Monday, November 4, 2013

The best 100% Whole Wheat Bread (My quest is over)

Some of you may remember my original mission in starting this blog: I discovered I didn't feel well after eating store-bought bread and decided to start making my own bread.  And I really wanted a nice whole wheat bread.  But it was hard.  The recipes were either sort of dry and lifeless or not all whole wheat.  Plus I had to add powdered milk to them (it helped the texture! I said), which is no good for people who are dairy free.  Other things can be substituted: butter, buttermilk, yogurt, maybe even milk, but not powdered milk.  But I've learned a few things through this journey.

Potassium bromate often "enriches" the flour from which shelved bread at the store is made.  (By the way, I put a lot of effort into that sentence to make sure it did not end with a preposition).  Brominated flour is banned in Canada, the UK, and Europe because studies suggest it might be carcinogenic.  The flour you buy at the store is not brominated.  The flour in the bread you buy at the store probably is.  I find it likely that this is what bothers my stomach.

White whole wheat flour is my new favorite ingredient.  Regular flour is made from red wheat, so whole (red) wheat is dark and dense.  Another species of wheat is white, and the whole white wheat is a lighter flavor and texture.  White whole wheat flour can easily be snuck into most recipes without anyone noticing.  I still wouldn't use more than half the flour as white whole wheat flour, unless you make other changes.

Finally, I've learned a lot about gluten.  Going gluten free seems trendy, and I've suddenly met dozens of people who can't eat gluten.  Some people can't, which is unfortunate, but it happens.  But then some people give it up for (seemingly to me, at least) no reason.  But gluten is a protein.  Some people can't eat certain proteins, I know people whose bodies can't break down (or who have allergic reactions to): soy, whey, peanuts, tree nuts, poultry, fish, and chickpeas (one of whom can't eat 4 of them).  The same goes for gluten.  So if neighbor swore that giving up gluten made him/her feel better, sure it's possible.  But every body is different and that doesn't mean that giving up gluten is right for everyone.  And if you are considering giving up gluten because your cousin's dentist swore it worked for him/her, I might first recommend what I did: give up PROCESSED gluten.  Make your own bread!  It's fun!

When I first started I remember mumbling something about needing the powdered milk because it's a "dough conditioner."  This is sort of true; powdered milk improves the texture of bread.  But the reason for this is that it adds protein to the bread.  This is why bread flour exists (it has extra protein i.e. gluten).  But as I discovered, adding actual gluten is what really helps whole wheat flour.  I was hesitant to buy it because I found it on a laundry list of "dough conditioners" and because there were so many whole wheat bread recipes that DIDN'T call for it, it couldn't be that much better, right?  Wrong. If you want to make whole wheat bread that isn't dense and dry, go out and buy Vital Wheat Gluten.  Right now.  It makes sense when you think about it: you need more gluten in whole wheat flour, so what do you add?  Gluten!

Okay, enough about gluten.  I found this recipe and the author was so in love with it that I knew I had to try it.  Not only did it turn out well, I'm pretty sure it's the easiest yeast bread I've ever made.  There's only one rise and it's in the pan.  I only used one bowl and the pan I baked it in.  It was great.  I noticed that the texture of the dough was very different than a lot of breads that I've made, but perhaps I was just more patient and didn't add too much flour this time (maybe that's why all my bread is dense and dry).  I don't think it was my fault.  Many doughs go from wet to dry with only a few tablespoons of extra flour.  This was sticky but not wet before I kneaded it and drier, but still light when I was done.  I also like to knead by hand because it makes your more in tune with the dough (plus it's stress relieving).

I just linked to the recipe, there is no kneed for me to copy and paste it since I didn't (and wouldn't) change a thing.  Well, except that I used canola oil rather than coconut (it's better for you and cheaper).

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