Simple basic whole-wheat bread recipe
December 8, 2016 1:15 AM   Subscribe

My family is getting tired of my bread experiments since our bread machine died. I'm looking for bullet-proof, impatient-busy-idiot-proof bread recipes that satisfy the following conditions:

  • possible ingredients: all-purpose flour, instant dry yeast, fresh yeast, baking powder, oil, butter, water, milk, yogurt, salt, sugar
  • at least 10% but no more than 80% whole-wheat or spelt or corn flour (no deadly bread-bricks please)
  • no eggs
  • no buttermilk, no cream of tartar, no self-rising flour etc.
  • no sourdough if possible, but I'm open to trying it again if you convince me
  • baked on sheet pan or loaf pan (no pot with lids, dutch oven etc.) in an electric, ventilator oven
  • if possible, no food processor/mixer, but kneading by hand is ok (bonus points for toddler-kneading-friendly recipes!)
  • time needed from start to baked product: up to 6 hours (so I can do it in one afternoon), or more than 16 hours (I make the dough in the evening and bake after coming home the next afternoon)
  • family preference is soft crust
With the weekend coming up, I'll have plenty of time for experiments, so I'm looking forward to your suggestions! If it comes to worst, there's a bakery about 50m from our home, open 24/7...
posted by gakiko to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
This webpage:

This is my favorite bread recipe. I usually split the flour about 50/50 whole wheat and white. My kids LOVE this bread, and when I make it, I try to bake a bunch of loaves so I can throw some in the freezer.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 1:50 AM on December 8, 2016

Peasant bread!

I typically do half wheat, half white flour. Sometimes less sometimes more depending on what I've got on hand.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:57 AM on December 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I can't recommend this book highly enough for baking. Basically, once you know the proper ratio for 'bread' you can make it however you like.
posted by deadwater at 3:32 AM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is the bread I grew up eating, with various ratios of white to wheat flour.
posted by hoyland at 4:36 AM on December 8, 2016

I don't know if this falls under bread-brick, but I love this recipe:

Ballymaloe Irish Brown Bread. I suppose you could swap some of the whole wheat for spelt to lighten it.
posted by ceithern at 4:37 AM on December 8, 2016

Here's the recipe my family has used since time immemorial:
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 c warm water
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c honey (this wasn't on your ingredient list, but hopefully it's OK)
  • 4 c whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 c white flour
Sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and let stand for 1 minute. Mix in oil and honey. Mix in whole-wheat flour and salt, and stir until smooth. Mix in white flour until the dough begins to come together. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Cover and let rise for 45–60 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, divide in two, and bake in greased loaf pans at 375 F for 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. (Makes 2 loaves.)

Total start–finish time: a little under 2 1/2 hours.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:41 AM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

at least 10% but no more than 80% whole-wheat or spelt or corn flour (no deadly bread-bricks please)

I see that it's missing from your ingredient list, but adding some vital wheat gluten to your recipe can transform a brick into a really nice loaf. I make a ~30% rye loaf that turns out nearly as tall and airy as my white bread recipes. It uses a ton of VWG (3 Tbsp per loaf), but it does make a nice sandwich bread.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:41 AM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've had extremely good luck with the recipes from The Bread Maker's Apprentice. It's got fancy stuff but it also has basic sandwich-bread loaves of the type you describe that I make a lot in the wintertime. I usually use a mixer but it works as well by hand. One other change I've made that I've had really good luck with: switching to bread flour (or adding gluten as uncleozzy mentions).
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:08 AM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

This memoir got me into baking, and convinced me to try using a starter --- I've found it makes a huge, huge difference to flavor. I do mine the lazy, dead easy way -- I hope you give it a try.

For the starter, all you do is make a 50/50 mix of water and flour, add a pinch of yeast, and park it in the fridge. (It'll last a few weeks in there, and if you make bread once or twice a month you can keep it going indefinitely --- you just make a big batch of starter and replace what you use with fresh flour and water every time you bake.)

