This is my favorite basic whole wheat sandwich bread recipe. I've tried others, but always come back to this one because it's so reliable. If you bake it in a deep loaf pan or Pullman, you'll get a tall, stately loaf which (according to my nephew) looks like the ones from Great Harvest. I've never tried the wheat bread from Great Harvest, but in this one you taste wheat, plus a little sweetness from sugar and honey. Sometimes I even add a few scrapes of orange zest just to bring out the other flavors. The texture is soft and neither too dense nor too fluffy, so perfect for sandwiches. At one point I lost this recipe and tried a few others which never worked quite as well. And then one day I found the original. Guess where?Jump to Recipe
Pillsbury Whole Wheat Flour
Surprise! It is originally from the back of the Pillsbury's Best whole wheat flour bag. I first started making it years ago, but didn't write it down or post. I just remember making it for people in Chicago and getting lots of good reviews. Then life got busy and I had to take a break from bread baking. When I picked it up again, I used a different brand of whole wheat flour and tried a few other recipes. They tasted good, but the loaves were denser and not as tall, even when baked in a deep loaf pan. Then one day I picked up another bag of the Pillsbury brand flour and there was my recipe! I'd just forgotten the source since I hadn't bought that brand of flour in a while.
Pillsbury Whole Wheat vs. Other Brands
I wish I could say the recipe works as well with other brands. It just rises so much higher and lighter with the Pillsbury, that I'm guessing there's a difference in how it's milled vs. other brands. Perhaps the bran kernels in other brands of whole wheat flour are a little sharper and cut through the gluten-strands during kneading? I've tried letting the wheat mixture soak a little longer, but even with a long soak the Pillsbury works better. Which is not to say you can't use other brands. I make this same bread with King Arthur whole and white whole wheat as well, but instead of mixing with regular bread flour, I mix with high-gluten "artisan" type bread flour. Bob's is the most readily available around here, and I always have it on hand for pretzel making.
Deep Loaf Pans and Other Sizes
I have a hunch deep loaf pans are going to become more popular. Or at least I hope so! Standard size loaf pans in the US measure 8 ½ by 4 ½ and 9x5 inches with sides between 2 ½ and 3 inches high. However, if you like making tall loaves without increasing ingredients, it's worth seeking out a deep loaf pan. And by deep, I mean around 8 ½ by 4 ½ with sides between 3 ½ and 4 inches high. My favorite is the one in the photo below which I found at TJ Maxx. I went back to buy a second and they were gone, but there's a similar one here. The drawback to mine and perhaps the one in the link is that the nonstick coating is terrible and you will have to grease and/or line with parchment.
If you plan on baking more than one loaf of bread in your life, it's time to buy a Pullman pan because Pullman pans are deep and reliably nonstick. This pan is the one I own. If you plan on experimenting with different recipes, the baby ½ pound pan is a lot of fun and the nonstick coating is fantastic. I've never had to grease the baby one. Aside from being very cute, it's a great pan for bakers who like to give loaves away. You can divide one full recipe between two baby loaf pans and have a loaf for yourself and one for a friend.
Okay, so on to the recipe!
How to Make Basic Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Time needed: 3 hours
How To Make Basic Whole Wheat Bread
- Decide what size loaf pan you want to use and grease it.
For a wide loaf, use a 9x5 inch loaf pan. For a deep loaf, use a Pullman.
- Mix some of the whole wheat flour, honey, sugar, butter and salt in a mixing bowl. Add hot water to make a batter, then let stand.
The point is to let the wheat soak a little and theoretically soften the sharp edges in the bran.
- Proof the yeast in a small amount of water, then add the activated yeast along with the remaining whole wheat flour, and bread flour.
Everything goes in now except for ¼ cup of flour to be used during the kneading process.
- Knead the dough.
You can do this by hand or with the dough hook, adding the reserved flour as needed.
- First rise.
Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled.
- Second rise in the loaf pan.
Punch down the dough, press it into a rectangle, then roll into a cylinder and fit in the pan. Cover with a greased sheet of plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
- Let cool.
Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully release and let cool completely
Basic Whole Wheat Bread
- 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour, divided use (310 grams)**
- 2 tablespoons honey (or molasses or a combo of both) (40 grams)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar OR honey (24 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1 ¼ cup hot water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 ¼ cups bread flour, divided use (140 plus 35 grams)
- Grease a deep loaf pan or a 9x5 inch pan (for a wider loaf).
- Put 1 ½ cups (205 grams) of the whole wheat flour in a mixing bowl and add the honey, sugar, salt and butter. No need to stir yet, just put it all in the bowl.
- Pour 1 ¼ cups hot water over the mixture and stir until butter melts. By hand or using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, beat for 3 minutes. Let stand for another 7 minutes or so while you dissolve the yeast.
- Dissolve the yeast in exactly 2 tablespoons (1 oz) of warm (110 degrees F) water. Let stand and proof for about 5-7 minutes or until frothy and active. Pour the yeast into the bowl with the flour mixture, then add remaining ¾ cup whole wheat flour along with 1 cup of bread flour. Stir by hand or with the paddle or dough hook until blended. Dough should be a little sticky at this point, so you should have your remaining ¼ cup of flour ready.
- Put a little of the remaining ¼ cup of bread flour on a mat and scrape the dough out onto the floured mat. Flip the dough so it's coated in flour and begin kneading by hand, adding the remainder of the ¼ cup flour as needed to prevent sticking. Alternatively, you can knead with the dough hook on low, adding the extra ¼ cup flour as needed. Whichever method of kneading you choose, knead just until smooth and elastic.
- For the knead, you'll need at least ¼ cup of flour in order for the dough to lose its stickiness. If you need to add more than ¼ cup you can, but the more flour you add the less fluffy the bread will be. That's not always a bad thing if you like firmer bread.
- Shape dough into a ball and put it in a bowl with a little oil. Turn dough ball to coat with oil, then cover and let rise for about 45 minutes or until it has just about doubled in bulk.
- Press the dough into a rectangle, then roll it up into a cylinder, turning down corners as you roll and pushing out air. Shape into a loaf.
- Position the dough in the pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 40-45 minutes or until it crests the top of the pan. It could take longer. While dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 45 minutes or until internal temperature registers around 205-210.
- Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove from pan and let cool completely before slicing.