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Bread baking: how to make whole wheat bread

Four beautifully browned loaves

Fresh baked bread is tradition in most of the world's cultures. Busy cooks often rely on store-baked goods to fill the gap, but if one is willing to make the effort, home baked is best.

Preparing the dough

When I was growing up, we rarely had a loaf of bread from the grocery store. Forget Wonder Bread! As a teenager, my Mom taught me to bake yeast breads and it's a skill I am really grateful to have acquired.

Baking bread is not the daunting project many novice cooks expect. Baking successfully does require time, attention to detail, and patience.

This recipe is a favorite from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook published in 1963 (probably long out of print) which my Mom still uses and I hope to inherit. Today we baked four loaves of whole wheat bread, filling the house with wonderful aromas.

Dough ready for shaping

Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves


1 package active dry yeast or 1 cake compressed yeast

1/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups hot water

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons salt

1 stick butter

3 cups stirred whole wheat flower

5 cups sifted all purpose white flour


Soften active dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F) or compressed yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (85 degrees F). Use a cooking thermometer to ensure proper temperature.

Combine in a separate large mixing bowl hot water, sugar, salt and shortening. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Shaping and rolling the loaves

Stir in the whole wheat flour and one cup of the white flour and beat well. Stir in the softened yeast, then add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. 

Turn out on a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and satiny (10-12 minutes).

Shape dough into a ball, then place in a lightly buttered bowl - turning once to coat the surface. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

After the dough has risen, punch down. Then cut into two equal portions, shaping each into a smooth ball.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Browning up the loaves

To shape into loaves, roll out each portion of dough into a rectangle to smooth out air bubbles. Then roll each piece of dough up, pinching slightly while rolling up the loaf.  Pinch the ends under, then place loaves into greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 1 1/4 hours until loaves have doubled.

Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F) about 45 minutes, covering with tin foil the last 20 minutes.


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