Sifting: the key to lofty whole wheat bread (Bookmarked)

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summary: recipe for 75% whole wheat bread; Ken Forkish’s 75% whole wheat bread using Michael Pollan’s method; sifting the wholewheat flour; bookmarked;

Bookmarked Recipes - last Sunday of the MonthBookmarked Recipe: sifted whole wheat bread

whole wheat bread Early this summer, we were reading Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. And we were really intrigued by his 100% whole wheat bread making method.

The bran was still undermining the gluten, either by puncturing the gas bubbles or by weighing them down, giving me a too-tight crumb. I hit on a slightly wacky idea: I would remove the bran from the inside of the bread and put it on the outside, where it could do no damage to the gluten. So, before mixing my flour and water, I sifted the chunkiest bran out of the flour, maybe 10 percent of the total volume. In effect, I was making white (or whitish) flour circa 1850, pre-roller mill […] It still had the germ, but only those particles of bran small enough to slip through an ordinary sieve. However, I reserved the sifted bran in a bowl, and after shaping the loaves, I rolled them in the stuff, making sure that every last shard of bran was taken up by the wet skin of dough.
It worked: The trick allowed me to bake an airy and delicious loaf with a toasty, particulate crust-all the while preserving my claim to a “100 percent whole-grain” bread.
– Michael Pollen, Part III: Air, the education of an amateur baker, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

I had to be out of town at the beginning of July but T reported that he tried this method with 100% whole wheat. Which amazed me. This is the “can’t we have nice fluffy white bread?” king.

And the next amazing thing was that it worked!

So. Of course, I too had to try it. But I admit it; as good as the 100% whole wheat June BBB bread was, after making it, I was afraid to use ALL whole wheat flour. I really didn’t want to make a doorstop. It was bad enough that it was impossibly hot this summer.

So, when I got home, I tried the sifting method with bread made with a half and half mix of 1000gm all-purpose and wholewheat flours. It turns out that in 500gm of 100% whole wheat flour, there are only about 4gm of “larger bits of bran”.

The resulting loaves were beautiful! The arguably hyper-critical (of sandwich bread) T, pronounced that this bread was exactly what he wanted for sandwich bread. (Sorry, no photographic proof; we ate it all.)

Then it got impossibly hot in the kitchen. Bread making, other than focaccia on the barbecue, was shelved until night temperatures dropped below 20C.

Finally, sometime near the beginning of September, there was a break in the nightmare. But, still being nervous to use ALL whole wheat, I made the 75% whole wheat loaf recipe in Ken Forkish’s wonderful book “Flour Water Salt Yeast” (75% ww; 25%unbleached AP)

Whoohooooo!! Once again, it WASN’T a doorstop. I was wonderfully nutty tasting and quite light. Not at all like the whole wheat health food breads of yore. Yay.

And the really cool thing is that even when the bread was two or three days old, it was still very good. That’s what a long fermentation period does. :-)

whole wheat bread So. What do you think? Do I dare try making 100% whole wheat bread?

Overnight 75% Whole Wheat Bread
based on a recipe in “Flour Water Salt Yeast” by Ken Forkish

Total amounts to make 3 round loaves:

  • 750g (generous 5.75 c) 100% whole-wheat flour
  • 250g (scant 1 c) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 800g (800ml) water
  • 2g (1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 21g (4 tsp) salt (please see Salt is salt, right?)


  • 500g whole-wheat flour
  • 500g water at ~96F
  • pinch active dry yeast (not more than 1/16 tsp)


  • 300g water at ~96F
  • 2g active dry yeast
  • all of the starter
  • 250g whole-wheat flour
  • 250g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 21g salt
  1. STARTER The night before baking, sift the whole wheat flour and reserve the bran bits. Pour 500g water at 96F (heat up cold tap water…) into a large bowl and whisk in pinch of yeast to dissolve it. Put in the sifted whole-wheat flour (ie: NOT the bran bits) and using a wooden spoon, stir 100 times (or not… you just want to make sure that the flour is absorbed). Put a plate over the bowl and leave on the counter in a draft-free area overnight.
  2. DOUGH On the morning of the day you will be baking, pour 300g water at 96F into a smallish bowl and whisk in 2g yeast to dissolve it. Pour the yeasted water on top of the starter (that should be bubbling merrily). Sift the rest of the whole wheat flour, reserving the lumps with the other lumps you already have. Dump the sifted whole-wheat and all-purpose flours on top, along with the salt and using a wooden spoon, stir as best you can. Plunge in with your hands and fold and turn the dough until it’s smooth and springy (5-10 minutes) Put a plate over the bowl and leave in the oven with only the light turned on. Check it about an hour later and turn the dough a couple of times then let it rise until it’s about doubled.
  3. SHAPING When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and shape into 3 rounds. Place them seam-side down on parchment paper. Run your hands under cold water and rub the top of each shaped loaf. Scatter the bran bits overtop (the water will help them stick). Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until almost doubled.
  4. BAKING With a bread stone placed on the middle shelf, preheat the oven to 400F. Just before putting the bread into the oven, generously spray the tops of the loaves with water, then put them into the oven (parchment paper and all) and immediately turn the oven down to 375F. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the bottoms sound entirely hollow when knocked. (You’re looking for 200-210F internal temperature).
  5. COOLING Put the baked bread on a footed rack and leave there until it is entirely cool (it’s still baking inside when it comes out of the oven). Don’t be tempted to skip this step before cutting into it. If you do skip the step, you’ll be cutting into pasty bread….
  6. REHEATING If you want warm bread (who doesn’t?), heat the oven to 400F then turn it OFF and put unsliced bread into the oven for 10 minutes. It will rejuvenate the crust and get the crumb all nice and warm so that the butter you are slathering onto it will melt correctly.


