A few years ago I finally discovered the secret to moist, soft, 100% whole wheat bread without having to add white flour. Before this all my efforts failed. Usually whole wheat bread ends up being dense and tough. The secret I discovered? Vital Wheat Gluten. You really can't even attempt good (100%) whole wheat bread without it. It turned out so good that it was really hard to go back to store bought bread after that.
Before I bought my Kitchen Aid Mixer I used a great recipe for No Knead Bread. Although I loved the recipe, I love my Kitchen Aid. It is a powerhouse when it comes to taking the fuss out of kneading bread. My smaller Kitchen Aid can easily handle enough dough for two loaves a week. That is just enough to last for my family of five.
This is now the only bread we eat. (Although I do keep an emergency loaf of store bought bread in the freezer in case it is too hot to turn on the oven in the summer.) When I bake the two loaves a week, one loaf will go in a large 2 gallon zipper bag and goes into the freezer for the second half of the week. The other loaf usually gets a slice or two cut off right away and smeared with butter. I mean, how can you not cut off a slice of warm, fresh baked bread and not enjoy it right away? It's all about quality control. Anyhow, the loaf then gets placed on a wooden cutting board, cut side down until the next morning when it will be sliced for toast. If it is really warm out or I won't be using it the same day, I'll place it in another 2 gallon zipper bag and keep it stored in the refrigerator.
I've made this bread so often now that I never look at a recipe. But more or less, this is how I make it. Occasionally I'll throw in some ground walnuts, raw sunflower seeds, or chia seeds. You can also eliminate 1 cup of flour for 1/2 cup oats and 1/2 cup organic corn meal and let it soften up in the warm water before adding to the dough.
So you can see how I've set myself up. The bread is so good there is no going back. I've committed myself. Not only does it taste better, but I know all the ingredients that went into the bread (and I can pronounce them all.) I'm not sure my kids know how good they've got it. We'll see when they go off to college. At least my husband knows.
Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (*105-115 degrees F)
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tablespoon himalayan pink sea salt (or any salt)
1/4 cup oil (I use vegetable or grape seed)
1/2 cup raw honey + 1 tablespoon (or molasses or a combination of both)
2 1/2 cups warm water*
6-7 cups whole wheat flour (my favorite is King Arthur)
1. In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir together and allow the yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes. (The yeast will become active and puffy if it's alive.)
2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid Mixer, add 6 cups of flour, vital wheat gluten, flax seed, and salt. With your dough hook attachment on, turn on the mixer to stir the ingredients together.
3. Add the bloomed yeast mixture and 2 1/2 cups warm water. In a measuring cup, add the oil and swirl it around. Then measure your honey inside the oil. (This is a trick I use so the honey easily slides out of the glass measuring cup.) Turn on the mixer to #2 and allow the dough to knead for about 5 minutes. Gradually add in more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the kneaded dough just begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
4. Grease a large mixing bowl. With wet hands, scrape the dough into the greased mixing bowl. Lightly grease a piece of plastic wrap and cover the bowl. Put the dough in a warm place for about an hour. (Until it has doubled in size.)
5. On a lightly floured counter, turn out your dough and give it a quick knead. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Lightly roll out one of the pieces until it is about 12-14 inches long. (This doesn't' have to be perfect.) Roll up the dough and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cover both pans with a piece of greased plastic wrap. This step may seem unnecessary, but this is what will give your bread a nice swirl pattern on the inside.
6. Place the loaves in a warm place so they can rise for a second time. I like to let my dough rise for 30 mintes. Then I preheat my oven at 350 degrees F and let my dough contiume to rise for another 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
7. After the oven is preheated, remove the plastic wrap and bake for about 40-45 minutes.
8. Remove the bread from the pans and cool on a cooling rack.
For an exceptionally soft and tender bread (and non-vegan) you may substitute out the oil for melted unsalted butter. Half of the water may also be substituted out for whole milk.
Other homemade yeast breads you may enjoy:
Cinnamon Roll Bread Sticks
No Knead Cinnamon Rolls
Whole Wheat "Light" Brioche Bread
Whole Wheat No Knead Bread
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
Yeasted Pumpkin Bread
Yeast-Raised Cornbread Sticks