Remember how I made whole wheat bread a couple months ago and it didn’t rise so got made into homemade whole wheat croutons? Well, I tried a different recipe for whole wheat bread and this time it got eaten as it was intended: spread with butter (nut or dairy, it matters not), not scattered on a salad. Not that there’s anything wrong with becoming a condiment, I rather enjoy croutons, but I was really hoping for something my boys would eat on a more-than-trial basis. And that’s just what I got. I served peanut butter sandwiches on this wheat bread and no one seemed to notice that the bread had not come from the store. Win!
I tweaked a recipe that came out of an older Cook’s Illustrated and it is long on steps and rising time, but totally worth the effort. And because I had some blackberries sitting around (which, if you’re a regular here, probably comes as no surprise), I decided to fancy-up some butter, because special wheat bread deserves special butter, right? Also, it looks pretty.
Whole Wheat Bread with Blackberry Butter
- For the biga:
- 2 cups whole wheat bread flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
For the soaker:
- 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk (2% milk fat or higher)
For the dough:
- 1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the butter:
- 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup fresh blackberries (or raspberries)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1. Prepare the biga. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a mixing spoon until it is fully combined and all the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for at least eight hours at room temperature, but no more than twenty-four.
- 2. Prepare the soaker. Mix all ingredients in another large bowl with a mixing spoon until you have one uniform mass. Turn the soaker out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Put back in the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least eight hours, but no more than twenty-four.
- 3. Make the dough. Place the biga in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the soaker, torn into one-inch pieces. Add the remaining dough ingredients and mix on low until all the ingredients are mostly mixed together. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic—about eight to ten minutes. Alternatively, mix the dough on medium for about four minutes until mostly smooth, then turn out on a floured board or counter and finish the knead by hand (this is what I like to do). Place the dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature for 45 minutes. Set the stick of butter out to warm to room temperature.
- 4. After 45 minutes has passed, gently deflate the dough by softly punching down the center, then fold in the sides. Reach slightly under the edge of the dough, grab the edge, and fold toward the middle. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn until you have done four folds. Now repeat the folding at each of the corners of the square you have formed, for four more folds. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and rise another 45 minutes.
- 5. Coat two loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. While still in the bowl, cut the dough in half and place one half on a floured board or counter to shape. Gently push and pat the dough into an 8 by 17-inch rectangle, short side nearest you. Roll the dough toward you into a log, pulling it taut with each turn and keeping all uneven edges tucked under as you roll. Pinch the final edge to the dough roll and place the roll seam side down in a pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Loosely drape plastic wrap or a kitchen towel over the pans and let rise until the dough has risen one inch over the edge of the pan.
- 6. Preheat the oven after placing the dough in the pans in order to achieve full preheating. Arrange the racks to be in the middle and lowest positions and turn the temperature to 400 degrees.
- 7. Once the dough has sufficiently risen, prepare the oven by placing an empty baking tray on the bottom rack. Fill the tray with stove- or microwave-boiled water (this prevents the crust from getting too dry before the bread fully expands). Make a shallow, 1/4 inch cut lengthwise across the top of each loaf with a bread knife and put each loaf in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- 8. Make the butter. Place the butter in a medium bowl with honey and salt and whip with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add berries and continue whipping until berries are broken up to the degree you want.
- 9. Bake until each loaf is dark brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped, about 45-50 minutes. Alternately, the internal temperature of the bread should reach 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Do rotate and shuffle the loaves halfway through baking.
- 10. Allow bread to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to room temperature before eating (or eat it while it’s hot with a big smear of blackberry butter like everyone else is doing).
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Issue Number 109
“Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread”
Have you had success with whole wheat bread baking? Do you have any tips or tricks to make it rise and bake up perfectly?
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