Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Homemade Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

I have been on a quest for some time now, a quest to find a way to make homemade wheat sandwich bread. I have quite a few pounds (lots and lots) of wheat in my food storage, and while I add a little to just about everything I bake (cookies, corn bread, pancakes), I really wanted to make bread to use (rotate) the wheat faster--that and homemade bread tastes so much better than store-bought, and doesn't have any mysterious ingredients. But most homemade wheat bread has a problem: it's heavy, dense, and breaks instead of "folds". Not so nice for a lovely sandwich.

I poked around the internet looking for the answer and I noticed a common element in recipes claiming to produce the perfect loaf of homemade wheat sandwich bread: dough conditioners--wheat gluten, an acid of some kind, and one recipe added potato flakes. Gluten is what is developed when you knead bread, and it gives the bread the yummy chew. Adding additional, pure gluten helps with the chew and "foldability" of the bread. Vinegar helps bread rise, which takes care of the density issue. The potato flakes add softness (think of how soft and wonderful potato bread is).

I looked at the ingredient list on the store bread I like, and listed were "vital wheat gluten, vinegar (the acid), and potato starch". Ah-ha! I tried several recipes before we moved. None of them turned out very well, and I was frustrated.

(Vital wheat gluten is essential to homemade wheat bread that doesn't break)
Fast forward to after the move. I was in my pantry putting stuff away and I came across a half-used bag of Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal. I remembered I'd bought it to try a multi-grain bread recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine (one of my favorites). The author of the recipe discovered the cereal was a great way to get many different grains for the bread without having to buy bags of each grain. I can't remember if I actually tried the recipe or not. After seeing my bag of multi-grain cereal I was inspired. My kitchen was sort-of put together (at least I finally had countertops), and I decided to try making bread again. Inspiration came again when I thought to alter my recipe for rolls instead of trying another new recipe.

To alter my roll recipe I added vital wheat gluten, white vinegar, and instant potato flakes. I also used a trick the Cooks Illustrated guy discovered while creating his multi-grain bread: soak the cereal in hot water to avoid crunchy bits of grains in the finished bread (yuck). But he soaked his cereal for an hour, which seemed like over-kill to me. I soaked my cereal for 15 minutes and it was fine.
Homemade Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread
3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal
1 1/2 cups very hot water (as hot as your tap gets)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons dry milk
2 tablespoons wheat gluten
4 tablespoons instant potato flakes
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1. Combine the cereal and hot water; let it stand 15 minutes.

2. Put all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade; pulse it several times to combine it all together.

3. Add the cereal and water, vinegar, and oil. Run the processor on the dough setting for about 2 minutes; the dough should pull away from the sides, but not be a solid mass.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead it a few times, and shape it into a ball.

5. Spray a medium bowl with non-stick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, lightly spray the top of the dough, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it's doubled, about 55-60 minutes.

6. Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use your fingers to gently deflate it (I don't understand why recipes say to punch dough down. Be nice to your dough).

7. Use your fingers to press the dough out to a rough rectangle. Starting at a long side, roll and tuck/pinch the dough into a loaf. (This is a two-handed job, but I was both bread maker and photographer.)

8. Spray a 9 1/4 x 5 1/2 inch pan with non-stick spray (my pan is non-stick, so I didn't need to spray it) and place the dough in the pan. Make sure the dough comes to the ends to ensure an even rise. Lightly spray the top of the dough with non-stick spray, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 35-40 minutes. Pre-heat your oven before it's done rising.

9. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until the bread has an internal temperature between 190-200 deg. Checking the temperature is the best way to know if the bread is done; use an instant-read one. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool it on a wire rack. I put my rack on top of a wood cutting board because I think it helps absorb the steam, instead of the steam making a puddle on my countertop under the rack.

If you can stand the wait (good luck), don't cut the bread until it cools all the way--it will slice better. But like I said, good luck waiting :) The crust will be crisp until you put it in a bag and let it sit.

Two days after I made this bread I tried a whole wheat version. It was going along great until I had to leave the house just as it was ready to go in the oven...sigh...I knew the bread would rise too much and then fall by the time I got home, and I was right. I cooked it anyway, just to see what would happen. Predictably it was a lot like a hockey puck in texture and the flavor was a bit sour. I'm not deterred, though, and will give it a try again soon!


  1. Wow - that looks great. I, too, have been looking for the right whole wheat recipe for sandwich bread. Will have to give this a try.

  2. In the whole wheat version of this one, did you change anything else other than to not use all-purpose flour? I'm really interested in trying this one.

  3. @Dave, I also added a little bit more yeast, since the dough would be more heavy; maybe 1/4 teaspoon more. And the rising time was longer, which is why I ended up having to leave it and let it fall. I haven't had a chance to try it again since...your interest has put the fire under me. Thanks! :)

  4. I am going to try this for sure. It looks delicious and perfect. I've been looking for a good bread recipe to use for sandiches. I hate to be giving my kids the stuff with funky ingredients.

  5. HELP!!!!!
    My multi grain bread rises fine the first time but the second rise it rises but then it falls and it will not rise in the oven.Any suggestions??????

  6. Anonymous, First, I have to tell you I am *not* a bread expert. Then, if it were me having this problem, I'd check to make sure I wasn't letting the bread rise too much. If the bread rises too much the dough structure can't support the amount of air inside the dough and it can fall. I try to not go any further than "almost double" for both the first and second rise. Good luck! :)

  7. Did you ever try the whole wheat flour version?

  8. I also want to know how long this process takes, start to finish...

  9. @RoMo, Yes, I've worked on a whole wheat version. I should post it :) Also, I don't remember how long it takes. I'll post that, too.

  10. I'm a beginner baker and found this recipe on Google--and I loved it! Thanks for putting it up. :)

  11. @Nikki, Thanks for your comment--I'm so glad it worked for you! :)

  12. "The crust will be crisp until you put it in a bag and let it sit."

    What kind of bag do you use? Paper or plastic? Do you put it in the fridge? How do you store it or does it all get eaten same day?

    Sorry for the questions but my homemade bread goes hard and unpleasant after just two days and it puts me off making it.

    1. Thanks for your questions :) I use plastic bread bags that I bought at a local baking supply shop. I don't put the bread in the fridge. It might not get eaten the same day, but pretty quickly. Homemade bread doesn't have any of the preservatives most store breads have, so it just doesn't last as long (so eat it quick!). Hope that helps!


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