“She heard the air whooshing into the big bellows in the forge and the practice tap for range of hammer and anvil. She heard Liza open the oven door and the thump of a kneaded loaf on the floury board.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
At the grocery store there is a brand of wheat berry bread I adore. I wanted to create a stellar whole grain bread with wheat berries that has the nutty taste I love and ingredients I understand. A splash of cocoa and sprinkle of nutmeg work in harmony to deepen the warm whole grain flavors in this Irresistible Wheat Berry Bread.
I entered this recipe in the National Festival of Breads and received an Honorable Mention in the Whole Grain category. The contest specified that the recipe yield two loaves. If that is to much bread, the recipe can easily be cut in half with excellent results.
It took me many tries to arrive at a place of irresistibility with this recipe. I wanted lots and lots of wheat berries but not a dense or heavy bread. I searched for deep rich whole grain flavor but with a soft mellow taste. A bread that could happily accompany soup at dinner or be slathered with butter and honey for breakfast. The bread had to be easy to slice to fit in our toaster. Just cooking the wheat berries and adding them to the bread dough made a less than perfect loaf of bread. It was too chewy and nearly impossible to cut a slice of bread without crumbling and tearing apart. The solution is to roughly chop 2/3 of the cooked wheat berries and leave 1/3 of the berries whole. To obtain the deep, mellow flavor I craved I found honey was the best sweetener to use with whole grain wheat. White and brown sugar were too sharp and loud while agave nectar lacked the character of honey that stands tall in flavor when paired with whole wheat. Still searching for vibrant flavor I found that just a dusting of cocoa power paired with the smallest amount of nutmeg makes the loaf sparkle with wheat wheat goodness that is hard to resist.
|11/3C||warm water (100°-110°)|
|2 packages||active dry yeast (4-1/2t)|
|2/3C||unsalted butter, melted and cooled|
|2t||unsweetened cocoa powder|
|3C||whole wheat flour|
|4C||cooked and roughly chopped wheat berries (see cooking note below)|
|2C||flaked whole grain wheat cereal (such as: Uncle Sam’s Original Cereal or Wheaties)|
- Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whipping attachment. Add the yeast and mix until dissolved. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Let the mixture rest for five to ten minutes.
- Add the butter and honey to the mixing bowl and thoroughly combine. Add two cups of the bread flour, salt, cocoa powder and nutmeg mixing to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Remove the whip attachment and replace with the dough hook. Add the remaining cup of bread flour and all the whole wheat flour. When the flours are almost mixed into the wet ingredients add the wheat berries, mix to combine. The dough will come together in a ball around the dough hook. Add the flaked whole wheat cereal and mix for five to eight minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic. If the dough is too moist add flour, a tablespoon at a time at the outside edge of the mixing bowl. Add just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the mixer. Place the dough in a large buttered bowl. Cover and let rest for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Butter two 9” x 5” loaf pans and set aside. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to deflate. Divide the dough in half. Form each piece of dough into a loaf shape and press evenly into the prepared pans. Cover the loaves and let rise for 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Heat the oven to 350°. Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes. Check the loaves after 30 minutes and tent with foil if browning too quickly. When the loaves are done they will be a deep tawny brown and have slightly pulled away from the edges of the pan. A cake tester inserted will come out clean.
- To prepare 4 Cups of wheat berries: Soak 2 cups of whole wheat berries in water for 8 hours or overnight. Place the berries in a saucepan and cover with water 2”of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Add more water if needed. Cook the wheat berries until they are plump and a few of the berries have burst open. Drain and cool the wheat berries. Roughly chop the wheat berries in a blender, food processor or by hand, leaving approximately 1/3 of the berries whole. I use hard red wheat berries. Different types of wheat may result in different yields after cooking.