ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Whole Wheat Bread Edition

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About a week and a half ago, I posted about housewares I intended to buy with a gift certificate for CSN Stores (the last of the order arrived today; reviews shall be forthcoming). I implored the readers to weigh in with their opinions on the matter, and at one point, the idea of an ice cream maker entered the dialogue. This got me to thinking: what would be a better purchase? An ice cream maker or a bread maker? I took the question to Twitter where I received a shockingly high number of responses (lesson learned: follow me on Twitter to participate in equally exciting discussions!). The bread maker camp had compelling arguments: it makes the apartment smell amazing, it will pay itself off in no time, and honestly, the taste of fresh bread trumps almost all things to come out of a kitchen. Compelling indeed.

Team Ice Cream also had some strong points: ice cream is ice cream, and that in and of itself should be enough reason to get the machine. Furthermore though, ice cream machines are cheaper, and bread can be made by hand whereas ice cream is more or less an utter pain in the ass on its own. This latter point got me to thinking: if I could make a loaf of whole wheat bread reasonably easily, could I put this raging debate to sleep?

And so the foundation was laid for my latest Adventure in Domesticity. I was gonna attempt homemade sandwich-style whole wheat bread. Results after the jump…

First things first, I had to find a decent whole wheat bread recipe. There were several options for whole wheat loaves, but many of them called for things like eggs (kind of works against the idea of a low-cholesterol loaf) or bread flour, and I wasn’t about to invest in a whole thing of bread flour for one experiment. Finally, I discovered a promising option at the King Arthur Flour website. Not only could I stick with the basic whole wheat flour I already had, but it came with detailed descriptions of each step as well as helpful sidebars AND a related blog entry that showed a photographic journey of the entire process. That was it. I was going to use this recipe.

I set about buying whatever extra ingredients I needed: some oranges, some yeast, and some mashed potato flakes (odd, I know, but a cheap investment). The recipe also called for non-fat dried milk, but I wasn’t able to find a small box of it. The best I could do was a giant $6 bag at Fresh & Easy ($8 at Ralph’s), and I honestly was not gonna use up excessive money and kitchen real estate on dried milk. Reading the reviews of the recipe online, apparently this was one ingredient that could be excised without any significant ramifications.

Finally, I began.

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I mix some yeast with water and a pinch of sugar. Frothy experiences ensue.

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While the yeast ferments, I pour half a cup of milk (skim) into a bowl.

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Next goes half a cup of orange juice.

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The juice was freshly squeezed with my new citrus juicer, but more on that on a different post.

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The potato flakes make their grand entrance.

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As do a few tablespoons of melted butter.

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I mix the stuff (as well as some sugar and salt) together.

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Next comes the whole wheat flour. So far so good.

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I stir everything together and become instantly concerned that this mixture is too dry and crumbly.

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My fears are justified. The dough looks like a distant memory of my childhood sandbox.

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At first I panic and contemplate throwing it all away and never speaking of this experience again. But then rational thoughts take over, and I instead add water to the dough until it becomes a bit more cohesive.

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After much kneading, I drop my ball o’ whole wheat into a greased bowl. Let the rising begin!

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An hour later, we have some progress. I ultimately wind up letting this bad boy rise for two and a half hours. Sounds long, yes, but it took a while for it to double in bulk — thanks probably to some less than proficient kneading and the fact that I used slightly less yeast than directed (I needed another 1/4 teaspoon of the stuff).

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When the dough had finally risen to an appropriate size, I scooped it out, shaped it into a log — sort of — and then dropped it in this greased loaf pan. Time for Rising: The Sequel.

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Within thirty minutes, this beast had grown quite significantly. Where on Earth had this rapid-rising action come from? Nevertheless, I let it continue to rise for a total of about an hour and change.

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The loaf: unsheathed and ready for baking. I won’t lie: the massive fissures across the top had me concerned.

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After thirty minutes, I check the loaf’s internal temperature. I should note that Lisa T had since arrived for our podcast. Despite my concerns, she assured me that all seemed to be well with the bread.

