The Best Whole Wheat Bread
Simple to make, slices well, tastes delicious, sweet history **
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups lukewarm water (at about 90 O)
1 tbls dry granular yeast
1 tbls raw sugar (or 2 teaspoons honey)
¼ tsp sea salt, iodized
In a large bowl or container with a cover, whisk together the ingredients above to make a sponge. Cover and set in a warm place (about 90 O) is best. You can turn on the oven for a minute and then turn it off and set the covered bowl or container in the oven.
Let rise for one hour, no more.
Prepare: Two bread pans (coated lightly with oil or butter or margarine). Get the corners, edges and sides to the very top.
Add to the bowl: 3 cups whole wheat flour
Add: 3 tbls caraway seeds; 1 tbls crushed rosemary; 3 tbls dried parsley; 1 tbls dry oregano; 2 tsps dry basil, 1 tsp fresh-ground pepper – any or a mixture of these. Add now.
Add the flour ½ cup at a time, kneading thoroughly after each ½ cup addition, until the dough is not sticky, but remains a consistent mass (but is not dry. You may not need 3 cups, or you might require a bit more).
Turn it out onto a flour-dusted table or wooden board, and knead for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and even throughout. It must NOT be sticking to the table or board. If it does, keep sprinkling flour and kneading until the dough is non-sticky.
Clean out the original bowl, put in ½ tsp oil, and put the large ball back into the bowl. Cover the bowl and put into the oven or other protected area for about 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size. Then punch down and knead for another 3 or 4 minutes.
Form into a large ball and cut in half. Shape each half into another smaller ball. Roll out each ball to about the size of a dinner plate – not as large as a pizza. Roll up the flattened dough. Pinch together the long edge and the ends. Gently squeeze the ends of the roll until the entire roll is the length of your greased/oiled bread pans. Pinch the seam together so it does not separate during baking.
Place the rolls crease-side down into the prepared bread pans. Cover with a very slightly damp kitchen towel and put into the oven or some warm place (no more than 90 O F.) away from draughts and disturbance. Let rise for about an hour peeking at it every 20 minutes. The loaves should be nicely rounded on top, about 1” above the top of the bread pan.
When the loaves have risen properly, carefully remove the towel and turn on the oven to 350 degrees F. When the oven reaches temperature, set a timer for one hour. However, check on the bread in 50 minutes, to be sure the bottom isn’t burning. (Remove a loaf pan from the oven, turn out the loaf and examine it. Tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, and the bottom is crusty and very brown throughout, it is done.) If it isn’t done, put the loaf back into the baking pan, and place it back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Check both loaves the same way, as ovens have different temperatures in various locations.
When fully baked, turn it onto a cooling rack or a pizza pan turned upside down, and while cooling, rotate the loaf onto its various 4 sides to promote even cooling (which helps with good slicing). Allow to cool completely before cutting with a serrated bread knife.
You will enjoy this bread…it’s as good as it gets!
** This bread comes with a nice story. I started to make bread in 1967, to supply the school I founded while going to college. Since we were at the end of a long and often muddy road, the bread truck wouldn’t deliver most of the time, and we were on our own. So we made our own bread. I’d go back to New York City to visit my parents from time to time and showed my mother how I made bread. She improved upon the recipe many times, turning out lovely, perfect loaves with a fine texture, easy cutting, and fine sandwich style. She confessed that she’d never found a way to make a nice-grained straight-slicing bread with only whole-wheat flour, as she used 50-60% white unbleached flour. We both really wanted to discover a way to do this. She died in 1986. From time to time, I experimented with various bread-making recipes, and recently discovered a reliable way to make a 100% whole wheat bread that slices beautifully, rises perfectly, and has a lovely grain and taste. This recipe, therefore, is dedicated to my wonderful mother, the greatest friend of my life, and my ever-present guiding spirit.