In your circumstances, what you'd do is mix

90g [3/4c] AP flour
90g water [1/4c + 2 tbsp] water
.5g [1/4 tsp] yeast (or just use a pinch, doesn't have to be precise)

Mix it up in a tupperware container, make sure there's no big lumps of flour, and then just park it in the back of fridge until the weekend. I'd do it a couple days ahead if possible, but at least overnight.

Then on Sunday, you take the starter, dump it in a bowl, and add

300 g [2.5 c] AP Flour
90g [3/4 c] whole wheat flour
40 g [1/2 c] oats
28 g [2 tbsp] olive oil
21g [1 tbsp] honey
240 g [1 c] water
7g [1 tsp] salt
5g [2 tsp] active dry yeast

Mix that all up together, and let it sit for about 10 minutes --- flour soaks up all the water that way, makes it easier to knead. Knead the dough, and set it to rise for ~2 hours, until at least doubled in size. Knock it down and form it into a loaf --- you can put it in a greased loaf pan or let it sit on its own. 2nd rise should be ~1 hour. Pre-heat the oven while it's rising, and then bake for ~25 minutes at 450F. If you have an instant read thermometer, should hit 190F in the center of the loaf.

The olive oil helps keep the crust softer and the loaf more sandwich-y. You can bump up the whole wheat level if you'd like, also. Good luck and happy baking!
posted by Diablevert at 5:21 AM on December 8, 2016

This Easy Little Bread recipe is both exceedingly easy and very tasty. No kneading, just one half-hour rise, and no special tools or ingredients.
posted by bobobox at 5:51 AM on December 8, 2016

Try the King Arthur Flour whole grain baking book- they have excellent recipes
posted by genmonster at 6:17 AM on December 8, 2016

Self-rising flour is just flour, baking powder and salt, it's very easy to make it yourself if it shows up in a bread recipe. I use a similar recipe to Johnny Assay, though.
posted by jeather at 6:20 AM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I suggest considering a Dutch oven- around $30 from Lodge, also on Amazon.

In my limited experience it makes any bread baking more fault tolerant and gives it more delicious crust.

I usually do simplified variants of the NYT no -knead bread, but my friend who showed me the way to bread in cast iron pot does all sorts of great things with hers.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:17 AM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might try looking into the whole Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day thing. You make up a bunch of dough at once, about 4 loaves worth, no-knead. Then you let it sit loosely covered in the fridge and over the next week or 10 days you cut off chunks and bake them. They become quite flavorful because the yeast does its thing slowly, but they're not as strong as sourdough. Or you can use the dough for pizza or whatever else you like. I most frequently make up their whole wheat sandwich bread recipe, which can be cooked in a loaf pan.

1 1/2 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 c milk
1 1/2 Tbs granulated yeast
1 Tbs + 1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 c honey
5 Tbs neutral-flavored oil, plus more for greasing the pan
6 2/3 c whole wheat flour

You could obviously switch out some of the WW flour for white.

Anyways, check out their website and/or book. Lots of fun ideas in there!
posted by wyzewoman at 7:50 AM on December 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would nth the Break Baker's Apprentice recipes. It requires a soaker and a poolish and come out beautifully and relatively non-labor intensive.

And if you're at all interested in their regular white sandwich loaf, it's dead simple and easy to knock out four loafs in just a few hours.

