I haven’t wanted to give a recipe a zero and tear up the paper and throw it in the garbage in front of the whole class since I started this Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat Bread challenge, but this one just about pushed me over the edge.
There I was, heart rate through the roof, steam rising from my head, dangling the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book over the trash, when I remembered that I just don’t throw books away. Darn frugality. Fie on my eco-consciousness!
[Disclaimer: if you do not want to read hilarious, ranting negativity, and perhaps even another use of the word “darn,” you should stop reading now.]
Let me just list for you all the things that went wrong with this, the often praised, constantly recommended, simple and fail-proof, perfect no-knead homemade bread:
- The dough required nearly 4 extra cups of flour beyond what the recipe called for, which increased the original amount by over 50%!
- Adding flour with the paddle on my stand mixer fluffed it all over the counter, making the biggest mess of any recipe yet.
- The massive bulk of the recipe caused the dough to climb up the mixer onto the spring mechanism, which means I’ll probably poison my family with the grease that keeps it running smoothly up there. Wanna come over for toast?
- That also took extra minutes to clean up, cursing all the time. (I curse pretty cleanly, don’t worry.)
- Since I was tossing flour everywhere, I finally decided I needed to use my hands to incorporate the last ½ cup scoop or two, which meant that for a no-knead bread recipe, I was covered in sticky, gooey, highly annoying bread dough up to my wrists. Anyone see the irony there?
I was mad. I wanted to rail at the bread dough, at the authors of the darn book, at everyone who promised me I’d love this recipe and that I simply must try it…I’m over it now, so don’t run away and hide, you poor readers in that category. I won’t yell at you.
What’s the deal with FOUR extra cups of flour for a 2-loaf recipe??
- Is my water wetter than water?
- Is my flour defective?
- Did I commit a cardinal bread baking sin by mixing the wet ingredients in a well in the dry, instead of in a separate bowl? (If so, the retribution was pretty unfair, in my opinion. I was just trying to save the recipe from losing yet another point for an extra dish.)
- Were my eggs super huge? (Actually, they were really large eggs. I tried to choose the smallest in the carton. I was considering only using 4 for frugality’s sake, but all those voices in my head saying, “You’re supposed to try the recipe as written first!” won me over. However, even if my eggs were humongous, could they really suck up four extra cups of flour? I hardly think so.) The authors could give a liquid measure for the eggs just to make up for variances in size for those of us poor souls who buy from the farm and don’t have uniformly sized eggs.
The recipe was already losing points left and right just sitting on the page, because it:
- uses white flour
- requires an extra pot to melt the butter
- gets pretty doggone pricey with 5 eggs (over $1), ½ cup honey (almost $1), and 2/3 cup butter (75 cents). If I had added the recommended gluten, I think it would have been nearly a $4 recipe!
If you’d like to see how I think about baking bread, and how to adapt a breadmaker recipe for hand-kneading or other machines, see HERE.
The Recipe: Adapted Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day “All American Sandwich Bread”
The original ingredients are crossed out to show the changes I ended up making.
5 c. whole wheat flour 5 1/2 c. hard red spring wheat flour (plus extra, and more extra…)
2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbs granulated yeast 1 Tbs. SAF instant yeast
1/4 c. vital wheat gluten 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/2 c. lukewarm water (room temp)
1/2 c. honey
5 large eggs
2/3 c. melted butter
(This is the method I used, adapted from what the authors recommend. I’ll try to note significant changes.)
Mix all dry ingredients together with a whisk or paddle of your stand mixer. Beat eggs together in a measuring cup, then add all liquid ingredients in a well in the flour. Combine them with the paddle of a stand mixer (not a dough hook) and do not knead. You could also simply stir by hand. (The authors said to mix liquid ingredients separately first, but I was trying to save a bowl and a deduction point.) The liquid doesn’t exactly stay in the well:
At this point the authors say one might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour incorporated. I would say you should prepare to be shocked by the loose consistency of your “dough” which has become “batter”:
You might try adding an entire cup of flour, half whole wheat and half white:
Still unimpressed by the “dough’s” ability to make a loaf or anything resembling hamburger buns, your ultimate goal for the evening, you might foolishly add another tiny half cup of whole wheat, thinking it will make a difference:
You’re nearly running out of freshly ground whole wheat, so you add your last half cup plus another half cup white flour:
Realizing you’ve still go no chance of making a roll with this mixture, you decide you’ll just have to add white flour until it looks like manageable bread dough. A cup and a half later, you get this:
Although it’s still not pulling away from the bowl or looking truly easy to manage, the thoughts that you’re now practically at half and half white flour to whole wheat, and that you’ve added 50% more flour than the recipe calls for, and that the dough is climbing up your stand mixer’s paddle even though you’re trying to to knead the no-knead bread, well, all those make you just stop.
