OK, I admit it. I can’t be silent any longer. This secret love I have is burning inside me, an unquenchable fire… whose temperature is about 350°F.
Here’s my confession: I love to bake. I’ve always been a shy person, but I learned, my sophomore year in college, that a pan of warm brownies is the best icebreaker ever invented. There’s nothing that lights up a boring meeting at work like fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. And, if you’re looking to lift your spirits (and those of everyone around you), make pizza: I guarantee it’ll be received with big-time smiles.
See a pattern here? Baking is all about giving. After all, how many of us bake in a self-centered way? I mean, make 3 dozen cookies and eat them all yourself? A baguette, whose shelf life is less than 24 hours, saved for a week’s worth of nibbling? Nah. You bake, you share… you feel good. Baking is a serendipitous circle.
I’m sure many of you love to bake. But how many love to bake with whole-wheat flour? OK, you there, in the back; you can put your hand down now. I admit, I was one of the “I hate whole wheat” crowd not so long ago. But King Arthur white whole wheat flour has changed my baking life. Especially the organic white wheat, which I use even more frequently than the regular white wheat.
WAIT—keep reading. I promise this isn’t some empty sales pitch. I easily—and I mean seamlessly—switch between King Arthur unbleached all-purpose and King Arthur white whole wheat flour in my everyday baking. Really—it’s that good a whole-wheat flour. And, for those who don’t understand what “white” whole wheat is: it’s simply a different strain of whole wheat. Just as you can choose to grow red raspberries or black raspberries, farmers can grow red wheat or white wheat. The two are nutritional equals; mild-flavored, light-colored white wheat is simply missing an element (phenolic acid, a plant metabolite) in its bran layer, one that gives red wheat a darker color and stronger flavor.
Clearly, I’m not going to make moist, close-grained, creamy white sandwich bread using 100% whole-wheat flour. But I regularly make moist, close-grained, golden whole-wheat sandwich bread using white whole wheat flour. Rollout sugar cookies with white wheat? Not its best use. Chocolate chip cookies? Fabulous. For muffins, cookies, most cakes, quick breads (banana, zucchini, pumpkin…), pancakes, most scones, many yeast breads, pizza crust, brownies… I reach for white wheat.
I still love my King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, a.k.a. Best Flour on the Planet. For white bread, ciabatta, pie crust, Christmas rollout cookies—all that “white” stuff you make—it simply can’t be beat. But if I can bake my favorites, AND noodge a little fiber and some minerals into them at the same time, why not?
Here’s my absolute very favorite 100% whole wheat bread. It mirrors almost perfectly the texture and moistness of close-grained white sandwich bread; only its golden color and flavor (nutty, whole-wheaty) is different… and divine. This square-cornered bread makes beautiful sandwiches, toast, and French toast. Now, it does call for a pain de mie (pullman) pan. If you don’t have this pan, we have lots of other delicious whole grain recipes you can try. But to get this bread’s signature fine-grained texture—which means no crumbling, no matter how thinly you slice it—this pan is a requirement. I’m one of the world’s biggest cheapskates, but I actually bought this pan because I love pain de mie (both whole wheat, and white) so very much.
Wow, now my mouth is watering! Let’s get started.
My hero gets dumped into a lidded plastic bucket and stored in the freezer. In a crowded test kitchen, as you can see, it's good to let people know what you want in no uncertain terms!
This is why I love our Zo bread machines. I can just put all the ingredients in the machine, press a button, and let ’er rip. This is what the dough looks like after a couple of minutes...
...and this is what it looks like, fully kneaded. Nice, huh?
After it's risen, I gently stretch it into a 13” log, to fit my 13” pain de mie pan. I don't punch the dough down, or beat it up in any way. Dough is a living thing; I'm a non-violent person. It deflates most of the way as I squeeze it into shape, so punching isn't necessary and, as far as I can see, its necessity is an old wives’ tale, perhaps invented by an old wife who was REALLY tired of making bread every day.
Nestled into the pan, the lid slipped on for protection from drafts...
And 45 minutes later, risen to within 1/2” or so of the lid.
Lid on, and into the oven it goes. (Oh, remember to grease the inside of the lid.)
After 25 minutes, take it out of the oven, and slide off the lid. Beautiful! But it's not done yet...
Give the bread another 10 to 15 minutes in the oven, with a foil cover to prevent over-browning. Substituting foil for the lid helps the thin crust crisp up nicely, too.
When it's done, the bread will slip right out of the pan, which has a very effective non-stick glaze; the inner surface of the pan feels almost glassy. It comes from Chicago Metallic, which has been providing us with bread pans for nearly 20 years. This one's sold to professional bakers; it's not in their regular retail line, but we manage to nudge a few out of them each year to offer to all of you passionate bread bakers.
Next step? PB & J on whole wheat. Add a glass of cold milk, and I tell you, you'll feel like you're about 10 years old again. Speaking of kids and bread... Halley, our Web projects manager, snagged the loaf you've just watched me make. In the car on the way home, she gave her 6-year-old daughter, Daisy, a lollipop and a piece of bread. Daisy tried the lollipop, tried the bread, and told Halley, “Mom, you can have the lollipop back. Can I have some more bread?” Now THAT'S an endorsement!
Please read, bake, and review our recipe for 100% Whole Wheat Pain de Mie.