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Everyday Whole-Wheat Bread
“This whole-wheat loaf is excellent for sandwiches, toast or eating plain. It has a light, springy texture and a mellow, slightly sweet grain taste from cracked wheat. The crust is crisp when the bread is first baked, but gradually softens as it stands. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.”
¼ cup bulgur, or cracked wheat (see Tip)
⅓ cup boiling water
2½ cups plus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour, divided
1¾ cups unbleached bread flour, (see Note), plus more as needed
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ, (optional)
1¾ teaspoons table salt
¾ teaspoon instant, quick-rising or bread-machine yeast
1¾ cups ice water, (see Tip), plus more as needed
¼ cup clover honey, or other mild honey
3 tablespoons corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
1Mix dough: Stir bulgur (or cracked wheat) and boiling water in a medium bowl. Thoroughly stir 2½ cups whole-wheat flour, 1¾ cups bread flour, wheat germ (if using), salt and yeast in a 4-quart (or larger) bowl. Thoroughly stir 1¾ cups ice water, honey and oil into the bulgur. Vigorously stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. The dough should be moist and a bit sticky, but fairly stiff. If the mixture is too dry, stir in just enough additional ice water to blend the ingredients, but don't overmoisten. If the dough is too wet, stir in just enough bread flour to stiffen it slightly. Lightly coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
2First rise: Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70°F) for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once partway through the rise. For convenience (and improved flavor), you may refrigerate the dough for 3 to 12 hours before starting the first rise.
3Second rise: Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch (or similar large) loaf pan with oil. Vigorously stir the dough to deflate. If it is soft, stir in just enough bread flour to yield a firm but moist dough (it should be fairly hard to stir). Transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly coat the top with oil. Smooth and press the dough evenly into the pan using a well-oiled rubber spatula or your fingertips. Evenly dust the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour, smoothing it out with your fingertips. Using well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut a ½-inch-deep slash down the length of the loaf. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
4Let rise at warm room temperature until the dough nears the plastic, 1 to 2½ hours. (For an accelerated rise, see Tip.) Then gently remove the plastic and let the dough continue to rise until it extends 1 inch above the pan rim, 15 to 45 minutes more (depending on temperature).
520 minutes before baking: Position a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 375°F.
6Bake, cool, slice: Bake the loaf on the lower rack until the top is nicely browned, 55 to 65 minutes. Cover with foil and continue baking until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until an instant-read thermometer registers 204-206 degrees ), 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the loaf out on the rack and let cool to at least warm before serving. The loaf is good warm but slices best when cool.
To make ahead: Wrap airtight and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
Note: Milled from high-protein wheats, bread flour develops strong gluten, resulting in well-risen loaves. It helps give breads with a high percentage of whole grains better structure and a lighter texture. Find it near other flours in most supermarkets.
Tips: Bulgur is parboiled cracked whole wheat. Cracked wheat is, literally, cracked whole wheat berries. Find either near other whole grains or bread-baking supplies in supermarkets or natural-foods stores. (You can use whole wheat berries that have been chopped in a blender or coffee mill in place of the bulgur or cracked wheat.)
To prepare “ice water” for this recipe, add a heaping cup of ice cubes to cold water and stir for about 30 seconds before measuring out the water.
You can turn your microwave into a warm, moist environment to help accelerate the second rise of the bread dough. Begin by microwaving ½ cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave, place the pan of dough on the other side of the turned-off microwave and close the door. The dough will double in size in 45 minutes to 1½ hours.