Monday, 24 February 2014

100% Whole Wheat Brown Bread

I started my bread journey making white bread first. It is much easier to make and has a lesser chance of failure than brown bread. Brown bread on the other hand was a more difficult task to accomplish. After a lot of research I found there were very few recipes for 100% whole wheat bread. 
100% whole wheat brown bread, tips on baking bread
100% whole wheat brown bread
The reason is that if you have very heavy flour (which whole wheat flour is) you will get a bread with the density of a cake. It will barely rise. Most whole wheat recipes are not truly 100% whole wheat. They are a combination of white flour and whole wheat flour. The white flour helps to make the dough lighter and enables the rise.
To achieve a truly 100% whole wheat bread you need 2 things. A recipe with a good hydration level. In bread terms this means extra water in the recipe when making the dough. This boils down to a much wetter, softer dough. The second most important factor is the kind of flour you use.
Flour that is meant for chappatis (indian rotis) will not work. Your bread will not rise. After researching on the net, I learnt that the way they grind the flour for chappatis destroys the properties (gluten) needed for rising.
Saying that, you need to find whole wheat flour which is suitable for bread. Waitrose and other companies make specific bread flour, which costs a bomb and makes you wonder whether it is financially worth it to make your own homemade bread.
In Dubai, I have found two companies so far, that make suitable flour. Grand mills in a blue packet (flour no. 2) and Emirates wheat. Make sure when you look at the back of the packet, it says for breads and not for chappatis (see the recipe hint given at the back).

100% whole wheat brown bread, tips and tricks on bread
100% whole wheat brown bread

There are a couple of things you need to know when making bread. The actual process is very easy to make, but I will take some time to point out a few hints. I've used instant dry yeast for this recipe, which doesn't need to be presoaked in water. It can be added straight in. If you don't have that, use regular active dry yeast and soak in half a cup of lukewarm water  (adjust that half cup of water with the rest of the recipe later). When it froths up, its ready to use. This should take about 10 mins max. Once you open the yeast packet, store the balance unused yeast in an airtight glass jar in the cupboard.

 After you mix your ingredients, you do need to knead the dough for a good 10-15 mins to bring out the elasticity in the dough. You cant avoid this process and I like to think of this as a mini workout. You can see from the pictures below that I have a silicon baking mat that I use to knead the dough. You can find this in most homestores today and I find it better than kneading in a bowl or a dish. Do not rush to add more flour. Keep adding a little at a time, by sprinkling it over the dough. This dough is supposed to be slightly sticky to the touch, so try to knead using a light touch with your palms to minimize pressure when kneading, thereby avoiding it sticking to your fingers too much.

Keep all the ingredients and timings exactly according to the recipe. If you aren't sure about how much time you have that day, leave it to make the bread another day. Leaving the dough sitting too long, or too little can drastically affect the way your bread turns out.

I've used a shower cap to cover the dough during rising. You can use a cloth, but the disadvantage is if the bread rises and touches the cloth, you will have a cloth full of sticky dough, and secondly you cant see it rise and will need to keep lifting the cloth. You could use clingwrap (which needs to be lined with oil), but I found the showercap to do the best job. The shower cap needs to be lined with oil before you use it, to prevent it from sticking to the bread, if it does touch the risen bread. I have one that I lined with oil, and just reuse it everytime I make bread.  Also keep in mind that the bowl you do the first rise in, should be big enough for the dough to double in size. You don't want dough overflowing out of the bowl. Using a big bowl will also help avoid any dough sticking to the cloth or cling wrap. Another tip is to line the bowl with oil as well, to avoid the dough sticking to the bowl. Just put a tablespoon of oil in the bowl and swirl the dough to coat both sides of the dough with the oil and rub some of the oil on the sides of the bowl. Its best to use a glass bowl for rising.
Note: I did not use the same bowl in which I mixed the initial flour together. I used a new glass bowl. You will find dry bits of flour stuck to the initial mixing bowl. I did not want this to hamper the rising process as if the dough gets stuck to it, it could prevent it from rising properly, so I used a new clean bowl lined with oil.

