Baking 100% whole grain bread at home can be a challenge. It is often difficult to get whole grain bread to rise as high and turn out as fluffy as a loaf that contains a portion of refined flour. One trick of the trade is to add some vital wheat gluten flour to the mix. If you buy commercial loaves of 100% whole wheat bread, take a look at the label – most contain vital wheat gluten flour. I have used this trick before and it does work, however, I don’t really consider this a whole food product. Vital Wheat gluten is even further refined than white flour, so I think it is a bit false to label such loaves as “100% whole grain.” I also don’t care for the overly airy and stretchy texture that can sometimes result from using vital wheat gluten.
Through the years I have tried a LOT of whole grain bread recipes, and I finally struck gold one day when I tried out this recipe! It is from the book Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair, one of my favorite nutritionists and whole foods experts. The method seems a little strange but I promise it works. You create a starter dough made of cooked whole grains blended with water, whole wheat flour, and yeast, and let it sit for 12-24 hours before proceeding. This does require a little extra planning but I have to say it is SO worth it. And it also provides a great use for leftover grains that might otherwise be forgotten about and wasted.
Cynthia’s book is wonderful in many ways – there is a lot of wonderful information about how to choose a healthy, whole foods diet and how to feed infants and children. There are also a lot of great recipes that have become standbys at my house. But even if I never used the rest of this book, I would still own it if only for this fabulous bread recipe! Look how beautifully and high these loaves rise! The bread is soft, flavorful, yeast-y, and a joy to eat in and of itself.
So go, buy this book (or check it out from the library) and make this bread! You won’t regret it. My only warning? Making your own amazing bread just might turn you into a bread snob. It will ruin those sliced storebought loaves for you, forevermore!
Also, check out Cynthia Lair’s entertaining and informative cooking website: Cookus Interruptus: how to cook fresh local organic foods despite life’s interruptions. These segments are so much fun!