Four Ingredients...

That's right...four ingredients, that's all you need to make really good bread. Anything else is extra. The ingredients I used to make the beautiful loaf pictured above are this: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Kosher Salt.

Often I'll add olive oil or honey to my breads for richness or sweetness, but this loaf is made with the basic four ingredients that are required for leavened bread. Breads like this are so easy to make, and not only are they delicious they feel healthy for you as you eat them (at least they do to me).

With this knowledge it amazes me that there are so many breads produced that claim to be 100% whole wheat or whole grain, but when you read the label you can see they are clearly not what they claim to be.

As an example I'll use Wonder Bread. I don't mean to single them out (OK, maybe I do a little), but they are the most well-known brand of supermarket bread in North America. I looked on their site and could not find an ingredient listing for any of their breads. Hmmm...I don't know about you but if I were proud of my product and stood behind it I would list the ingredients that went into it...seemed a little fishy to me, and apparently I'm not the only person who thought this (read this blog post to see what I mean). 

Anyhow, I was able to find the ingredient list for their "Whole Grain Bread." They were listed on the website of a local grocery store chain, Wegman's.  The following ingredient list was cut-and-paste from that site:

Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Barley Malt, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Water, Whole Wheat Flour, High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sugar, Yeast, Wheat Gluten, Brown Rice Flour, Soy Fiber, Calcium Sulfate, Contains 2% or Less or Soybean Oil, Salt, Vinegar, Cornstarch, Wheat Starch, Soy Flour, Honey, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Dioxide and/or Azodicarbonamide), Yeast Nutrients (Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Ammonium Phosphate), Enrichment [Vitamin E Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), Zinc Oxide, Calcium Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin D, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1) and Vitamin B-12], Calcium Propionate (to Retain Freshness), Whey, Soy Lecithin. 

...and this is the list of ingredients for whole grain bread? Umm...I don't know about you, but I don't see any whole grains listed. Ok, to their credit, whole wheat flour is listed about a half-dozen ingredients in, and brown rice flour is buried in with the dough conditioners and other stuff. But what is all that stuff? I bake bread all the time and have worked in kitchens my entire adult life and some of those items (many) I have no idea what they I Googled a couple. 

Azodicarbonamide is probably the scariest (read this blog post); aparently this can cause respitory ailments...and foods with Azodicarbonamide in the UK have to have a warning on them that says: “May cause sensitisation by inhalation" (to my UK readers: is this true?).  If food has to have a warning lable on it we probably shouldn't eat it. Another ingredient I chose at randem was Ammonium Chloride...another scary ingredient (click here); in my opinion, if it is corrosive it shouldn't be in food.. And these were just two ingredients chosen at random and Googled...who the hell knows what the rest of them are.

Bread, especially whole wheat and whole grain have been a staple food for many millennium...if your interested to learn more check out this book or this article. In the somewhat newly revamped food pyramid put out by the USDA whole wheat breads and grains still occupy the bulk of it (as they did in previous versions). (Click here to see more about it at the USDA website.) 

Good bread is really easy and satisfying to make. It's a nutrient-rich and healthy food...and it only takes four ingredients.

If you'd like to read an article I wrote explaining the process of whole wheat bread baking, click here. To see earlier posts with pictures showing how to make the bread click here or here
100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups water
3 teaspoons instant yeast
3 teaspoons kosher salt

In one bowl make a preferment by combining 2 cups of whole wheat flour with 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of instant yeast. Begin the
autolyse in another bowl by combining 4 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups water. Stir each bowl just enough to combine the ingredients, taking care not to get yeast into the bowl with the autolyse. Cover both bowls and allow to rest and ferment for 30-90 minutes, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak the grain, swelling the gluten.

After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and remaining 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans (or shape them pre-form and place them on baking sheets). Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.


Dr C. said…
Eating a big old spoonful of Ammonium Chloride would be bad, but it is one of those things which is useful to the body in trace amounts, and turns up in one form or another in many of the things we eat. It is one of the ingredients in bacterial minimal media, which contains only the bare minimum organic molecules, minerals and vitamins to keep the bacteria alive.

I'd never heard of Azodicarbonamide before, sounds a bit more dodgy. A lot of the other ingredients make it look like the bread has been artificially enriched with certain vitamins and minerals. I can understand the purpose of this but unless they make a big deal about it in their advertising, I don't know how it makes good business sense.