Wheat is an interesting thing. Most anything at the bottom of the food pyramid that I grew up with is made with wheat. I think it is taken for granted, but there is a lot going on in this incredible ingredient. There are three parts of wheat that are commonly left in flour. These parts are the germ, bran, and endosperm. When working with something that calls itself a "whole wheat flour," you are working with all three parts of the wheat. A commonly used flour is "all-purpose flour" this is a flour mixture where most if not all of the germ and bran have been removed. The endosperm is the largest part of the wheat berry, and contains all of the protein. In baking it is most useful for absorbing the gasses released by the leavening agent. I prefer yeast to leaven my breads, but have played a little bit with baking powder and baking soda.
I am not really here to write an essay on wheat. Though it seems I could write that essay if pressed. I am only trying to set the table for my latest success. I have made whole wheat bread. And I have done it in a way that I find to be delicious. Whole wheat is somewhat difficult to work with. By volume it is less percent protein, so it reacts proportionally less with the yeast. Having played with both whole wheat flour and all-purpose flours I have to admit that all-purpose flours are easier to use.
They do not taste nearly as good. Fact.
Getting to the final product is the real test. I spent some time thinking about how yeast reacts within the dough. Yeast is basically a fungus that needs to feed to have any affect on the bread. Yeast needs sugars, water, and warmth to feed. When yeast feeds it releases a combination of carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide is captured in the protein structure of the endosperm and causes the dough to grow in size. I wanted to make sure that my whole wheat bread rose a lot, which would cause it to have a nice spongy feel and taste, so I used a little extra sugar to allow the yeast to feed like crazy. I also spent a little extra time kneading the dough to make sure that all of the parts of the flour were evenly distributed with the yeast and sugar. Before this try, I had never been able to get a whole wheat dough to feel springy in my hands. This dough felt springy and light. I had gotten it right. It was a little sticky while working with it, but I wanted it that way. This is how I knew it would be moist enough to allow the yeast to feed. I allowed the dough to rise as usual. Then I followed the steps from the pan to the knife as usual. It baked up really nicely. I only have a small amount left from the loaves made on Sunday.
Who said science isn't fun?