It was over a decade ago that I discovered the joys of homemade whole grain bread. We were living in a small town and our local grocery store didn’t have a single loaf of dairy-free healthy bread. My husband eventually cut out gluten and my bread-making went on hiatus. But when my niece joined our household, the oven began churning out weekly loaves of tender, warm whole grain bread once again. She now bakes at least one loaf of honey whole wheat bread a week for sandwiches and toast.
But this week, I got back in the kitchen and made a vegan variation on our favorite recipe and spiked it with Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal. You can see the little grains peeking out on the top of the loaf in the picture below. The wholesome 8 Grain Mix adds “nuttiness” thanks to the sunflower seeds and flaxseeds, while the tiny little whole grains provide AMAZING texture, flavor, and nutrition. They actually add 12 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein to this loaf.
The Secrets to Fluffy 100% Whole Grain Bread
Some of you might be wondering, how did I bake such fluffy whole grain bread?! This really is a light, tender whole wheat bread loaf, like one that you might find at the bakery. But it’s free of additives, preservatives, dough conditioners, refined flours / sugars, or other questionable ingredients. The secret lies in two amazing pantry supplies: white-wheat flour and wheat gluten.
White-wheat flour was a best kept baker’s secret that really isn’t very hush-hush anymore. You can find it at the grocery store or online, and it is 100% whole wheat. The name, white-wheat, is a bit deceiving. It is stone ground from non-GMO whole grain white wheat berries (instead of more traditional red wheat berries), with the bran, germ and fiber all in there.
Nutritionally speaking, white wheat berries are on par with the very hearty red wheat berries we’ve come to know. But they have a slightly sweeter taste, lighter texture and creamy color that rolls up into a pretty scrumptious loaf of 100% whole wheat bread.
If you can’t find white-wheat flour, don’t fret! You can still use regular wheat flour with good results. But I still recommend adding wheat gluten.
Wheat gluten is the protein in flour that naturally gives bread its characteristic tender, fluffy and chewy textures. However, whole wheat flour contains less of it than all-purpose or white bread flour, which is why wheat bread is often denser and more crumbly. Adding about 1 tablespoon wheat gluten (it is also easy to find in stores or online and one package lasts for many loaves) per 1 cup whole wheat flour is the formula that I like for 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread.
How to Serve this Scrumptious Whole Grain Bread
My teenage niece loves to blend honey (or maple syrup) with dairy-free buttery spread (like Earth Balance) for a sweet spread. She layers it on a very thick slice of this bread and sprinkles it with cinnamon.
Almond butter and all-fruit jam sandwiches or turkey sandwiches are lunchtime favorites. There really is nothing like a sandwich made with thickly-sliced homemade bread!
For breakfast, I slather a slice with lightly salted almond butter or cashew butter and enjoy it with a big mug of hot tea.
Special Diet Notes: 100% Whole Grain Bread
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, vegetarian, and refined sugar-free. The 8 Grain Hot Cereal mix does have cracked non-GMO whole soybeans. For soy-free, you can use the 7 Grain Hot Cereal.
- 1¼ cups very warm water (but not hot or boiling)
- 2¾ teaspoons dry active yeast (2¼ teaspoons above 3000 ft altitude)
- ¼ cup oil (rice bran, grapeseed, or your choice of baking oil)
- ¼ cup maple syrup (or your choice of liquid sweetener)
- 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 3 cupswhite-whole wheat flour, plus additional as needed
- ¾ cup dry 8 grain hot cereal or 7 grain hot cereal
- Pour water in a large bowl. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. If it doesn’t become foamy, your yeast may be old and inactive. Consider starting over with fresh yeast.
- Stir the oil, sweetener, gluten, salt, 1 cup flour, and the 8-grain mix into the yeast-water mixture, mixing until well combined (by hand or using a mixer with the dough hook attachment). Add 2 cups wheat flour, and mix again until well combined. Begin kneading with your hands when it becomes too thick to stir.
- If the dough is too sticky to handle, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is still a little tacky, but doesn’t stick significantly to your hands. The 8-grain mix will soak up some of the moisture as it cooks, so you don’t want the dough to be on the dry side.
- Knead the dough for a few minutes. Place dough back in the bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour.
- Thoroughly grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
- Punch dough down, and briefly knead to get any air bubbles out. Shape dough into a loaf that will fit in your pan, folding under as you shape so that the seam is on the bottom. Plop the loaf shape into your prepared pan. Lightly cover (with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel) and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until it has risen to near a full loaf size, and the crown of the dough is peaking about an inch above the pan.
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- Bake the bread in your preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and relatively firm to the touch.
- Pop the loaf out and let it cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping in plastic wrap or storing in an airtight container at room temperature. If you are in a humid climate, you may need to refrigerate or freeze the loaf after 2 days to keep it fresh.