Whole Wheat Basil Bread

It can be tricky to find a 100% whole wheat bread recipe that makes a bread both soft and interesting. I actually prefer the nuttiness of whole wheat, but if the recipe has something extra, that’s the one I’m going to choose.

This bread is another great classic from Beth Hensberger’s Bread Bible, and meets both criterion. Honey and buttermilk add a bit of sweetness, which is balanced out by the addition of fresh basil and a wash of garlic, butter and cayenne. Sprinkling parmesan on top completes it.

Whole-Wheat Basil Bread:

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 cup warm buttermilk (105 to 115F)
1 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5-5 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts, chopped (I used slivered almonds)
2 1/2 tsp salt

Oil Wash
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of cayenne

parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

1. Pour the warm water in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10min.
2. In a large bowl using a whisk or in the work bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer, combine the buttermilk and water. Stir in the honey and melted butter. Place 2 cups flour, the basil, nuts and salt in a large bowl. Add the milk and yeast mixtures and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, with a wooden spoon until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft, slightly stick and very pliable, about 5 minutes, dusting with the flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. If kneading by machine, switch from the paddle to the dough hook and knead for 3-4 min, or until the dough is smooth and springs back when pressed. Keep the dough on the soft side, because the bread will be light this way.
4. Put the dough in a greased deep bowl. Turn the dough once to grease the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1-1 1/2 hours. Don’t let this dough rise more than double in volume. Gently deflate the dough and let it rise again, if you have time. It will only take half the time to rise the second time.
5. Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into a loaf and place in the pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 30 min.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the oil wash. In a small pan, melt the butter and olive oil . Stir in garlic and cayenne. Brush the loaves with the oil wash and sprinkle them with Parmesan.
7. Twenty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 350F. Place the pans on the rack in the centre of the oven and bake 50-60 min, or until the loaves are brown and sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Transfer the loaves immediately to a cooling rack, and cool completely before slicing.

From my experience with whole wheat loaves, it’s better to err on the side of a sticky dough than to add too much flour just to make it more workable. Lots of kneading and extra rise time are also helpful. If you’re getting a solid brick-like object as a result, one or more of these may be a solution.

I definitely didn’t wait for my loaf to cool completely. It was still warm when I used it to escort my fried egg to my stomach.


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