To add nuts or seeds to your bread, simply dry roast them on a pan till golden.. and let it cool down completely. Add them to the dough after it has finished its first rise, when you do the shorter kneading process before keeping it for the second and final rise.

Keep the dough to rise in a warm place, if not, the inside of your microwave will do just fine. I also sometimes place it in the oven, and a mug of hot water next to it to create a nice warm environment. Be careful and remove the mug before you preheat the oven for its final bake.
For the final rising, which is done in the loaf pan, I line the pan with butter paper to avoid the bread sticking to the pan, even though I have non stick loaf pans. Just cut a straight long strip of baking paper which will go around both the sides and the bottom of the loaf pan.

Finally I dust the top of the bread with flour for a crustier loaf. You can even brush it with water. If you brush with egg you will get a nice golden crust like you do for milk buns or brioche buns. Keep in mind though, if you brush with egg, try doing it half way through the cooking process or the bread might brown too quickly for your liking.

Slashing the bread is also a very important step. The cuts need to clean so use an extremely sharp knife. Slash the bread with a few sharp slits, about 3 or so slits, or simply let the artist in you take over. Most bread makers have a signature slash they do for each kind of bread. This vital step will give your loaf a chance to expand and will also stop it from cracking.

I always keep another dish of hot water alongside the bread in the oven when baking to retain the moisture in the bread.

As soon as the bread is cooked, remove from the oven and tap the back of the bread, it should sound hollow. Now lift it out and keep to cool on a cooling rack. Do not slice the bread till it has completely cooled down as this can affect the crumb and density of the final bread. Store whole in a Ziploc bag in the fridge and cut slices only as and when needed.

 5 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of luke warm water
2 heaped teaspoons of instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons of sugar ( I used brown sugar, you could use honey as well)
4 - 5 tsps of oil or 3 tbsps of margarine
1 1/2  teaspoon of salt

To start with, use only 4 cups of flour (reserve 1 cup for later). Mix together all the dry ingredients i.e. flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix. Add the margarine or oil. Add the lukewarm water. Mix to make a sticky dough. Sprinkle slowly the extra cup of flour, adding a little at a time. Knead together for a bit. .
Keeping it still sticky, remove the dough and place on a baking mat. (At this point you should have used only 1/4 to 1/2 of that extra cup of flour).

Once on the mat, keep kneading the dough for a good 10-15 mins, till you feel the texture of the dough change. Sprinkle more flour if needed, but keep in mind, this is a slightly sticky dough. So don't over add the flour. Knead with the palms of your hand not with your fingers and keep the touch light so that it doesn't stick to your hands too much.

Once kneaded and it resembles a nice soft ball (kind of like a baby's bottom), transfer to a big glass bowl. Oil the glass bowl with a tbsp. of oil. Swirl the dough in the oil to coat it nicely and use any extra oil to line the sides of the bowl. This will stop it sticking too much to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a cloth or cling wrap or better still a shower cap. Again to recap what I mentioned above, the dough can stick to the cloth if it rises too much, and will cause you to lose half your dough, and the cloth is also not see through so you have to keep lifting it to check how much your dough has risen. Clingwrap is also good, keep in mind, that you should oil the side of the cling wrap that will possibly touch the bread. The best method is a shower cap. Oil the inside of the shower cap and place on top of the bowl. It can be reused again and again.

Leave to rise in a warm place or even inside a microwave for 1 hour.  A point to note, is your yeast shouldn't be too old or you won't get the desired rising results. Double in size is ideally where you should stop. If after an hour it hasn't doubled in size, you can give it another 10 mins or so (but recheck your yeast packet to see if it's past its due date). Always do a check around 45 mins into rising time, to see if it has doubled before the time. It may rise faster on a hotter day. Your cue should be more visual, looking to see whether the dough has doubled or not. Don't worry about the time so much, a few minutes here and there won't make a difference at this first stage. Usually an hour, max an hour and a half should be more than enough.

