Fluffy Wheat Bread and That Darn Cat

While I absolutely love my Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread, there are times when I want something that is a little lighter, a little fluffier.  That’s where this delicious, fluffy, whole wheat bread comes in.  This recipe is adapted from one that was taught to me by a friend.  It makes three loaves or rounds of bread, and I like to bake one off immediately while freezing two dough portions to thaw and bake later.  Ever since I started making the Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread and this Fluffy Whole Wheat Bread, I end up making a batch of dough every few weeks and haven’t bought bread from the store in about a year.  Yes, that means that every few weeks I go through the labor of making my own bread dough, but it’s something that I love to do and since Santa brought me a stand mixer last year, the active labor part is quite short.  It always has the feeling of play as I shape the loaves, and it makes the house smell great to boot.

I do have one word of warning… be careful where you put your shaped loaves to rise.  Just this New Years Eve I set a beautiful round of Fluffy Whole Wheat Bread dough in front of our wood burning stove to rise.  Dave was making an amazing surf and turf dinner that included mussels in a butter and white wine sauce, so I was making bread to soak up all of that delicious mussel broth.  When I went back downstairs an hour later to get the risen dough, I was greeted with the sight of a very comfortable and pleased-with-herself cat grinning at me as she lounged on top of my beautiful bread.  Doh!  She was not pleased when she was unceremoniously removed from her bready pillow, but at least the plastic wrap and towel covering kept the dough more or less safe.  It was a bit squished with a cat imprint on one side, however.  Dave found this amusing.  Lesson learned.

Fluffy Wheat Bread
A soft, fluffy, whole wheat loaf that is perfect for sandwiches, toast, or just fresh with butter. This recipe makes three loaves, so I like to bake one off immediately and freeze the other two portions to use later.
Yield: 3 loaves

Proofing Yeast Ingredients:
¾ cup water
1 tsp. honey
2 packages of yeast (or 4 ½ tsp.)
Bread Dough Ingredients:
8 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups water
1 egg
2 tbsp. honey
¼ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. Combine the water and honey from the proofing yeast ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in the yeast and set the mixture aside to proof for 10 minutes. The yeast should get nice and foamy. If it does not get foamy then you likely have a bad batch of yeast and need to start over.

    Happy, bubbly yeast.

  2. Combine the whole wheat bread flour and the salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and stir the salt into the flour briefly. Salt can inhibit yeast growth, but it also gives bread great flavor. So we want to distribute the salt so that it doesn’t hit the yeast in one big clump.
  3. Add the rest of the bread dough ingredients to the flour and salt mixture, and then add the proofed yeast. Stir to combine.  If using a stand mixer, once the ingredients are nearly combined (you may need to turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl once or twice) switch to mixing speed 2 and “knead” the dough for 6 minutes. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s guidelines for processing dough in your mixer. If making the bread by hand, scrape the thoroughly mixed of the bowl out onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand for 15 minutes. Dough will likely be slightly sticky, but avoid adding extra flour as much as possible.
    Almost all of the ingredients...

    Almost all of the ingredients…

    Everything into the pool.

    Everything into the pool.

    Switching to Speed 2 to actually knead the dough.

    Switching to Speed 2 to actually knead the dough.

    While I like to knead dough by hand, when I'm making the dough regularly I really like the speed of my stand mixer.

    While I like to knead dough by hand, when I’m making the dough regularly I really like the speed of my stand mixer.

  4. Once the dough has been thoroughly kneaded, place it in a large, warm bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Flip the dough ball over and cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Then cover this with a clean towel and place it somewhere warm to proof. This should take 45 minutes to an hour, or as long as it takes for the dough to double in size.
    Lightly oil the bowl.  In cold weather I like to heat the bowl in warm water before oiling it and proofing the dough.

    In cold weather I like to heat the bowl in warm water before oiling it and proofing the dough.

    Place the dough in the oiled bowl and then flip it to keep the top moist during proofing.

    Place the dough in the oiled bowl and then flip it to keep the top moist during proofing.

    Tuck the dough in nicely with a loose layer of plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel.

    Tuck the dough in nicely with a loose layer of plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel.

    Happy, risen dough.

    Happy, risen dough.

  5. Once the dough has doubled, gently press down on it to release the built up gasses. There’s no need to punch it, just press it down and let it rest for 8 minutes before continuing.

    There's absolutely no reason to get violent with your dough.  Just give it a good bit of pressure to release some of the built up gasses, then let it rest again.

    There’s absolutely no reason to get violent with your dough. Just give it a good bit of pressure to release some of the built up gasses, then let it rest again.

  6. After the dough has rested divide it into three roughly equal pieces. On a lightly floured board shape one piece into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle. Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go. Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible. Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
    No need to get fussy with exact measurements here.  Just divy it up and keep moving forward.

    No need to get fussy with exact measurements here. Just divy it up and keep moving forward.

    Shaping the dough.  Start with a rectangle, then roll it up into a cylinder.

    Shaping the dough. Start with a rectangle, then roll it up into a cylinder.

    Creating the loaves.

    Creating the loaves.

  7. To freeze for future use: Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and then place them into large, resealable plastic bags. Seal the bag and place it on a flat surface in the freezer. The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months. Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan for a few hours or overnight and then proceed to baking instructions.
    Wrap the cylinders up loosely in plastic wrap.  They'll continue to expand as they freeze, so if you wrap them too tightly they will burst.

    Wrap the cylinders up loosely in plastic wrap. They’ll continue to expand as they freeze, so if you wrap them too tightly they will burst.

    Getting the dough ready to freeze.  When you are ready to bake them off, just let them defrost overnight to do their second rise.  Be patient and give them time.  The dough's cold, so needs some time get nice and fluffy.

    Getting the dough ready to freeze. When you are ready to bake them off, just let them defrost overnight to do their second rise. Be patient and give them time. The dough’s cold, so needs some time get nice and fluffy.

  8. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan. Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes to an hour. Proceed to baking instructions.
    IMG_3070

    Nicely risen dough, without any squished marks from being sat on by a cat.  Like I said, lesson learned.

    Nicely risen dough, without any squished marks from being sat on by a cat. Like I said, lesson learned.

    IMG_3076

  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 350ºF and bake the bread for 20 minutes. The bread is done when it is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. You can also check its internal temperature to ensure that it has reached 190ºF. Cool on wire racks and enjoy!
    This bread is just calling for butter and jam.

    This bread is just calling for butter and jam.

    This loaf was destined for a dinner of tuna and smashed avocado sandwiches.  They were perfect.

    This loaf was destined for a dinner of tuna and smashed avocado sandwiches. They were perfect.

Click here for a printable version of the Fluffy Wheat Bread recipe.

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