My Mother in Law is amazing. Seriously. On top of being amazing, she bakes wonderful, fluffy, whole wheat bread full of flavor and bursting with goodness. Everytime we are visiting and my MIL is baking bread, I watch carefully, often getting in her way as she putters around the kitchen, and try to replicate the miracle of bread at home. While I have made a mean loaf in my day, my bread is not a consistent hit, so I took it upon myself to truly crane my neck, write copious notes, and snap too many pictures all in the pursuit of moan worthy bread. My oh my was it worth it! If you are in search for whole wheat bread worth baking, look no further - MIL will show you the way.
6 cups pretty warm water
13 cups (roughly) freshly ground whole wheat flour
4 cups white flour
1/2 cup - 2/3 cups honey
3 tbsp fast rising yeast
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup freshly ground flax seed (measured before grinding)
2/3 cups millet
2/3 cups sunflower seeds
Before you begin, grind all the flour and flax, and bring all ingredients you will need out to the counter.
First, put the pretty warm water in your mixer. Add honey, and yeast, and 6 cups of fresh ground whole wheat flour. Pulse your mixer three times or so, then set it to mix on low speed for 30-60 seconds.
Stop the mixer and add the eggs and salt. Blend.
While blending, add the oil.
Stop the mixer and add the flax, millet, and sunflower seeds. Blend.
Continue mixing and add 2 cups fresh ground whole wheat flours. Blend until smooth.
Add four 4 cups white flour (my MIL has found that this is what makes her bread so fluffy. If you wish to omit the white flour, your bread will simply be denser, and not rise quite as high.)
Now, add fresh ground whole wheat flour until mixer begins to 'whine' a bit. This will come with practice, and also patients. Add 1 cup at a time, allowing time for the flour to work into the dough. Whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture as it works into the dough, so if you add flour too rapidly it will end up making a very dry dough, and yucky bread. Patients is key!
My MIL ended up adding 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour during the space of about five minutes. Hit the sides of the bowl while its mixing to help the dough pull away.
If it is still really sticky and wet, add some more whole wheat flour.
Once the dough is right, let the mixer knead it for 10 minutes. VERY IMPORTANT - this works the gluten in the flour and the yeast in the dough. Both need time to be activated and help the bread to raise and be a nice and fluffy loaf when baked.
Once the dough has kneaded, lightly oil a clean counter and let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes. After the dough has rested, it feels less tacky. When sliced with a knife, it doesn't stick to the knife. Then slice in half, and each half into thirds, making six loaves.
Spray six loaf pans with PAM, then put shape dough so that the top is smooth, and put into pans. Let the dough raise in the pans until roughly 2" above the rim of the pan (approximately one hour, depending on the heat of your home.) There is no need to cover the dough with a towel.
Tip: Pans make a difference! Old pans bake bread more evenly, and can often be found at garage sales for a steal of a deal. The size you are looking for is 8 1/2"x 4 1/2" across the top inside rim of the pan.
Tip:Buns are a great option if you don't have enough pans! Follow the directions as noted, but instead of shaping into loaves, shape into little buns, place on pan, and let rise for an hour, then bake as directed.