The directions say to cover loosely and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses or flattens on top, at least 2 hours. You used only 2/3 the yeast called for, so you give it 4 hours:
At least something is working right!
Now it’s time to move the dough to the fridge for an overnight rest. You pack it into a gallon Ziploc bag, not realizing that it will grow more and start to ooze out by morning.
Let it rise 4 hours at room temperature, which was about 66 degrees F that day, and it crested the bowl like this:
The following day, or any time within the next 5 days, cut off a hunk of the dough about the size of a cantaloupe (large or small cantaloupe? Who knows?).
You can either cut it into chunks for rolls/buns, like this:
Or go with a greased loaf pan, like this:
Both turned out great, after allowing 3-4 hours for rise time with the chilled dough in loaf pans. (If you use the full amount of yeast, it’s supposed to take 90 minutes.) My mom, who made the last two loaves while I was away, said it seemed to take forever for the rise, even longer than 4 hours. Sorry, Mom! The rolls need about 90 minutes to rise with this amount of yeast.
Bake loaves at 350 for 45-50 minutes and rolls for 20 minutes.
Here are the risen buns:
And the finished loaf:
How Did it Taste?
Let me preface by saying that I was compromising on the 100% whole wheat deal for two reasons: to give the Artisan Bread in 5 method its best chance of success, and to try to really get delicious bread. Unfortunately, the recipe resulted in a big fail on both accounts.
I was pretty surprised that a bread with so much white flour didn’t just melt in our mouths. It was good. It was fine. But it had an awfully heavy crumb for a non-100% whole wheat bread (look at me, throwing around those fancy bread baking terms now!).
Kimball Family Bread Ratings:
- Whole grains: 3
- Softness: 3
- Flavor: 3
- Workability (dough): 1
- Good rise: 4
- Easy recipes: 3
- Bonus points: –1 for expensive ingredients, +1 for partial soaking
What I Should have Remembered
A few days later I rediscovered this helpful note from a reader in my email, which I had read but hadn’t retained: “The consistency won’t be dough-like in pulling away from the bowl, but more like stiff muffins. I’d love to see if there was a way to easily soak this? Or is it “good enough”? I know in one of your posts that you mentioned that the yeast helps break down the phytates (though not as much as soaking). I’ll also be curious to see how it does without gluten. I just haven’t been brave enough to try yet … 🙂 I’ve been clinging to this bread recipe because it’s fool proof and I’ve got a long way to go before I can be responsible to keep my sourdough starter alive. Ah, to be the mother of a toddler.”
So I should have expected the wet consistency. My mom, a much more experienced bread baker than me, also thought the refrigerated dough was too stiff and possibly that I had added too much flour. Looking at that last picture, though, I don’t know if I could have stopped any sooner. I didn’t realize the flour would absorb so much of the water as it rose and was stored.
Why Less Yeast?
As the reader mentioned above, I’m always interested in soaking the dough to reduce phytic acid action to a certain extent. I meant to add whey in place of some of the water but forgot. A long, slow rise mimics the fermentation of sourdough a bit, so the longer this dough could sit on the counter, and even in the fridge, the better. By the last loaf 5 or 6 days later, the dough and finished bread really did smell a bit sour, so I could tell fermentation was taking place.
I’m not making this up, by the way. The book itself even has an adaptation for less yeast, and they go all the way to 1/2 tsp. of yeast for the whole recipe!
Should I have Tried Stretch and Fold?
Another reader ever so helpfully emailed me some directions she uses with the Bread in 5 recipes that make a lighter crumb, but I wasn’t on top of that when I first tried the recipe. Check out her advice:
You might want to consider the stretch and fold method using this same recipe. I bake it weekly for local restaurants so I do batches using 12 c of flour for rolls or a little more for bread. I soak half of the ww flour in the water, yeast, salt, honey and butter. I typically need to do it using the larger amount of yeast and let it raise for two hours. After letting the flour soak for up to an hour, add the remaining flour (which in my case is an equal amount of unbleached bread flour).
