I’ve always loved bread. Since I was old enough to eat it, at least. I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I tried taking it out of my food list to lose some weight when I was in my teens. There is a reason that bread is considered life-sustaining food. It is nourishing, filling, comforting and beautiful.
My dad grew up on a wheat farm in northern Montana, so wheat was a homegrown grain for our family. When my grandma passed away, my dad called to ask if I wanted the wheat grinder that my grandpa had built for my grandma. It still worked. Of course, I was thrilled that I could have it, and so he brought it down to Tennessee the next time they came to visit. It is so heavy, and is in a hand-built oak box. Dad brought a five gallon bucket of wheat from the farm, too, so I have been grinding it and using the flour in some of my recipes.
So, when I decided to make some french bread to go with caesar salad for a friend this week, I thought I’d put a little heart into it and use the freshly ground flour for part of the recipe. Here is my version of Whole Wheat French Bread:
Whole Wheat French Bread
yield 2 loaves
2 cups whole wheat flour
5-1/2 tsp yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt
Whisk these three ingredients together and add 2 cups of warm water. Mixture will be a bit grainier than when you use all purpose flour.
2-1/2 cups white bread flour or all purpose flour, a 1/2 cup at a time
Knead the bread dough, pounding your fist into it several times as you do. Finish kneading it and form it into a smooth ball. Dough will be elastic and semi-sticky. If you add too much flour, it will be tough, so feel it out, and add just enough to where it is smooth and soft.
Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm part of the kitchen until doubled.
After the first rise, turn the dough out onto a floured smooth surface, and pound/knead it a bit more. Split it into two pieces, and shape each piece into a long, thin loaf.
If you have a french bread pan, line each side with parchment (if not, line a cookie sheet with parchment), then lay the loaves on the parchment. And preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
Take a bread razor (a plain razor blade if that is what you have.) and slash diagonal lines in the tops of the loaves as they rise. As far as I know this is just for decoration. But I like it. So I do it.
Once the loaves have risen ’til they are doubled in size again, bake them at 375 for 40 minutes. If you want a beautifully golden loaf, mix an egg white with some water and brush it over the loaves at the 20 minute mark, and put them back in for another 20 minutes. (This is optional, but necessary if you want pretty, golden tops.) This bread has a bit of a nutty flavor because of the whole wheat, and is slightly heavier than a white french loaf in crumb. The crust is heavy and thick, and the center soft and delicious.
Good luck! I toasted some of it into garlic croutons, and garlic bread. I am planning to make some berry bread pudding with the rest. I’ll let you know what happens with it all for sure! Enjoy, be full and be happy!