Whole Grain Bread: It’s Worth the Effort!

Reader Contribution by Loretta Sorensen
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Anyone can produce beautiful 100 percent whole grain bread by using the proper dough-making method that includes warming recipe liquids to a specific temperature range: 105- to 110-degrees (Fahrenheit). This step, as well as properly kneading and managing the temperature of your dough throughout the kneading and rising process, gives both yeast and whole grain gluten the boost needed to produce a high rise that not only looks fabulous, it tastes fantastic!

But why bother with whole grains? Here are some basic characteristics of whole grains to help answer that question.

Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Whole grain kernels are made up of bran (outer kernel layer), a germ (embryo with potential to sprout a new plant) and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply).

When whole grain, such as wheat, is refined to produce flour – in this case white flour – the bran and germ are removed from the wheat kernel. As a result, some 25 percent of the kernel’s protein is lost as well as about 17 key nutrients found in the bran and the germ.

What are the nutrients that are lost? Protein, vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), fiber, potassium, iron and folate.

In refined wheat flour, a portion of each of those nutrients are added back, but not in their original amounts or proportions. Enriched wheat flour includes the addition of some of the nutrients, but not all of them.

In purchasing commercial breads, wheat flour (refined) and enriched flour are often the main ingredients, indicating that much of the nutrients of the whole grain are either missing or diminished. If the bread was made with 100 percent whole grain, the first ingredient will be “whole-wheat flour” or “100% whole wheat flour.” (Webmd.com)

Fiber is another benefit whole grains provide. Just one slice of whole grain/multi-grain bread will provide 3 g of dietary fiber. The American Heart Association says total daily dietary fiber intake for adults should be between 25and 30 grams.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The goal of refining grains is to extend their shelf life since the oils found primarily in the germ of the grain can become rancid over time. Refined grains are also finer, producing an airy loaf.

However, with today’s modern refrigeration options and widespread access to fresh grains, rancidity is easily overcome if whole grain flours are used in break baking. Storing flours in either the freezer or refrigerator greatly extends the life and quality of the grain.

If traditional bread making methods have left you with a heavy, dense, undesirable loaf of bread, you can easily combine the effectiveness of a bread machine and precision of a digital thermometer. Both these items will help manage the temperature range that supports vigorous yeast activity and complete a thorough kneading to boost gluten action in your dough.

With access to a wide variety of healthy grains – organic and sprouted – and equipment to grind flour, mix dough and bake our home-made breads, we can enjoy fresh, whole grain bread every day!

Grain facts courtesy Oldways Whole Grains Council

Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Facebook.

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