Mix in with your hands (no kneading required.)
Cover the container and let it sit for half an hour. Then with wet hands do the stretch and fold method (I’ll be trying a Peter Reinhart recipe soon and sharing this method in detail) every 10 minutes 4 times. This will give you the equivalent of kneading it but it will develop the gluten nicely.
Cover and let rise the two hours if using the larger amount of yeast or overnight if using the 1/4 tsp per 6 c flour. You can then shape and bake or refrigerate until needed (no pun intended.) I make and bake the equivalent of 3 recipes at a time which gives me 6 doz. large dinner rolls or 4 loaves of bread. It’s soft, nice and slightly sweet. They love it at the restaurants.
The stretch and fold takes away the requirement to knead yet gives a soft crumb. I have done the 5 min a day system for years but it does produce a heavy crumb. Great for artisan bread especially for grilled sandwiches (which is what I bake for a local restaurant for. They use my bread exclusively for their grilled sandwiches.) But it is a totally different texture than the soft crumb you want in a dinner roll. You have to either have wet hands so the dough does not stick to your hands or flour good around the edges of the dough after you have plopped it out onto a floured counter. I prefer to use the water method because I do not want to be adding too much flour to the dough.
Glutton for Punishment: I Tried Another
The one pretty cool benefit of the Bread in 5 methods is the fact that you do have bread dough ready for you in the fridge, which was essential when I left my mother with my kids for 5 days. I was determined to do this thing right, so I gave the 100% whole wheat recipe in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day a try. Last year about this time, my friend Shannon dragged me to her house to make the original Artisan Bread in 5 with her, and I know she’s not the only fervent fan.
Based on a reader recommendation, I added honey for softness and sweetness, and I cut the gluten entirely. This time, I was ready for the liquids…
The Recipe: Adaptation of 100% Whole Wheat Bread from HBin5
7 1/3 c. whole wheat flour (added 1/3 cup to recipe to make up for gluten deduction)
2 tsp. yeast (down from 1 1/2 Tbs.)
1 Tbs. real salt
1/2 c. honey
2 1/4 c. room temperature water (a full cup short of what is called for!)
I mixed the dry ingredients in my stand mixer and added the honey and the first cup and a half of water, mixing to combine:
I added another 3/4 c. water and observed the results:
I know I’m looking for sticky, and I’m still a whole cup of water short, but this was enough for me:
I allowed the dough to rise overnight and made the first loaf right away, refrigerating the rest of the dough. A reader coached me that the bread turns out pretty differently with fresh vs. cold dough.
Here is the rise after 7 wonderful, phytic acid reducing hours:
And the sticky, but doable, loaf:
Two and a half hours at room temperature later, I had a loaf ready to be slashed with my sharpest serrated knife (which isn’t very sharp) and put into a preheated 350F oven for 50-60 minutes:
I pulled mine after 45 minutes, which was a bit hurried as the center was a tiny bit dense and moist, as if I needed 5 more minutes of bake time:
Kimball Family Bread Ratings:
- Whole grains: 5
- Softness: 3 or 4
- Flavor: 4
- Workability (dough): 4
- Good rise: 4.5
- Easy recipes: 5
- Bonus points: +2 for the modified “soak”
This recipe is worth trying – it made amazing grilled cheese last night, and it was pretty easy to put together once I held back on the liquid. If I hadn’t, I surely would have been adding a few cups of extra flour and shaking my fist at the sky!
More on the Artisan Bread in 5 Method
If you like the idea of quick bread dough that is ready for you in the fridge and doesn’t need kneading, you don’t want to learn the method from me. Here are some resources from the author’s very well-maintained website. They also seem to be very attentive to the comments and will answer your questions if you get stuck.
- Testing the recipes with freshly ground whole wheat (pretty much used the same as store whole wheat, sometimes is a little wetter, but he just ignored that)
- Helpful videos
- Q&A on the dense crumb
Want to Play Along?
Folks, I can’t even ask you to play along this week. I hate to put you through it! Maybe if you’re interested you could try the second recipe and see what you think. If you do, or if you’re an Artisan Bread in 5 lover, or if you’ve tried the recipes before and had experiences like mine, please share your thoughts in the comments. We can all learn from each other!
Remember that you can find my Bread Baking Techniques (or lack thereof) HERE and also ways to adapt any of these recipes for any machine or by hand. A list of all the recipes and those to come can be found right HERE.
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