I have been baking bread for twenty years. I began by making one loaf, kneading it by hand, watching it rise, punching it down, watching it rise again. As my family grew, so did the number of loaves I would bake, until I could comfortably bake four loaves, freezing them if necessary. A few years ago I caved in and bought a bread machine, and I LOVE it! Over the years I have searched for the perfect easy whole wheat bread recipe, and have found some good ones. Here is my favorite homemade wheat bread recipe for bread machines, and another for the traditional baker.
Whole Wheat Bread Recipe (bread machine version)
Note: This is for a two pound loaf.
1 and 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 and 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Place water, flour, sugar, and salt in this order into the bread pan. Use your thumb to make a small indentation in the flour, and place the teaspoons of yeast here, careful that it doesn’t touch the water. Close the lid of your bread machine and set it to the Whole Wheat Setting. If your machine has the option to select your crust, choose medium (instead of light or dark) to start. This recipe for whole wheat bread in the bread machine will take about 3 hours or so on the whole wheat setting.
NOTE: This can easily become a Honey Wheat Bread by simply substituting in 2 generous tablespoons of organic honey for the brown sugar.
Traditional Whole Wheat Bread Recipe (NOT made in a Bread Machine!)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
6 cups whole wheat flour (whole wheat bread flour is best if you can get it – but don’t use bread machine flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups room temperature tap water
2 tablespoons organic honey (buckwheat or clover is nice) OR 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or other vegetable oil. EVOO will make a flakier crust.
Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water. Make sure your hands and forearms are well washed – you will be giving them a workout! Remove rings and watches if needed. Use a large bowl and mix the flour and salt together, then make a well in the middle.
Dissolve your honey or molasses in the 2 1/4 cups of water and add your oil. Pour the yeast mixture and the oil mixture into the well of the flour mixture. Beginning in the middle, and using your hands, start mixing up the ingredients. You want the batter to be smooth – no lumps. Keep scraping and folding in the batter that sticks to the sides of the bowl until the dough feels nice and soft.
Once you get to this stage, the kneading begins. This is a great way to work off stress, anger, anxiety, and feel exhiliarated – all in the name of making good bread! Kneading dough means to grab it in your hands, and push down and out with your palms and fingers, almost like you are massaging the dough. Try and knead for 500 strokes – yes, it’s a workout, but well worth it. Smooth it into a round ball, then put it in another large, clean bowl, covered with a clean dishcloth, and put it in a warm place to rise (I use my cold oven.) After about 2 hours, test it by poking it with a wet finger. If the hole your finger made stays indented, it’s ready. If not, wait a few more minutes. You will then GENTLY press the dough down, flattening out all the air, and make a smooth ball again. The second rising should take about an hour.
Turn the dough onto a floured cutting board. Gently press the dough with floured hands to push out the air, and divide into two loaves. Let them sit for 10 minutes, then put them into greased loaf pans to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to about 425 degrees F. Place the loaves in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Check after 45 minutes – bread can take 45 minutes to an hour to bake properly. It should be golden brown all over, with no soggy or raw looking dough. Check them by turning them over onto a baking rack; tap them on the bottom and if they sound hollow they are ready. Happy eating!