This is my favorite new whole wheat sandwich loaf that I've been promising to post.I look forward to hearing if you love it as much as I do. I've found that using 50 percent whole wheat and 50 percent white wheat flour is the perfect balance for flavor and texture. There is enough gluten from the white wheat flour to give it excellent volume and consistency. Adding the starter gives it a longer shelf life and also incredibly perfect depth of flavor but it's great even without it or you could substitute the suggested old bread dough. Simply save some when you are making a loaf of hearth bread. It keeps at room temperature for about 6 hours, refrigerated for 48 hours and refrigerated for at least 3 months. If you omit the old starter or if you add old dough (which already has the right balance of salt) you will need to use 1/8 teaspoon less salt. I've worked out some tips for working with whole wheat flour should you want to replace other recipes with part whole wheat. They will be at the end of the recipe for those who are interested. But just one essential tip right up front: Whole wheat flour must be fresh to give a sweet wheaty flavor to the bread as opposed to a bitter (rancid) flavor. You can grind your own or purchase it. If grinding your own you need to use it within 3 days or store it for 3 weeks up to 3 months. For longer storage freeze for up to 1 year. If purchasing the flour, make sure to check the expiration date. You can also freeze it for up to 1 year.
Oven Temperature: 450F/230˚C, then 400°F/200˚C Baking Time: 35 to 45 minutes.
50% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Makes: An 8 1/2 inch by 5 inch by 4 1/2 to 5 inch high loaf (927 grams/2 pounds)
Equipment: A 9 inch by 5 inch (7 cup) loaf pan (8 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan if not using old starter) greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. A baking stone or baking sheet.
1) Soak the Starter: In a mixer bowl, place the water and tear the starter or old bread dough into small pieces into it. Add the honey, cover and allow it to sit for about 1 hour. In a large bowl whisk together the whole wheat flour, Harvest King Better for Bread flour, non-fat milk powder, and yeast. Add about 2 cups/300 grams/10.5 ounces to the water mixture and whisk until smooth and the consistency of a thick pancake batter. (This is to distribute the pieces of starter evenly.) (If using a bread machine place the water and honey in a medium bowl. Tear the starter into the bowl, in a few pieces, and stir it together until it is soft. Scrape it into the bowl of the bread machine. Whisk together the two flours but not the yeast or salt and sprinkle the mixture on top. Let sit covered 30 minutes to 1 hour.)
2) Mix the dough: Add the rest of the flour mixture and, with the dough hook, mix on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead the dough on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) for 7 minutes, adding the salt after the oil is mixed in. (In the bread machine, mix it for 3 minutes and then autolyse--let rest--for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead for 7 minutes, adding the yeast after the first minute and the salt after the yeast is mixed in. ) The dough should be sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and knead it. (The dough should weigh about 2 pounds, 3 1/2 ounces /1011grams/ a little more than 1 quart).
3) Let the dough rise: Place the dough into a 3 quart or larger dough rising container greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 80°F/26˚C.) until doubled in size, about an hour and 10 minutes. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a lightly floured counter. Press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Stretch the dough and give it a package fold (pull out the bottom and fold it to the center, then the same with the left side, right side, and top), round the edges and return it to the bowl, smooth side up. Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be (3 quarts) and allow it to rise until it reaches this point, about 1 hour. (Or refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding, pushing it down when it reaches 3 quarts.)
4) Shape the dough and let it rise: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter, smooth side down, and press it gently to flatten it. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary to keep it from sticking. Allow the dough to rest covered for 20 minutes. Dimple it all over with your finger tips to eliminate air bubbles, shape it into a loaf, and place it in the prepared loaf pan. It should fill the pan no more than 1/2 inch from the top. Cover it lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until the highest point is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the sides of the pan and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in--about 45 minutes.
5) Preheat the oven: 1 hour before baking set a cast iron pan lined with foil onto the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F/230˚C.
6) Bake the bread: Spritz the top of the dough with water. Quickly but gently set the bread pan onto the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door, lower the temperature to 400°F/205˚C, and bake 35 to 45 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190° to 205°F/88 to 96˚C. Half-way through baking rotate the pan half way around for even baking.
7) Cool the bread Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up.
Note: If not using the starter omit the extra 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Tips for Working with Whole Wheat Flour My basic hearth bread is 66.6% hydration (including the water in the honey). This recipe is 70.6% hydration because of the whole wheat flour. The bran requires more water. It will be very sticky after mixing but after the first rise much less so as the water is absorbed more evenly. Avoid adding flour until shaping and then use the minimum to prevent sticking. This keeps the bread light and soft.
If you want to replace white wheat flour with whole wheat flour in your favorite recipes, you can replace it cup for cup though whole wheat flour is slightly lighter. 1 cup of white flour equals 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour but of course that will vary depending on how you grind the wheat or how you measure it so weight is really preferred. The way I measure, lightly spooning the flour into the cup: 1 cup of Harvest King/Better for Bread flour = 150 grams/5.25 ounces 1 cup whole wheat flour = 142 grams/5 ounces For every cup of whole wheat flour used add 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (you can round off to 1 1/2 tablespoons) of water by weight this is 28.3 grams/1 ounce