Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
From America's Test Kitchen Season 12: Soup and Bread from Scratch
Why this recipe works:
We found ways to bump up the whole-wheat flour amount called for in our Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe: We substituted protein-rich bread flour for the all-purpose flour and soaked it overnight in a combination of milk and wheat germ. We used a biga (a combination of flour, water, and… read more
We found ways to bump up the whole-wheat flour amount called for in our Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe: We substituted protein-rich bread flour for the all-purpose flour and soaked it overnight in a combination of milk and wheat germ. We used a biga (a combination of flour, water, and yeast), which we left overnight in the refrigerator, to develop a full range of unique flavors in our bread. Three final tweaks gave our Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread even more character: using honey instead of white sugar, cutting back on the fat, and swapping some of the butter for vegetable oil.less
Makes two 9 by 5-inch loaves
You can hand-knead the dough, but we’ve found that it’s easy to add too much flour during the kneading stage, resulting in a slightly tougher loaf. Wheat germ is usually found either in the baking aisle near the flours or with hot cereals such as oatmeal. Leftover bread can be wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for 3 days. To freeze the bread for up to 1 month, wrap it with an additional layer of aluminum foil.
- 2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
- 1 cup (8 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees)
- 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) whole-wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1/2 cup wheat germ (see note)
- 2 cups (16 ounces) whole milk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 4 teaspoons table salt
- 2 tablespoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Bread flour for work surface
1. For the Biga: Combine bread flour, water, and yeast in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (70 degrees) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).
2. For the Soaker: Combine whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and milk in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until shaggy mass forms, about 1 minute. Turn out dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Return soaker to bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).
3. For the Dough: Tear soaker apart into 1-inch pieces and place in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Add biga, honey, salt, yeast, butter, and oil. Mix on low speed until cohesive mass starts to form, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead 1 minute. Shape dough into ball and place in lightly greased container. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature 45 minutes.
4. Gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Holding edge of dough with fingertips, fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover and allow to rise at room -temperature until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
5. Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions, place baking stone on middle rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray two 81/2 by 41/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to well-floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, pat each into 8 by 17-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, roll dough toward you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch it closed. Place loaf seam side down in prepared loaf pan, pressing gently into corners. Repeat with second ball of dough. Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes (top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over lip of pan).
6. Place empty loaf pan or other heatproof pan on bottom oven rack and bring 2 cups water to boil on stovetop. Using sharp serrated knife or single-edge razor blade, make one ¼-inch-deep slash lengthwise down center of each loaf. Pour boiling water into empty loaf pan in oven and set loaves on baking stone. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until crust is dark brown and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 40 to 50 minutes, rotating loaves 180 degrees and side to side halfway through baking.
7. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Whole-wheat sandwich breads typically fall into one of two categories: squishy, Wonder Bread-like loaves or rock solid specimens that are dense enough to support a brick.
Soaking Wheat for Better Bread
When developing the recipe for whole-wheat bread, our goal was to cram as much whole wheat into the dough as possible to create a seriously wheaty sandwich loaf. Fifty percent whole wheat wasn’t enough to get us to this goal—but any more and the bread got too heavy and developed off-flavors. Would giving the whole-wheat flour a long soak before creating the final dough allow us to bump up its amount?
We baked two loaves, each with a 60:40 ratio of whole wheat to refined bread flour. We soaked the whole-wheat flour in the first batch overnight in the milk from our recipe before combining it with the other ingredients. In the second batch, we didn’t give the whole-wheat flour any special treatment and proceeded with the recipe as usual.
The texture and flavor of the bread made with the soaked flour was markedly better than that of the loaf in which we didn’t soak the whole wheat.
Soaking has a twofold effect on the final loaf. First, it dulls the flour’s hard, fibrous bran, blunting its ability to disrupt gluten development and produce a denser crumb. Soaking also activates enzymes in the flour that convert some of the starches into sugars, thereby sweetening the bran’s natural bitterness. The technique allowed us to pack our bread with roughly 50 percent more whole wheat than most recipes call for and still create a loaf with earthy-sweet flavor and a soft yet hearty crumb.