100% Whole Wheat Food Processor Sandwich Bread Explained
In my last post I featured a recipe for a light-textured 100% whole wheat loaf made with a food processor. It’s an extraordinary bread. I make it at least once a week, and once you try your hand at it, it could easily become a favorite of yours. I developed the recipe many years ago when I was national spokesperson for Cuisinarts, Inc. I traveled all over the country giving cooking classes that taught “machine cuisine,” and I was always looking for new ways to use the food processor. I’m proud of this recipe and I included it in my cookbook, “Baking in America.”
It’s always been hard for me to leave a recipe alone. I keep thinking that if I tweaked it here and there it might be even better than it was the last time I made it. So the recipe in my last post is the final version. And remember, the food processor does all the work for you. You’ll find that this dough is extremely sticky. Way too wet to be kneaded by hand. And a stand mixer is not the proper tool for it. Why does the dough have to be so wet and sticky? I’ll get to that in a minute.
One of wheat’s special characteristics is its ability to produce marvelous breads by making gluten. The protein molecules that join together to make gluten, glutenin and gliadin, live in the starchy portion of the wheat grain’s endosperm. The endosperm makes up about 83% of the grain, the bran 14.5%, and the germ, 3.5%. When wheat is ground to make flour, all parts of the grain get mixed together, and when you make a 100% whole wheat dough, the bran, especially, can interfere with gluten formation. Bran has sharp edges, and kneading cause those sharp edges to interfere with glutenin and gliadin uniting to make gluten. Is there a way to get around this problem?
A wet, sticky dough is one way, and that’s where the food processor comes in. First, I make a “sponge,” which is a preliminary dough containing most of the flour and all the yeast and water. It takes only a few seconds to combine these ingredients, and the water activates gluten formation, hydrates the flour, and the yeast begins to create more yeast cells while making carbon dioxide, getting the dough to begin rising.
After about an hour, the sponge has doubled in size and that’s when I add an egg, vegetable oil, molasses, and salt and whiz everything around for a few seconds. The last of the flour goes in and I process the dough for 1 minute. At this point all the ingredients are in the bread. I give the bread a 5 minute break to allow that last addition of flour to complete its hydration, and then I turn on the machine one last time to give the dough a final kneading for 90 seconds. By then the gluten has been maximally activated, and the dough is ready to begin a second rise.
At this point you’ll probably think there’s no way this shapeless sticky mess will turn into bread. But once you scrape the dough into a bowl coated with cooking spray and pick up the dough and squish it between your hands, you’ll see how supple it is. Shape it into a ball, plop the dough back into the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise until is has almost tripled in size. This takes from 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a 70˚ to 75˚ kitchen.
The next step is to lightly spray the top of the dough with cooking spray, and turn the dough onto your work surface. Shape the dough into a loaf (see the video), and place the dough into a loaf pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover the pan loosely with a shower cap, adjusting it so that there’s plenty of headroom, and let the dough rise until the center of the loaf is a full 2 inches above the rim of the pan. This can take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the warmth of your kitchen.
The final step is the baking. About 30 minutes before you expect the loaf to be fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position, set a heavy baking sheet on the rack, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the loaf, set its pan on the baking sheet and bake about 45 minutes, until the loaf is a deep brown color and the internal temperature of the loaf measured with an instant-read thermometer registers about 200 degrees. Immediately turn the loaf out of its pan and set it on its side on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely, 2 to 3 hours, before slicing and eating. This loaf is huge! At its center it measures more than 5 inches in height. Wrapped airtight, this bread keeps very well at room temperature for about 5 days. You can also freeze this bread for up to 1 month.
Makes one loaf, weighing about 1 1/2 pounds.