This week is the wholemeal bread challenge from Short & Sweet. You can find Felicity Cloake’s version of this recipe here on the Guardian website in which she explored different ways of approaching the wholemeal loaf and ended up liking Dan’s the best.
I made two different loaves this time; Dan helpfully writes up the recipe saying it is a starting point to finding the loaf you are happy with.
Once you have had a go at the basic one, you can move on to exciting variations like ale and spelt and unleash the creativity of your inner bread baker! I know you have one in you or you wouldn’t be reading this!
I can eat 100% rye with great delight but something about too much wheat bran gives me indigestion. English stoneground wheat is always full of huge flakes of bran and I would rather have a finer milled German style whole wheat, though it seems almost impossible to buy here in the UK. Presumably any whole grain flour will give you dietary fibre, so you could use spelt, kamut, einkorn or emmer all possibilities for getting that fibre content into your daily bread.
I went for a 50/50 blend of wholemeal and white in one of these loaves and of 50/50 kamut and white in the other. These breads don’t use milk, but they do use butter which improves the keeping qualities of the bread and is very traditional in English loaves.
I used regular sugar in both as per the recipe and for my money that was a mistake as I have got used to using spraymalt to sweeten Brian’s white breads and I should have used that in these. The taste of regular sugar is too much for me in bread like this, though I imagine it is there to mask the slight bitterness of the wholemeal. I wonder if apple concentrate would be nice? It’s all about personal taste, so do vary recipes to suit your palate and experiment with sweeteners if you use them. Spraymalt is particularly nice, comes in lots of varieties, fascinating to read about it on the Muntons site. It is fairly easy to get hold of if you have a local brewing shop or from online beer making sites and I think Bakery Bits sells it too.
The contrast in the doughs was quite marked. Dough 1 was sedate and quiet, whereas Dough 2 with the kamut was soft and bouncy and increased quickly in volume. Despite being a high protein flour, its gluten is very different from that of regular wheat and the surface of the dough pocketed and opened up quite a lot, giving a rugged rustic quality to the finished loaf. I couldn’t get it to form a smooth sheath at all on shaping. It also sprang dramatically in the oven unlike the wheat one which rose a bit but didn’t do anything very exciting.
Both loaves make light sweet bread, easy for toast, very English in style. Not quite my thing but I am sure the sort of bread that pleases many people. it’s a very easy recipe for beginners to follow too, watch the timings, handle the dough gently, if you are not sure about shaping it use a tin which you butter and dust with flour and you’ll be fine.
For a forthright discussion about the role of fibre in our diets and the ramifications for children’s health in particular read Lou’s post on Please Do Not Feed the Animals.
For the round up post for last week’s sweetie extravaganza and some fascinating links click here and have a peek at the other round ups for the Shortandtweet group. Join in any time you feel like it, all welcome!
Just thought I’d add a few links to other bread posts which incorporate wholemeal flour but are very different from this one….
For a sourdough bread using mainly wholemeal have a look at this old post of mine from the Mellow Bakers project with the grand name of Miche Pointe-a-Calliere. Another very good bread is this Rustic Bread which uses a mix of flours, including wholemeal to produce a very pleasing loaf and in which I incorporated some left yoghurt whey.
Another very popular bread that uses wholemeal flour is Dan Lepard’s Golspie Loaf, one of the star breads in the Hand Made Loaf. This is one I make regularly for my neighbour who is a big wholemeal fan. There is a picture of it in this little slideshow post.
Fab loaves, Joanna. The crumb on yours is more open than mine. Is that the addition of lighter flours to the mix?
I used this flour in the wholemeal one (and Doves Kamut in the other one) so it could be that, but most likely the fact that it isn’t 100% wholemeal to start with as you say :)
I think it’s worth experimenting with different proportions in the loaf to find one that you like. This is still too ‘wholemeal’ for Brian’s tastes.
I think this bread is an acquired taste. Slice it glass pane thin and top with roasted apple sauce. And top with bacon, of course. I’m cosying up to this bread as an open-face sandwich foundation.
And Waitrose is out of wholemeal because of special offer. Pffffft.
A generation of English folk were trained to eat wholemeal bread by the relentless Hovis advertisements on TV, Allinsons too, alll emphasising the virtuousness of eating wholemeal bread. It has interesting sociological and class aspects to it too, like so many cultural artefacts, (over and besides the fibre/bowel thing). There was the National Loaf in the Forties and you will find older people always choose wholemeal bread because it is ‘good for them’. Even the word ‘whole’ biases one towards thinking it is nobler and better. I am not saying it isn’t better for you, just it’s a socio-linguistic thing as much as anything. Historically, white bread was aspirational, it’s sweeter, softer, doesn’t contain small stones or hard bits that might crack your already fragile teeth and you throw stuff away to get the flour, the bran etc, so it is more expensive as it ‘wastes’ part of the grain. I imagine it was never thrown away, but rather used as animal feed. I haven’t done a lot of reading around this, food historians would probably give you a better more considered version of the history and politics of the brown stuff; but a slice of ‘wholemeal’ carries a lot of baggage with it.
