Bread baking Essential Ingredients
Bread baking–There are two kinds of hard wheat that are typically used for whole-wheat bread baking—red and white.
Traditional red whole-wheat flour is milled from the red whole wheat kernel: endosperm, bran, and germ. The bran and germ make this whole-wheat flour variety extremely nutritious and rich in fiber and give items made with whole-wheat flour their characteristic nutty, toasty flavor. Although red whole-wheat flour has been around since long before any of us were baking, white whole-wheat flour, milled from the whole white-wheat kernel, is a relatively new variety. White hard wheat has all the nutrition and characteristics of red hard wheat, but with a milder, less tannic flavor. It is too lighter in color than traditional red hard wheat. It is my preferred wheat for bread baking. Both types of hard wheat are high in protein/gluten.
The fat contained in wheat germ can turn rancid fairly quickly—I suggest you mill your whole wheat minutes before baking. If you need to do it beforehand, store your milled flour in the fridge for up to one week—it may be usable after that but the nutritional value will be significantly decreased and its taste will be compromised.
Water activates Active Dry Yeast (the kind found in most grocery stores) and dissolves all of the other ingredients for bread baking. Adding too much water results in a stickier, flatter loaf. Too little water restricts the expansion of the bread dough and results in a tight, dry, hard loaf. Water temperature is very important—it should be between 115-130 degrees. The warmer the temperature, the more active your yeast will be. The more active your yeast is, the quicker the dough rises. I like to get it to be pretty close to 130 degrees—usually, when you start adding the whole-wheat flour and other ingredients it will cool down the water—and your yeast will not be activated as quickly.
My preferred yeast for baking is SAF Instant Yeast. This kind needs no proofing—which means you can add the yeast directly to the whole-wheat flour–no need to activate it in warm water and sugar. Yeast must be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. I save a clean, glass mayo jar with a screw on lid in which I store my yeast. Once I open the yeast package I pour it into the glass jar and close it tight. Then I store it in the fridge. It should last you for up to one year.
Yeast is what causes the whole-wheat bread dough to rise. Adding more yeast will cause the loaf to rise more quickly. However, if you add too much yeast can cause a beery, off taste in your loaf. A teaspoon or two of yeast per loaf is usually all that is needed.
The kosher salt or sea salt that most grocery stores carry is a lot better tasting than table salt—but if table salt is all you have available, go for it. It works well enough. Salt retards the yeast and helps control the fermentation process. It also adds flavor.
Sugars (sugar, honey, agave nectar)
Sugars obviously sweeten and flavor the loaf. It is common to add a tablespoon or two of sweetener to a loaf of whole-wheat bread or white bread, both to feed the yeast and to add a touch of sweetness.
Fats (butter, oils, milk, eggs)
Fats enrich and flavor the bread. They also soften the dough, preserve it, and increase the bulk of your bread. A loaf of bread with a small amount of oil or butter retains moisture and will stay fresh longer. When making my whole-wheat bread I only use Canola or Olive Oil. Their health benefits are numerous and add a great touch of flavor.
Vital Wheat Gluten
Proper gluten development is very important for a high rising loaf of whole-wheat bread. The gluten is formed when the protein part of the wheat is kneaded and it becomes elastic and elongated.
When the yeast becomes activated, it will produce CO2, which in turn will be trapped in the gluten—the gas will push up on the gluten web and it will cause the dough to rise. This ingredient is “vital” (no pun intended!) in whole-wheat bread recipes. A small amount improves the texture and elasticity of the dough, resulting in a much lighter and fluffier loaf of bread.
Adding dough enhancer to any whole-wheat bread dough will result in lighter, fluffier bread as well. It increases dough strength, extends shelf life and improves texture. It usually contains ingredients such as whey (contains milk), lecithin, tofu powder, corn starch, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), and other natural flavors. You could even attempt to make your own—there are many recipes available online. I just prefer to purchase mine for simplicity.
Lecithin is found naturally in a number of items used for food, including egg yolk, fish, grains, legumes, peanuts, soybeans, wheat germ, and yeast. It is also used in food preparation to create products such as baked goods, chocolate, margarine, and mayonnaise because of its ability to moisturize, preserve, and emulsify. (wisegeek.com).
I love to add lecithin granules when baking my Simply Wheat’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread–it is a natural fat emulsifier that helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels as well as cardiovascular function; lecithin is also an excellent source of phospholipids, which contribute to proper brain and liver function. Why not get all of that in a slice of bread?