:: WATER TEMPERATURE: Please remember that you should never use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Please heat the water in a kettle or microwave. Add cold water to the heated water until it is ~96F (body temperature). If you are allergic to using a thermometer, you can check the temperature by putting a few drops of water onto your wrist: if it feels warm, it’s too warm; if it feels cold, it’s too cold; if it feels like a cross between cool, warm and nothing, then it’s fine. Please note that before the yeast is added, the liquid temperature must be BELOW 120F (49C) because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

:: FLOURS: If you can, try to get unbleached all-purpose and whole-wheat flours with zero chemical additives. Here in Toronto, we can easily get Rogers flour at the supermarket (Freshco is now carrying very reasonably priced Rogers flour in 10kg bags.)

:: SIFTER: We don’t have an actual flour sifter (I know there was one in Mum’s kitchen but I don’t know where it is now…). Instead, we just use a sieve and a wooden spoon. It works beautifully.


75% whole wheat bread

Bookmarked Recipes - monthly Bookmarked Recipes Some time ago, Ruth (Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments) created this event to urge herself (and everyone else) to actually make the several recipes they have bookmarked in various books, magazines and internet pages. For a time, Jacqueline (Tinned Tomatoes) took over hosting the event. Because she is vegetarian, she asked that submitted recipes be vegetarian OR that alternatives be given for how to make the dish vegetarian.

However, “Bookmarked Recipes”, is no longer officially happening. You might like to look at previous bookmarked recipes:



Sour Grapes… OR …making the best of Concord Grapes

summary: green apples; concord grapes are awfully sweet; how much concentrate about 8 lbs of grapes makes; not making jelly; grape onion focaccia; information about Not Far From the Tree; (click on images to see more photos)

apples and grapes There are so many volunteers for Not Far From the Tree now that it isn’t entirely easy to get in on a pick. So when I saw the opportunity to pick green apples AND two kinds of grapes (green and blue), I jumped at it.

I was excited about getting to pick apples. But when I learned that the grapes were concords, I was a little less excited. I’ve never been a fan of concord grapes. They’re so sweet. I’m especially not a fan of concord grape jelly or juice. To me, they both taste a bit like kool-aidy medicine.

Still, the bounty was huge. This despicably hot and rainless (until now) summer was pretty terrible for apricots and plums here in Toronto, but it has been quite good for apples and brilliant for grapes. So we happily picked little green apples (no idea what kind but they are a sweet/tart and not terribly juicy – probably ideal for making cider) in the front yard and masses and masses of grapes in the back yard. (continue reading )

Last Hurrahs of Summer: Coconut Rolls (BBB September 2016)

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BBB September 2016 summary: recipe for Coconut Rolls or are they buns??, based on a recipe in “HomeBaking” by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford; substitutions and alterations; malfunctioning scales; a Bread Baking Babes project; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) September 2016: Coconut Rolls

Coconut Rolls

I was beginning to wonder if summer would never end!

Finally, early this week, the night temperatures dropped below 20C. And we felt comfortable turning on the oven. But I really got thrown off by the long hot summer. Even though we’ve been watching the happy parade of children walking to school every morning since Labour Day, it didn’t occur to me that the middle of the month was so close.

So. I’m sorry to say that I’m late. In my defense, I baked on 16 September….

This month’s project is based on a recipe in the stunningly beautiful cookbook “Home Baking” by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford. It’s such a wonderful book that it has been translated into other languages, including Dutch. There are bread recipes from all parts of the world.

We have no idea where the Chinese bakery tradition of soft white filled buns comes from, but in Taiwan, in Hong Kong and even here in each of Toronto’s Chinatowns, we can always find a bakery with a dazzling array of them. The first bun shops I ever saw were in Taipei; they’re still my favorites. […] Rick (alias Cinnamon Roll Rick) arrived for a visit. Within a day, he’d found the bun shops and came running to find out which buns were my favorite. I’d never noticed the bun shops and I thought he was crazy. But he was right. And for the next six months we ate a ton of sweet buns.
– Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid, Taipei Coconut Buns, Home Baking, p.252

Apparently, the coconut buns were their absolute favourite flavour and that’s what they include in the cookbook. Well! Clearly, even if Lien hadn’t chosen them for this month’s project for the BBBabes, we had to try them.

(continue reading )

Zucchini Ribbons Salad (Bookmarked Recipe)

summary: Jamie Oliver’s Zucchini Ribbon Salad is great; bookmarked recipe; why did we wait so long?

Bookmarked Recipes - last Sunday of the MonthBookmarked Recipe: Zucchini Ribbons Salad

Zucchini Ribbons Salad Way back in 2007 or 2008, when FoodTV still showed actual cooking shows and when we still had access to FoodTV, we saw Jamie Oliver making a spectacular looking zucchini salad. We instantly said that we had to try it. And promptly forgot because wasn’t yet zucchini season here.

Well. I’m happy to report that almost a decade later, we finally made the salad. (continue reading )