The key to really great 100% whole wheat bread is to extract the best flavors from the whole wheat and temper the harsh tones that sometimes accompany whole wheat flour. Good whole wheat bread has an almost nutty taste without a bitter aftertaste. A long fermentation gives the yeast a chance to produce its own flavors and convert the starch to sugar. By refrigerating the dough overnight, you can make excellent 100% whole wheat bread.
This is one of our favorite bread recipes. yeasts perform differently at low temperatures. In this recipe, the dough is mixed the day before and refrigerated. The acids and enzymes produced by the yeast at lower temperatures temper the harshness of the whole wheat and develop wonderfully complex bread flavors. It’s no more work than other recipes; you just mix the dough the day before.
Bakers note: This bread should be very light and fluffy, not dense. The secret of making it so is to make sure that the dough rises fully both in the first rise and in the pans. The dough will fill two 5 x 9-inch loaf pans and should be very soft and puffy before baking. If you let it over-rise, you may see a blister or two in the dough. Poke the blisters with the point of a knife and hurry the bread into the hot oven.
5 to 6 cups fine-ground whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat gluten (optional)
1 teaspoon dough conditioner
1 seven gram packet of instant yeast (or two teaspoons)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons melted and slightly cooled butter
1. Place about three cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand-type mixer. Add the yeast. Carefully measure 2 cups room temperature (80 degrees) water. The water should feel cool to the touch. Mix the water with the flour with a dough hook for 30 seconds or until the yeast is dissolved and the ingredients begin to combine.
2. Add the salt, sugar, and butter and continue mixing. Add most of the remaining flour, the wheat gluten, and dough conditioner and continue mixing at a medium speed for at least four minutes adding more flour as needed to reach a soft dough consistency. (It is important that the dough be mixed for at least four minutes to develop the gluten.) The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but will be soft, not firm, to the touch.
3. Once the dough is mixed, place it in a large greased bowl, turning once to coat both sides, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to three days.
4. On the day that you would like to bake your bread, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm to room temperature–about three hours. The dough should rise to nearly double in size.
5. Once the dough has risen, form the loaves. Coat your hands with flour and gently form a loaf by pulling the dough around itself to create a slightly stretched skin. You may need to coat your hands several times if the dough is sticky. If necessary, pinch the seams together on the bottom of the loaf. Lay the loaf gently in a well-greased loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with the second loaf. Let double again in size, about 11/2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the dough has doubled (the loaf should be very puffy), place the two loaves on a shelf in the top half of the oven, well-spaced so that air can circulate between the loaves. Bake for thirty minutes or until done. The interior of the loaves should register at least 185 degrees when an insta-read thermometer is inserted through the bottom crust. Remove the bread from the pans and cool on wire racks. Let it cool completely before cutting.