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This year I’ve made two new goals: eat healthier and try new things. To follow through with my goal, I thought I’d try whole wheat as my newest flour. And since whole wheat flour is definitely healthier than all-purpose flour, it’s a win-win.
I will admit that I was a little scared to try whole wheat flour because I’ve never worked with it before. Many of my friends and family had tried whole wheat recipes, and they had mixed results. On good days, whole wheat bread has an amazing flavor that you just can’t get with all-purpose flour. But on bad days, whole wheat bread can turn into a brick. It doesn’t rise. It stays heavy and thick and dry and coarse.
However, I wasn’t about to run away from a good recipe just because it required something new. I figured that even if my bread was a complete disaster, I could at least blog about it and tell the tale of the worst bread I’ve ever made.
But this honey whole wheat sourdough recipe surprised me.
The crust turned dark without being burnt. The bread was easy to slice, making it one of the best breads for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And the crumb was delightful – a few small holes peppering the loaf while still maintaining a soft, chewy texture.
Even better, the flavors danced back and forth between savory and sweet. The honey complimented the sourdough perfectly, and the wheat held everything together beautifully while adding its own flavor to the mix.
I couldn’t have asked for a more lovely loaf.
I think this bread is absolutely amazing with a little bit of melted butter and honey, but it’s great for toast and sandwiches, too!
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Rise time: 3 to 4 hours
Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total time: Approximately 3 Hours 45 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes
This recipe is simple yet packed full of yummy ingredients:
- 1 Tablespoon Dry Active Yeast
- 1 Cup Warm Water
- 1 Teaspoon Table Salt
- 2/3 Cup Sourdough Starter
- 1/2 Cup Honey
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Shortening*
- 4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
*If you don’t have shortening, you can substitute it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and round up your sourdough starter to a full cup.
Here are a few items you’ll want to have on hand when you make honey whole wheat sourdough bread:
- Small and Large Mixing Bowls
- Wooden Mixing Spoon
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- 9-inch by 5-inch pan
- Cooling Rack
I turned my bread into a basic sandwich shaped loaf. However, this recipe works well as a rounded boule or rolls. Feel free to experiment and use the equipment you have on hand.
This bread recipe requires a little bit of bread-baking experience to get the rise time just right. But even beginners can pull it together with little fuss or mess.
To start, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir until no grains are left.
In a larger mixing bowl, combine the yeast with the salt, starter, honey, and shortening. It’s fine if the shortening is still a bit lumpy.
Gradually stir in 3 cups of whole wheat flour, then add the remaining flour as needed to form a stiff dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes soft and smooth.
The original recipe recommended kneading the recipe 150 times, but I found that my dough would seize and become unworkable long before I hit that number. If the dough seems especially stiff and unfoldable or if it tears as you knead (rather than stretches), let the dough rest for a minute or two and then shape it into a ball.
Place your dough ball in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on the temperature of your room.
Punch your dough down and let it double again, about 45 minutes to an hour. (I noticed my bread tended to rise more quickly the second time around, though I’m not sure if it’s because my kitchen tends to be warmer during the day or if my dough simply becomes more active.)
Punch your dough down again and roll it into a tight loaf. Place your dough in a greased pan and allow the dough to double in the pan, about 30 to 45 minutes again.
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 to 40 minutes. The crust will turn dark brown, almost black. Don’t worry, the darker crust only adds flavor. As with most breads, the bottom will sound allow when tapped.
Turn your bread out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely before slicing and serving. For a softer crust, brush a thin layer of butter over the top as the bread cools.
Secrets to Success
The original recipe given to me was a little vague about how long it should rise. The description was “until double.” And without a lot of experience bread baking, it’s hard to tell when your bread has fully doubled in size.
I found that the easiest way to tell if your bread is done rising is the finger-poke test. Press your finger about 1/2 inch into the dough. If it springs back instantly, your bread could rise a bit longer. If the dough collapses under your finger and doesn’t spring back, it’s risen for too long. However, if your dough slowly and springs back but still has a slight indentation, it’s just about perfect.
With the first two rises, don’t worry if your bread rises a bit too long. You can knead the dough a little when you punch it down, and it it will turn out just fine. In fact, the longer the rise, the better the flavor and the texture of your bread.
Although the shortening in this bread adds a few extra calories, I’m impressed at how much fiber you can get in each serving:
This bread is perfect for slicing into thin pieces for sandwiches, so I managed about 14 slices rather than the usual 12. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if you managed to squeeze out 16 slices if you have a steady hand. Keep in mind that the size of your slice will affect how many calories are in each piece.
Did You Try It?
I love the flavor of this bread, and I definitely think it’s one of my favorites. Wheat flour may seem more challenging than all-purpose, but I think it’s definitely more rewarding when it turns out right. This recipe is a great way to get you started with wheat flour, and I’m excited to see how you do.
Let me know if you tried this bread and whether you liked it in the comments.