Very interesting. When I was a kid, like 4 or 5-years old, it wasn’t uncommon for store bought wholemeal bread to contain a bit of sawdust to help bulk out the loaf. I wonder what *that* does for regularity! :O
You are amaaazing baker, Joanna. You always have me at your texture. :D Come see my first ever dessert post soon!!! It’s your territory :D
My territory is not dessert at all. I am not really a food blogger even, just someone who strayed into this funny world a couple of years ago, and finding an enthusiastic welcome, stayed for a while. :)
Cracking loaves I must get back on the wagon and bake this. The big question is can I get my girls (10 & 7) to go for it as they have taken a particular fancy to Short & Sweet’s easy white bread.
Where do you stand on this Vitamin C business as Dan is pretty relaxed about it but I know some of the real bread brigade are not so sanguine.
I know its an antioxidant ( I was a scientist many moons ago!) but what role does it actually play here?
Hi Tony, hope the teeth are settling down now.
My concerns about food are more on the lines of whether the world has enough to eat and whether we exploit people, animals etc in the production of it and how we are going to feed everyone in a sustainable way in the future.
I can’t get that worked up about Vit C to be honest. Dan says in Short & Sweet that it is allowed by the Soil Association and that must be fine. He describes the role it plays in dough making in the book. I haven’t read up that much about it apart from what he says.
Try the swiss dark flour that Shipton make which is a light brown flour, or sieve some of the bran (heresy probably) from the wholemeal and your girls will find it lighter and sweeter, play with alternative sugars as well. Don’t offer them white bread at all is the obvious one I guess if you want them to eat more whole grain type breads. :)
I, too, admire the crumb.
I like the vitamin C in wholemeal or similar flours. I think this is because I’m a supertaster for bitterness (like a fair number of people) and I tend to pick up the oxidation of the oil in the flour very readily – whether that’s related to storage time or a lot of kneading. However, my feeling that the vitamin C reduces this may be wrong, according to this account.
Thanks Evidence! That’s a great link, I hope Tony sees it. Rather inconsistently I used two different dried yeasts for these. The first, darker one was the Allinsons in the pale green sachet, which I think has ascorbic acid in it already, though I did add 1/8th tsp of Ascorbic Acid to it. I have a pot from a health food store I bought ages ago. And the other bread with the kamut element used some from a tub of Saf yeast that I bought when I was on an economy drive and I added the 1/8th tsp of aa to that too. As I varied so many things I can’t draw any proper conclusions. Part of me would like to do more rigorous testing of the Vit C thing for my own learning. I might come back to this again at a later date.
I have often made the Felicity Cloake version from the Guardian, including the 1/2 vitamin C tablet – all I could get was orange flavoured but it doesn’t affect the taste!
I use less sugar and oil instead of butter works ok. I love this bread for tomato sandwiches.
I feel inspired to make another loaf right now but unfortunately it is going to be 36C here today so the oven will not be turned on!
Ann, that’s the info and confirmation I’ve been looking for! Did you use olive oil rather than butter, and by how much did you reduce the sugar? :D
HI Misk, I have been reading your blog and enjoying it. I used half the sugar and ordinary olive oil, not extra virgin. I often use olive or sunflower oil instead of melted butter in things like bread and muffins and it always seems to work quite well. Not from any dietary point of view – it’s just easier. Though some things do need the butter taste.
Hi Ann, glad to hear that you enjoy Misk Cooks. :) I’m slapping a sticky note into Dan’s book with this info, and I’ll try it next time that I make this loaf. Thank you so much!
I don’t usually put straight sugar in everyday bread, the spray malt is a much less intrusive taste. Butter or oil is fine in bread, as Dan says in the book, this recipe is a starting point, not an end point.
I can’t believe it’s that hot Ann! Definitely not oven weather – have a great weekend :)
There is something about fresh wholemeal bread that is so wonderful – wholemeal bread and honey will always have a place in my heart (and stomach!). This certainly looks like bread that could compete with the best of them :)
Hi Kari, when it’s just cooled down and is spread with butter and honey it is pretty good. I might experiment a bit more with the wholemeal flours in the future. I often add a proportion into my mixed grain breads. I can only make and eat so much in a month. Half of the ones I made this week went next door to my neighbour :)
This is fascinating Joanna. I am fairly new to bread making and haven’t really started experimenting with different flours yet so this post is just getting me all excited and champing at the bit. I have just ordered some rye flour as Dan uses it for a lot of recipes in Short and Sweet so I’ll start off with trying it in things then hopefully move on to all the other types of flours out there.
I love your photo with the bread backlit. My crumb was so much denser.
Can’t believe you linked to the “poo” post!
I’m looking forward to hearing how you get on with rye, I love rye breads best of all :)
I thought your post was great. Food for thought for everyone :)
I’m not a big fan of wholemeal wheat flour, but your loaves certainly look appealing! Great job, Jo, love the cut slice with the light shining through.. :)
Did you see the second one was made with kamut? I keep seeing it appearing in your breads and I haven’t used it for ages, so I picked up a bag the other day.
