What could be more satisfying than breaking bread with friends and family?For someone who loves bread as much as I do, being able to make it well myself is a giant..no dianasorous gigantic feat!This post is about my humble attempt at making Whole Wheat Italian Bread from scratch.I have used 1:2 ratio of Whole wheat flour to All purpose or bread flour.
I have tried baking several types of bread before..You can read about my experiment with baking a sour dough bread a few months back on this post here, but this is THE recipe that has been a real success at my home.I say this because my husband is a staunch non believer of all bread-be it pizza, rotis ,naans or parathas but he loved the bread that I baked.Imagine this..he stayed in Lyon for a month and didn’t fall in love with the French bread there. But he loved this homemade Whole Wheat Italian Bread so much that he stole the piece of bread I had buttered for the baby.
Why we love our Whole Wheat Italian Bread
The bread is crusty on the outside and super soft inside, almost like but not quite like cotton candy.As I said above I gave it buttered to my 11 month old baby,who didn’t have any teeth back then.
Tricks of Bread Baking
Bread baking can be daunting especially if you don’t have all the tricks and tips in place.I have listed a few most important things to keep in mind when baking a bread.
1. Good quality yeast
2. Kneading the Dough-Cant Stress enough on this.
3. Giving it enough time to rise.
5. Ice cubes at the bottom of the oven while baking.
First, the yeast.Since I have forayed full time into blogging everyone who travels brings me back packaged foodstuffs.Yeast is something I ask my husband’s uncle to bring from USA because it comes in small 2 tbsp sized packages and is extremely reliable.I have used the fast acting and the normal active yeast with fantabulous(if that’s even a word) results.If you are buying yeast in india, look for this brand.Once the package is opened ,consume it within a few weeks and keep it in an airtight contained the whole while.
Kneading the dough-CANT STRESS ENOUGH ABOUT THIS ONE!HENCE CAPS.Once the water and flour come together,it has to be kneaded to develop gluten which will in turn make the bread rise and give the sponge.This step will make your bread soft and light.If you skip this then you will end up with a hard and dry bread.This step is not something I personally enjoy though I know a lot of people, who like to feel the soft dough transform under their hands.I substitute the bulk of kneading to my food processor.If you have one of those dough making machines then I would urge you to use it.The machine can knead your dough in 2 minutes versus manual kneading of 20 minutes.
Though if you don’t have a machine, you need to work the dough for atleast good 15-20 minutes with your hands.Punching,Pinching and cajoling it into submission.Another trick is to let the dough rise slowly in the fridge for about 12 hours or overnight.This kind of slow rise will help in gluten development and also enhances the flavour.
Giving it enough time to rise is another important step.Once the yeast is mixed with dough and water it multiplies and releases gas.Which makes the dough rise and this in turn makes those complex webs inside the bread which make it soft and airy.The yeast has to be given sufficient time to rise.If you bake the bread too soon, the bread will be dense.Usually give the bread 2 rises-Long Rise after kneading the dough and one Short rise after shaping the dough.If you see the dough double in size and small bubbles forming on the surface it means the bread is ready for the next step.
Ice Cubes at the bottom of the oven keeps the bread moist making the crumb crunchier instead of making it thick and hard.
Shaping the Dough for the bread
Now for the shaping.I find It the easiest to make a large boule or a round shape but if you want the classic loaf thats also not too difficult.
Its easier to see a video on how to shape a bread instead of reading about it.Here is the link to the video that helped me in the beginning.
The Science of Whole Wheat Italian Bread
As I said on top a bread needs gluten to soften.Most commercially available whole wheat breads contain either colour to signify addition of whole wheat flour or artificial additives.
For this Whole Wheat Italian Bread, I would urge you to start with he given ratio of 1:2 of whole wheat flour to All purpose flour to start with and then move towards a higher whole wheat content.The reason I suggest this is because bread baking is a learning curve and fairly intuitive.If you dive straight into the deep sea, you would most probably pronounce swimming too difficult or too much work.That’s why start with a 1:2 ratio of whole wheat to maida and once you are satisfied with the results substitute whole wheat 1/4 cup at a time.
- 2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour/Maida
- 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Instant Active Yeast
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Add 1 1/2 Cups of water and start wetting the dough.Mix it toghether roughly-pinching toghether and incorporating the water into the dough.
- Add another 1/4 cup of water and mix till the water is incorporated and you get a "sticky" dough.Add more water if needed 1 tbsp at a time.
- Usually,bread dough is very sticky and soft.Though if you are unable to handle the bread, you can add more flour.
- Knead it inside a large bowl(Indian way) or the counter for 15-20 minutes.If hand kneading, the more you knead the better the bread will be.
- If using a dough machine or food processor-Only process the dough for a max of 30 seconds after all the ingredients are incorporated otherwise it will be over done and the gluten bonds will break.
- Put the dough in a large bowl. At least 3 times the size of the dough.Brush the top of the dough with a little oil and cover with a moist cloth/cling film.
- Let the bread rise on the counter for 3-4 hours till it's doubled.If the bread hasn't reached the double size but has risen, let it sit for another couple hours.
- After you see that the bread has risen to double its size and you see small bubbles underneath the surface, take the dough out.
- Lightly press it so that the air trapped inside escapes.
- You can shape the bread into a round boule or a loaf.Watch this video for help on shaping.
- Keep the shaped dough in the sheet/pan for baking.Let it rise inside the pan for about 1 hour on the counter.
- Scour the bread with a sharp knife or a blade.2-3 rough cuts so that the steam has a place to escape.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degree.Slide about 1-2 cups of ice in the bottom most part of the oven.
- Place the bread inside the oven.Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees.
- To check it its baked- put a skewer through or knock the back of the bread and it should sound hollow.