mix by hand), adding the remaining flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a soft dough. You may not need to add all of the flour! Judge the dough by feel not by the amount of flour you’ve used. It might be slightly sticky but should hold it’s shape.
  3. Let the dough knead for 7 minutes in the stand mixer (or 15 minutes by hand). Form into 5 loaves (for the 8 1/2 X 4-inch loaf pans) and place into greased bread pans. Let rise until the bread is 2 inches above the top of the bread pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (I like to let the bread rise 1 inch above the top of the pans and then put the bread in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 350 degrees and bake the bread for 32 minutes).

Notes:

As with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be. Also, here’s a later post I added with step-by-step instructions and pictures (and even a video at the end on shaping the dough into loaves) to get the perfect whole wheat bread.

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LuAnn’s Whole Wheat Bread (with my adaptations)
*Note: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be.

*Makes 4 loaves

5 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 cups white flour
8-10 cups whole wheat flour

Lightly spray bread pans with cooking spray and set aside. Mix the water, sugar, oil, yeast, salt, gluten and dry milk together in the bowl of an electric mixer or by hand. Add the white flour and mix well. Continue adding the whole wheat flour until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and the dough is soft but not overly sticky. Knead for 10 minutes until a soft, smooth dough has formed. Using oil or cooking spray to grease your hands and countertops, form the dough into 4 loaves. Place the loaves into the bread pans and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let them rise until the dough has risen about 1 1/2 inches above the top of the bread pan. Place the bread pans carefully in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and bake for 38 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn out the bread onto a wire rack. Let cool completely before placing in bags to put in the freezer.

Recipe Source: Mel B.’s mom

Bosch Foolproof Whole Wheat Bread
*Note: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be.

*Makes 6 loaves

6 cups warm water
2 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
12-15 cups whole wheat flour

Mix 8-9 cups fresh wheat flour and 2 ½ tablespoons yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl by hand). Add 6 cups warm water and mix to paste consistency. Cover and let sponge 10-15 minutes. Add salt, honey, oil, and gluten. Mix by hand or if using an electric mixer, turn to speed 1 or 2 as motor bears down and add additional flour until dough pulls away from sides of bowl (be careful not to add too much flour). Let the mixer knead the dough for five minutes. (If using hands, knead for 10 minutes.) Use oil or cooking spray on your hands to form six equal loaves. Take dough immediately from bowl and fill lightly greased (or nonstick) loaf pans ½ to 2/3 full. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap to keep moist. Let the bread rise until doubled, approximately 1 ½ inches above the top of the pan. Place the bread carefully in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 38 minutes. Let cool completely before placing in bags to put in the freezer.
Recipe Source: Bosch Universal