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The loaf registers only a paltry internal temperature of 140 degrees. We stick it back in the oven for five more minutes. Our goal: 190 degrees.

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Five minutes later, we get the bread up to 160 degrees. Three minutes after that: 180. We decide that’s close enough. Time to enjoy the bread.

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Pressing down on the bread, all seems about right.

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The smell, I should note, is somewhat fantastic.

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Time for the first slice…

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All signs point to success. In fact, Lisa and I are so taken with the bread that we forget to take pictures and simply EAT.

The verdict: delicious, but…

So here’s the thing. The bread was delicious. Lisa and I actually had plans to make dinner together after our podcast, but the bread was so good that we actually gorged ourselves on it, effectively destroying our appetites.

And thus, as a loaf of bread, the answer is yes, it is most certainly tasty.

However, the goal of the experiment was to see if I could make a whole wheat loaf that I could use for my sandwiches. To that end, this loaf was regrettably a failure. Cut too thick, the bread becomes very dense — perfect for spreading butter or aioli, but too intense for a humble sandwich. Cut too thin, the bread crumbles apart.

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An attempted sandwich. Not an ideal experience.

The question, of course, is whether or not the loaf would turn out more manageably in a bread machine. Perhaps. But I think I might be faced with the same issues (maybe some brave soul with a bread machine could give it a shot and report back the results). Ultimately, I have to say that I might be leaning towards the ice cream maker now (not that I have really any intention in the immediate future to buy one). Let’s face facts. Both machines are simply helpful tools for us to make VERY unhealthy things with. At the end of the day, I can see myself using a bread machine more than an ice cream machine (the guilt of buying store-bought bread when I have a bread making machine in my kitchen would surely be too much for me to deal with), and as such, a bread machine would be a much less healthy purchase for me. An ice cream machine, however, I could see myself using here and there. Probably a safer bet for my waistline, ironically enough. And so the debate continues…

In the meantime, I’m gonna give Mark Bittman’s No-Knead bread a try next. It’s not whole wheat, but it does sound appealing. Keep your eyes peeled for that Adventure in Domesticity.

20 replies on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Whole Wheat Bread Edition”

  1. Its a tough decision, I had a bread maker, loved it, fun wore off and that guilt of buying a loaf of bread when you have the machine at home, yeah that goes away fast.

    Ice cream maker, have had one now for 2 years, never made ice cream, I think because the recipe calls for standing at the stove and stirring for whet I thought was forever, but maybe this year I’ll make some Ice cream, because Ina makes it look so easy.

    See no matter what you get, its fun for a while or it just sits there and then, well there you go, you have a bread machine or an ice cream maker.

  2. I got my bread maker on the cheap at a garage sale, and also use my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix bread dough. And my homemade ice cream recipe comes from my grandma (via my mom). Regular box of any type of vanilla ice cream. Put it in a bowl with cut up fresh local fruit. Mix by hand. Store in freezer in bowl. Tastes like homemade. And my mom’s even made homemade…

  3. Also, I’ve never personally had luck with all whole wheat bread… I always do part whole, part white. And I’ve heard baker’s flour is even better (meaning I think I could do a larger percent whole wheat).

    So whoever out there has a good whole wheat recipe, share with all of us!

  4. I found that the shape of the loaf that came out of my bread maker was not conducive to sandwich-making. My breadmaker is about 10 years old, so maybe this doesn’t apply to the newer models.

    I also discovered that if I wanted uniform slices, I needed to use this gadget that had a guide for your knife. So now I have two gadgets that take up space in my kitchen.

    There is La Brea Bakery for really great bread, and umpteen gourmet brands of ice cream available in the stores. Save your money and your kitchen space.

    I thought you were more of a fro yo kinda guy anyhow.