Memail me if you like and I'll copy and paste the recipe/instructions from the book.
posted by Tevin at 8:00 AM on December 8, 2016

If I didn't use the no-knead bread recipe, which uses a Dutch Oven for a great crust, I would bake bread from Laurie Colwin's recipe. (you can skip the wheat germ, if you wish)
posted by sarajane at 8:02 AM on December 8, 2016

I posted a no-knead recipe in Ask a few years ago that I'm still in love with. To make heartier wheat bread, I sub in 2c wheat flour for white flour. No dutch oven required, and you can bake small loaves over the course of a week or two as the dough keeps in the fridge.
posted by workerant at 8:07 AM on December 8, 2016

It turns out I'm really bad at writing recipes. But when I am trying for a softer "sandwich"-style bread, I'll use some cream in the dough.
I always begin my yeast breads with a starter: I'll take the water specified in the recipe, half the amount of yeast specified, and maybe 1/2 cup of gluten-rich white flour, mix it all with a fork, till it resembles a lumpy thick soup. Let it stand for an hour (or so), first it will separate and look and smell strange, then it will become a nice spongy fragrant thing. Now you can add the rest of the ingredients (except the extra yeast, you don't need that now).
If you are adding cream, remember to subtract the volume of the cream from the volume of water you use.

Day to day, I don't use recipes, I make the starter with a cup of water, about a cup of flour, and something like 10 grammes of fresh yeast. Then I do something else for a while, when the starter is nice and spongy I add the cream if I'm doing soft, and then a tablespoon of salt and a mixture of whole and white flour till it has the consistency I want. If the bread has dairy (or eggs) in it, I'll go for a very soft but still kneadable bread. If no dairy, I do the no-knead version.
The dough rises till double size, then I fold it into shape, and let rise for 30 mins (approx.) Into the oven till the bread sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom of it.

I know you said no pots, but I have a baker similar to this, and I can put the dough in the cold oven in it, right after the folding part, put the oven to max temperature, and bread will come out perfect!
posted by mumimor at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2016

I've been making this molasses wheat bread recipe for years and I really love it. It's got a dense crumb and a rich flavor. You can vary the proportions of white to wheat flour.

Molasses Wheat Bread

2 pkgs yeast
3 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs salt
2c liquid, divided (water or milk)
1/2c molasses
2 Tbs shortening
1-1/2 c wheat flour
5-1/2c white flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of warm liquid (water or milk). Mix yeast+liquid, sugar, salt, remaining liquid, and molasses. Mix well. Add shortening. Gradually add flours. Knead until smooth.

Let rise 2 hours, or until doubled. Punch down dough and turn. Let rise 45 minutes in loaf pans.

Bake at 400.

[My recipe apparently cut off the baking time. Sorry!]
posted by mudpuppie at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2016

I would just make a focaccia. Just make up your favorite pizza dough and throw in 10% whole wheat. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a 9x12 pan, pat the dough out into the pan, put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the dough, maybe throw some salt or herbs on top.

Timing wise, it's tasty with a one hour rise in a warm kitchen or leave it in the fridge for up to about 4 days for more complex yeasty notes. If you forget about it and leave it in the fridge for too long, just mix the old batch up with a new batch and the new combined batch will taste like it's been in a cold rise for a day or two.
posted by gregr at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've had good luck with recipes from yeast makers web sites. I'd suggest using bread flour instead of AP flour.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:41 PM on December 8, 2016

Best and easiest bread I have ever made is Irish soda bread. Bit of kneading but apart from that the only difficulty is remembering if you have put the bicarb in yet or not.
posted by arha at 7:15 PM on December 8, 2016

I am now eating slices warm from the oven of Johnny Assay's recipe and can recommend it highly for two big fluffy-inside with slightly crackly outside sandwich loafs that my kids are wolfing down. I had less wholewheat on hand, and evened up with some wheatgerm thrown into the mix.

I usually shape my sandwich loaves to be baked for sandwich bread by stretching them into rectangles, rolling them up and flatting them the other direction, rolling them again, and repeating until they're nicely stretchy. Then I put them into a parchment-paper lined loaf pan (no grease), shoving them into the corners, and leave them to rise for the 10-15 minutes it takes for my oven to warm to the right temperature and bake. Afterwards, I just pull the parchment paper out onto a wire rack so they can rest under a tea-towel for a while. It gives them a supermarket-bread style edge of being sort of golden-brown and flat around the edges and never stuck to the pan.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:29 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

You need The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.
posted by purplesludge at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2016

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