It made a loaf with great volume and bounce, I should have done a window shot of that one too. :)
I’m going to have to try Kamut – I keep seeing it over at FigJam, and now you’re using it too!
Whether I like wholemeal depends on the mood I’m in – sometimes it’s what I want, sometimes not. I usually do a 50/50 mix of white and wholemeal flour for my go-to loaf, which gives me the flavours from the wholemeal without having to be too concerned at how much I work the dough and whether it’s going to rise etc.
Regarding health benefits, I have a very vague recollection of reading somewhere about the phytates in wheat bran and so forth binding various minerals in the gut and making them less available for absorption. Can’t remember any details though, sorry. So perhaps wholemeal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Reading your reply to Misk I agree, wholemeal is a loaded word and subject.
I think we all have our preferences, but it is good once in a while to review these things. I do like the 50/50 kamut. I am a bit the same about brown rice which I rarely buy or cook, I know in theory it is a good idea, but unless it is perfectly cooked I find it pretty indigestible. I believe one should look at one’s diet as a whole and not over focus on one food or another unless a specific intolerance or allergy is apparent. The rising tide of overweightness is scary and I wonder sometimes if all this blogging about food is ‘healthy’ too.
I can eat loads of pulses, yards of dark green leafy veggies, and so on with great tummy happiness and if I don’t feel quite right, a bowl of dal or some nice chickpea dish is usually the answer for me. Wholemeal wheat bread often makes me feel a bit bloated.Probably too much information. I don’t know about the phytates thing, I will look it up. Maybe Evidence knows about it and will write something about it in the round up?
Haven’t been aware of phytates either. Will need to go look this up too. I also have a friend who is a nutritionist ( a real one – not a Gillian McKeith one!) so will ask her when I next see her.
My knowledge of biochemistry is fairly limited. I had a go at reading this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytic_acid just now and it seems quite complex and the research ongoing. Will be interested to find out more too. :)
That’s fascinating. Possible case for taking probiotic yoghurt with your wholemeal bread? If so, I imagine there would be some big companies wanting to do big trials on that.
On a personal level, I would imagine that the phytates wouldn’t make enough of a difference to worry me especially with the vitamin C in there and the fact I am a meat eater and don’t have problems with getting enough iron. It is a very interesting subject, though. Will let you know what my nutritionist friend says. She works for the FSA.
I quite often add yoghurt, or yoghurt soaked grains (see my piima post for one example of this ) or even the whey left over from draining yoghurt to my breads, particularly the sourdough fermented ones. i think it makes for a good taste and we have been making our own yoghurt for a while now so if there is too much it is a good way to use it up.
Oh Joanna, what lovely loaves of bread. I come and read and drool, then just continue to make my no-knead bread. It works for me. I have just started using spelt in my breads, so far I like it. Also starting to add more grains & seeds to the breads. It is definitely an education reading what you have found and also from the comments of others. Who needs to make desserts when you can make great bread!
Thanks Emily, I am a firm believer in people making the bread that they have time to make and that they actually want to eat and then maybe tweaking them to include extra nutritional elements like yoghurt or seeds and grains, or a spoon of honey, nuts and fruits. Slightly sprouted seeds are fantastic in bread if you ever do sprouting at home. I am an almost no knead sort of person. These breads have about 1 minute of hands on time, most of it in the shaping. I mix the dough, leave it, give it a stretch and a fold, leave it, shape it, leave it, bake it. Time does most of the work. If you can find a local producer of kamut or khorazon type flour give it a try, it’s lovely sweet golden flour. Spelt is excellent too, though you have to watch it doesn’t overprove.
You are just a superb bread baker, my dear!
Loved the delicate crumb, which shows you know what you’re doing when you knead and shape the loaf – awesome!
I am a little behind reading your blog, but now that I’m back home, things should settle – for a while, at least ;-)
Lovely to hear from you, are you going to join in this week, we’re making the rye apple cake! I sometimes think these breads make themselves, once your anxiety goes about the basic principles it does seem to get simpler, like lots of things we do. Here comes the 9 am sunlight into the kitchen, I love this time of day :)
Tempting….. If I wasn’t so totally swamped with work, I’d say I would… but maybe I’ll be able to… I’ll see how it goes
Another fantastic loaf! You are so prolific it almost makes me dizzy. So many of your recipes yet to try…
If you join in with these group baking activities you tend to bake a bit more and maybe tackle breads you wouldn’t otherwise. I find it quite sociable, providing one doesn’t get too anoraky about it, which I sometimes think I do, but enthusiasm tends to lead one down unexpected paths sometimes :)
More fabulous looking bread. You bake with perfection.
Sweet of you to say! Thanks :)
Can’t remember if I commented- I meant to- and this is my 3rd stop here- so-
your bread is lovely as usual. I always appreciate your light shining through photos-
they are so professional in showing the crumb!
Thanks for all the visits dear heidi! I took a wonderful one the other day and even picked up a bit of a prism too, which I didn’t notice at the time. The advantage of a sunny winter morning is that the sun hits the kitchen later and I am more likely to be up and about than in the summer when it has been through the kitchen much earlier. It’s my ‘all the bread looks golden ‘ time of day. :)