  5. I can’t help but think you aren’t going to use either one. I would go for the stand mixer myself.

    1. I agree.
      A Kitchen Aid stand mixer is an appliance worthy of counter space.
      I use mine all the time.

  6. What I love about my bread maker is the dough setting. You can make tons of different kinds of dough and then bake it in your oven. rolls, braided bread, on and on. My favorite is to use a recipe for bread sticks. You roll it out on my pizza stone… precut to bread sticks with a pizza cutter… let rise and bake. When it is removed from the over you spread butter ad garlic salt all over it and OMG…. you will not believe it. You can even make sweet dough and make cinnamon rolls… or even Jam can be made in a bread machine… or CAKE… IN YOUR BREAD MACHINE. … I vote bread machine.

  7. Try a recipe without potato flakes, they tend to make breads fall apart easily and make them very heavy.

  8. Hi – Sorry about the un-sandwich-like capabilities of this loaf! The liquid/flour ratio was off, as you surmised. Wondering what kind of whole wheat flour you used – King Arthur? – and how you measured it. Whole wheat flour weighs 4 ounces per cup; if you dip your cup into the canister and level it off (rather than measuring by sprinkling the flour into your cup, then leveling it off), you’ll probably get about 5 ounces per cup, which would mean nearly an extra cup of flour in your dough…. Other than being too dry, you absolutely did everything right. So I hope you try it again! Thanks for diving in – 100% whole wheat bread is a challenge (though a tasty one indeed!) – PJ Hamel, King Arthur Flour baker/blogger

  9. I had a bread machine. Used it twice and then figured it was easier to make bread the old fashioned way after all. I make bread at least once or twice a week. Don’t miss the machine one bit.

    The ice cream maker, however … now there’s an indispensable appliance! And no, homemade ice cream doesn’t have to be unhealthy – you can make it without sugar, without dairy, without eggs … I use it almost every week and although you can make some kind of ice cream almost worthy of the name without a machine, it doesn’t come even close to what you get from even a basic ice cream maker. So I say get the ice cream machine, which is no wonder, given that I review them for a living over at The-Ice-Cream-Maker.com. Check out our five steps to choosing the best ice cream maker for you before making your purchase!

  10. Every homemade bread I’ve ever made, both with and without a bread maker, has been nearly impossible to make into viable sandwich bread. I just bought an ice cream machine myself and am going to make beet ice cream this week. Intriguing, NO?

  11. I have both appliances. I got both as gifts. The breadmaker I had craved for a while after a coworker had brought in some homemade cranberry bread that she had made in hers. I loved that the cranberries had all migrated to the edges of the bread somehow, but it was still very tasty! I don’t use it as often as I used to (hubby can’t resist bread and needs to avoid eating it) unfortunately.

    Our ice cream maker is very easy to use. I actually buy premixes at the store and all I need to add is cream or milk depending on whether I want to make really yummy ice cream or pretty okay ice milk. I’ve also just made it from scratch as well. It still isn’t the same as the ice cream maker we had when I was a child. The one where you fill a wooden barrel with rock salt and crank until your arm is ready to fall off. For some reason, that ice cream tasted so delicious!! Maybe because you had to work so hard to achieve the yumminess.

  12. B, my SO makes the best whole wheat bread, by hand. We don’t even buy bread anymore because his his sooooo good. Problem is, he really doesn’t follow a recipe. Just throws stuff in the bowl and it comes out perfect. That’s how my grandmother made bread too.

    I’ll try to get him to write down the steps and measurments, but he usually doesn’t listen to me to well.

  13. I love your details and photos! I have been wanting to make homemade whole wheat bread by hand instead of buying it or the bread machine. I want to because we just love Kamut Wheat so much that I would love to have it in some bread for our family. Thanks for all the great info here!

  14. I’ve been on a bread-venture since this post (the flour companies of the world thank you). And I was milling around a site (http://www.breadtopia.com/all-whole-wheat-bread/) that used your exact recipe and he mentioned the bread being too crumbly (as you did) and he should have kneaded it more:

    “The bread was a little crumbly and should have been kneaded some to develop the elasticity of the gluten.”

    “…this bread recipe needs more human intervention in the form of good old fashioned kneading”

    I’m sure someone out there has already said this and I didn’t see it, but thought I’d throw it out there anyway. There are also lots of interesting comments and tips on his post about this bread. That is if you even have plans to try it again!

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