How to Make Whole Wheat Loaf Bread from Scratch

If you're looking for quality, preservative free, high end 'artisan' bread there are lots of options. You can find French and sourdough loaves, baguettes, focaccia and others at most grocery stores. The one type of bread that's hard to find though is regular sandwich loaf bread. I'm not sure the reason for that, possibly there's so much good sandwich bread available that there's no demand for really great sandwich bread, or maybe baking artisan loaf bread just isn't sexy enough for high end bakeries.

Whatever the reason, if you want quality, preservative free whole wheat loaf bread you're probably going to have to make it yourself. Luckily it's not too hard. I'm going to show you how to make Scratch Whole Wheat Loaf Bread today, but the techinques are the same for any pan bread such as New England Maple Syrup Bread or Graham Date Bread.

Wheat bread ingredients.
I like to start by organizing the ingredients, setting them out so they are ready to go. I'm using bottled water to avoid the chlorine in tap water because it may affect the yeast. Filtered water would be great too, and tap water will work if you don't have another option.


Here are the ingredients you'll need:
  • 1-1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Measure the first ingredients.
Start off by heating the water a bit to give the yeast a head start. I shoot for around 120 degrees Fahrenheit which is about 1 minute in a microwave on high in a 70 degree room with the water starting at room temperature. They say cooking is an art, but baking is a science and that's most apparent in the details. Get it right and you have a treat, get it wrong and you have a mess :)

Back to the recipe, pour the water in the bowl of your mixer and then add the maple syrup, all purpose flour and dry yeast in that order. The maple syrup is mostly going to be yeast food, but I like the bit of flavor it adds. You can use molasses or brown sugar if maple syrup isn't available.


Mix and let the yeast activate.
Attach the dough hook and mix until the ingredients are combined and look like this. Let sit for about 10 minutes to let the yeast activate. You should start to see lots of bubbles at this point.


Add the rest of the ingredients.
Now add the wheat flour, salt and olive oil.


Start the mixer with a dough hook.
Start mixing again on low for 3 minutes to combine everything and then 7 to 12 minutes more on medium speed.


When the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl it's ready.
The best indication that the dough is developed is when it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. This is much more important than how much time the mixer has been running. Depending on small changes in the amount of ingredients, hardness of the flour, activity of the yeast, temperature or humidity in the room or many other factors the dough will develop differently every time. Even if it hasn't been 7 minutes yet, if it looks like this it's ready.


Ready for the first rise.
Scrape the dough from the hook and the sides of the bowl to prepare for the first rise.


Cover the dough so it stays moist.
Cover the top of the bowl with a wet paper towel to keep the dough from drying out too much and let it sit for about an hour.


The dough after the first rise.
When it looks like this it's ready to be punched down. All that really means though is that you press it until it collapses. If you have to force the air out it wasn't ready. Don't worry though, just give the next rise a bit more time.


Punch down the dough.
One touch got it to do this for me. Cover again and let it rise for about 20 minutes more.


Let the dough rise a second time.
When it looks like this it's done with the second rise.


Prepare the loaf pans.
Prepare your loaf pans by rubbing the sides and bottoms with a little olive oil.


Divide the dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide. I made three loaves, but if you want a taller loaf you could do two instead. Just make sure to increase the bake time a bit.

Note: That little plastic thing at the top right of the picture is a dough scraper. Flour companies give them away by the dozens to professional bakers but they're sometimes hard to find otherwise. I strongly recommend you pick one up if you see one. They're great for scraping bowls when transferring batters, dough and fillings, scraping surfaces when cleaning up and dishes when you wash them. They're incredibly useful in the kitchen and well worth the dollar or two it will cost you. I'm using it here to cut up the dough but a knife will work just as well.


Chubs of dough in pans.
There are lots of ways to prep the dough for proofing and baking. I like to make a tight roll by pulling the top and bottom of each piece towards the center of the lump of dough to stretch the bottom side. Then you roll up the dough from right to left. If the piece doesn't fit evenly in the bottom of a loaf pan, roll it like making a play-dough 'snake' until it does fit.

Proofed wheat loaves.
Cover the pans and let the loaves proof for about 40 minutes. This stage depends a lot on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen so check the loaves early and often. When they look like this gently transfer them to a 400 degree oven and let bake for about 22 minutes.

Golden brown loaves of wheat bread.
Color is the best indicator of when the bread is done. A nice even golden brown like this is perfect.

Sliced whole wheat bread from scratch.
Let the loaves cool for 15 minutes then remove them from the pans and continue cooling on a rack. Store the loaves in plastic bags and slice with a sharp serrated knife when you're ready to serve.

Here's that recipe link one more time: Scratch Whole Wheat Loaf Bread.

Have fun!
        -Scott


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