Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

With the start of school, my days have become a bit more hectic than the luxuriously lazy ones of this past summer. I have found time to continue to bake bread, but I haven’t been as adventurous, relying on my reliable stand-by recipes to make quickly and with confidence. I have been searching, however, for a good whole wheat sandwich bread recipe that will produce a light crumb and respectable crust to add a good chew to my sandwiches. With that said, I also didn’t want anything too involved. I wanted something simple, relatively quick, and appropriate for a busy week night.

In my search, I came upon the first recipe in Peter Reinhart‘s book Whole Grain Breads. Reinhart claims that it is the most basic recipe in the book and should be mastered before the others. And, conveniently for me, it is for whole wheat sandwich bread … just what I was looking for! It implements, as do the other recipes in his book, both a biga and a soaker. The biga is used to enhance the final flavor of the bread, while the soaker softens the whole wheat flour and helps develop the gluten in the final dough. The majority of the flour used in this recipe is hydrated in these two predoughs. Only a minimal extra amount is added to the final dough. In addition, the great thing about these two pre-doughs is that they can be made up to three days ahead. I found this feature quite accommodating to my busy schedule and appreciated the flexibility.

Once the pre-doughs are made the actual dough mixing and fermentation times are quick. The dough comes together readily and is very easily to handle. The final product is light, slightly sweet, pleasantly wheat, and has a well-structured crumb to serve as a sturdy base for jam, peanut butter, or other sandwich fillings . I kept all the proportions the same from Reinhart’s book, but used white whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat flour simply because that is what I had on hand. I am sure that whole wheat would work beautifully as well or a combination of whole wheat and white flour.

I am glad I found this simple bread to add to my fast-paced days. It was a good reminder to take a deep breath and allow some time for the activities I enjoy. I am also happy to be part of this week’s YeastSpotting. It is reassuring to find others taking time to make other delicious bread & food!

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Yield: 952 g (1 4 x 8.5-inch loaf pan)

227 g whole wheat flour
4 g salt
198 g milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk (I used soy milk)

Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl until all the flour is hydrated. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than a day, put the soaker in the refrigerator. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to warm it back to room temperature. The soaker will be good for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.)

227 g whole wheat flour
1 g instant yeast
170 g water

Combine all of the biga ingredients and mix until thoroughly all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Knead for about 2 minutes. The flour should be fully hydrated and the dough should feel tacky. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Continue kneading for about 1 minute longer. The dough will become smoother during this time.

Transfer the biga to a clean bowl and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to warm it back to room temperature.

Final Dough:
All of soaker
All of biga
57 g whole wheat flour
5 g salt
7 g instant yeast
43 g honey
14 g unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil (I used vegetable oil)

Chop the soaker and biga into many smaller pieces. Combine the soaker and biga pieces in a bowl with the other ingredients. Knead until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Continue to knead until the dough has the strength to pass the windowpane test.

Transfer the dough to an oiled container, cover, and let it rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes or until it is 1 1/2 times its original volume.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into a loaf pan shape. Place in a buttered 4×8.5 inch loaf pan. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes or until it is 1 1/2 times its original volume. It should crest above the rim of the loaf pan.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. When the dough has sufficiently rise, place it in the oven and lower the temperature to 350 F. (If desired, you can steam the oven at this step. Make sure to prepare for this when you preheat the oven.) Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, rotate it 180 degrees, and then bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Remove the loaf from the oven, transfer the bread to a cooling rack, and allow it to cool completely before eating.


10 Responses to “Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread”

  1. That’s one lofty whole wheat loaf! You mention steam as optional, and I’m curious whether you used it. As usual, thanks for the wonderful submission to YeastSpotting.

  2. Susan-
    I didn’t use steam. I don’t usually when i bake pan loaves. Sounds like a good experiment to try sometime though…

  3. […] Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread ~ Beginning With Bread […]

  4. That’s amazing.. The loaf is so evenly browned on all sides. As much as I have baked from Reinhart’s book, I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t even tried the master recipe yet. I better do something about that soon.

  5. Funny how things come together…..I just watched an old episide of Alton Brown with using steam while baking….hummmm. It begs to be tried!

  6. Nice One.pictures are amazing.

  7. I’m not much of a baker — I generally bake things that don’t require much planning, simple focaccias and that sort of thing — but something about this recipe really appealed to me and I had to try it. And it turned out really well! I used regular whole wheat flour (King Arthur) and 1% lowfat yogurt (a good tangy one though) and raw wildflower honey and the bread is very satisfying. It’s got a great flavor and it slices very nicely too. I didn’t use steam either but I’m sure I’ll get around to trying it with this recipe some time soon.

    • cbucholz Says:

      Madeleine- Glad to hear from you and glad to hear that the whole wheat sandwich bread turned out well. This is truly a lovely and reliable recipe. Your choice of ingredients sounds perfect. Happy baking!

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