Once doubled, remove the dough and place it back on the kneading mat. Sprinkle very little flour and give it another 5 mins of kneading. This time not so vigorously. If you want to add nuts or seeds to your bread, this is the time to do so...

To add nuts or seeds to your bread, simply dry roast them on a pan till golden.. and let it cool down completely.

In the meanwhile line the loaf pan with the baking paper,  and dust a little flour at the base.

Note: Depending on how you would like your loaf to turn out, you can choose the shape of you pan. Honestly, I prefer round as it gives it that lovely bakers look. But if you are looking to cut clean slices for sandwiches, then maybe go with the rectangular shape. 

Put the dough (try to put any seam lines at the bottom) in the loaf pan. Cover again with the shower cap or clingfilm and rest in the microwave this time for only half an hour.

Note: This time, stick to half an hour. If you let this second rest period go more than half an hour, you make start to see bubbles on the top of your dough. That means that the dough has over risen. If you cook it, like this, you will have a big bubble in your bread. If for some reason though, this has happened to your dough, no worries, reknead the dough a little to remove that extra air, and put it back again for resting for half an hour. Proceed as usual after that.

5 to 10 mins before the rest period is over, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 celcius. Boil your kettle with hot water and keep an oven safe dish ready to pour it in.

When the half hour is done, remove the loaf from its resting place, making sure the bread has risen and dust with a little flour. You can also do a water wash with a basting brush for a nice crusty loaf. Slash the bread with a few sharp slits, about 3 or so slits with a good sharp knife. This will give the loaf a better chance to expand and will also stop it from cracking (sorry this adjustment was made later hence is not in the pictures).Place the loaf pan in the oven and the oven dish with the boiling water next to it. This will keep your loaf nice and moist.

100% whole wheat brown bread

Bake the bread in the oven for approx 30 mins. Usually 30 mins is a good enough time for the bread to get done.. (Check the bread when the time reaches 20-25 mins. If you feel that the bread is browning too fast, lower the temperature of the oven to 350 or remove.) After 30 mins, remove the bread from the oven, and from the loaf pan. Do a quick test to check if the bread is done. Tap the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow it means it is cooked. (If it isn't put it back in the oven on 350 for another 5 mins - Remove and tap again. Keep monitoring in intervals of 5 mins if it still isn't done after 5 mins)Remove and cool on a wire rack. This step is also important as if you leave it in the loaf pan, it will sweat and the bottom of the loaf will get soggy.

Leave it to cool completely before slicing. I like to store it in a Ziploc bag and cut a couple of slices as and when I need. I think this helps keep the moisture in the bread and prevents it from drying out. It can stay for a week in the fridge. But make sure if you see any condensation in the Ziploc at any time, you wipe out any of the moisture and make sure you seal the bag properly when you put it back in the fridge.
100% whole wheat brown bread
100% Whole Wheat Brown Bread
The picture below is the flour I recommend for those in Dubai. make sure its the blue packet as the same company makes a variety of other flours. Even though it says Chappati flour on the front, at the back, it says at the bottom: for use in breads, rolls and pastries. The extraction percentage as shown below seems to be different for this flour (79%).

My recommended brand for whole wheat flour bread.
Pictured below is the same brand, Grand Mills, but made specifically for chappatis, which should be avoided for bread. This extraction rate is 93-95% and is a stone milled flour. It is a brown packet with Chakki Atta written on it.  
Grand Mills is stocked at most supermarkets like Spinneys, Geant and Lulus. Lulus has the smaller packet in the flour section and the bigger one near the checkout where they store their bulk items. I haven't seen it however at Union Co-op or Carrefour.

Pictured below is my next alternative to Grand Mills, although its not my first choice. I did like the fact that this bread was more wheaty in taste and colour, but I found the bread a bit dry and crumbly as compared to using Grand Mills. Still really good bread though.
Pictured above and below is the information at the back of the packet. Again this company, has two different whole wheat flours, one for chappatis and one for bread. I got my clue from the recipe hint given for pita bread below.

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