It's easy to make great whole grain breads using your favorite bread recipes. Usually, all you do is substitute whole grains for some of the flour in your recipe changing the water to flour ratio slightly to accommodate the different absorption of water by the grains. If you want a 100% whole grain bread, start with a whole wheat bread recipe. If you want lighter bread, almost a white bread, start with your favorite white bread recipe. Or you can use a combination of white and whole wheat flours. Any of these choices will make healthy bread that is high in nutrients and fiber.
And it's simply exciting, what you can add to your bread recipe, items like this:
- Rolled oats.
- Rolled grain blends. Use mixtures of rolled oats, wheat, barley, rye and others. These can be bought at natural food stores or online.
- Cracked grains. If you want chewy nuggets in your bread, choose a coarse chop. If you want the whole grains to blend, use a fine chop. Again these can be bought at natural food stores or online.
- Whole grain berries. You will want to soak these overnight before using them or cook them for 30 minutes.
- Whole seeds and nuts. Sunflower seeds and nuts are wonderful in breads. A mixture of whole grains and nuts is wonderful. You can also consider pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and poppy seeds.
Rolled grains and chopped grains result in very different breads. Rolled grains almost disappear into the bread. The color changes, usually to a creamy color if you are using white flour, and you can see little flecks of bran in your bread. But what really changes is the flavor and texture. Whole grains add richness to your breads. They are moist and chewy. And they keep exceptionally well and are less crumbly. Chopped grains create chewy nuggets in your bread but the texture and color remains much the same.
How much whole grains that you add to your bread is a matter of preference. In our test kitchen, we have made many whole grain breads and have used as little as 1/3 cup of cracked grains or a cup or more of rolled grains. Cracked grains are much denser than rolled grains.
The following recipe is a nice recipe to start with. This is a delightful bread that is light in texture and color but still has substance, a great healthy bread. The ratio of whole grains to flour is 30%.
Use this recipe as a base recipe for other breads using rolled whole grains. You might try the following combinations, adjusting the flour to make a soft, almost sticky dough of the right consistency.
- Instead of two cups grain blend, use four. Reduce the flour by about two cups.
- Instead of white bread flour, substitute half white and half stone ground whole wheat.
- Instead of white bread flour, use 100% stone ground whole wheat.
- Add 3/4 or one cup shelled sunflower seeds. The blend has sunflower seeds in it but at this concentration, it is not many. The seeds will absorb a bit of the moisture so be prepared to reduce the flour slightly.
- Add 1 cups raisins and 2 teaspoons good quality cinnamon. Double the honey.
This recipe makes two very nice loaves in 5 x 9-inch bread pans. The loaves weigh about 1 3/4 pounds each.
We have not tested this recipe in a bread machine. If you wish to use your bread machine, cut the recipe in half and use the dough setting.
2 1/3 cups water at 105 degrees
2 cups rolled grain cereal mix
1 7-gram packet of instant yeast, SAF or equal
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup Baker's Dry Milk (high heat treated dry milk) (see note)
5 cups high protein bread flour, more or less
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon quality dough conditioner or per producer's recommendation
Note: Milk contains an enzyme that retards the growth of yeast. High heat treatment destroys that enzyme resulting in taller loaves of bread. High heat treated dry milk can be purchased online.
Prepare two bread pans by greasing the inside of the pans including the rims.
1. Combine the grain blend, the water, and the yeast in the bowl of your stand-type mixer. Add the honey and the dry milk. Add about half of the flour and combine with the dough hook until the dough starts to come together. Add the butter and salt. Add more flour in several additions, beating after each, until a soft dough ball has formed. You should use about five cups of flour. Beat with the dough hook for four minutes at medium speed or until the gluten is developed. The dough should be soft (but not too sticky to handle), smooth, and elastic. Water absorption may vary depending on environmental conditions and the flour you use.
2. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and turn once to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise until doubled, about one hour.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly greased work area. Deflate the dough by gently folding and pressing most of the air from the dough.
4. Divide the dough in two with a knife. Using your hands, form a cylinder by pulling the dough around the center and tucking the seams together on the bottom, thus gently stretching the surface of the dough. Pinch the seams together to keep them from opening as the loaf expands. Place seam side down in a prepared pan and repeat with the second loaf.
5. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap or place the loaves in a large food-grade plastic bag and set aside to rise until doubled, about one hour. Rise times will vary with conditions, especially temperature--yeast is very sensitive to temperature.
6. While the bread is still rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
7. When the bread has risen, place the loaves on the center rack of the oven and leave as much room for the air to circulate around the loaves as possible. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the bread is done and well-browned. If you have a probe-type thermometer, the internal temperature should reach 190 degrees. Once baked, immediately remove the loaves from the pans and cool them on a wire rack.
Dennis Weaver has written numerous books, articles, and recipes including a free 250 page e-book, "How to Bake," with recipes and techniques from the culinary schools. He is the president of The Prepared Pantry, a kitchen store with over 100 bread mixes and baking ingredients and whole grains including the grains, nuts, and seeds mentioned in this article.