One of my all-time favorite recipes is the delicious honey whole wheat bread recipe that I’m sharing today. It’s the result of my search for a delicious and healthy homemade bread that is as soft and fluffy as store bought, but healthier and way less expensive. This search has been going on for many years because, like many home bakers, my spouse wasn’t as crazy about homemade bread as I am. I grew up on homemade bread (much of which I baked when I was in the 4-H Bread Project) and Joe grew up on….Wonder Bread. So, his expectation was that bread should be soft and fluffy, while my expectation was that bread should have flavor and some heft to it.
This bread recipe satisfies both our expectations and it’s also a wonderfully versatile recipe that can be made into sandwich loaves, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, or a braided loaf topped with your favorite seeds.
There are two ingredients and two techniques that make this recipe unique; buttermilk gives a boost to the yeast to produce an easy-to-work dough that rises high and tender, and the honey provides great flavor and improves the bread’s keeping quality; I prefer whole milk buttermilk and raw unfiltered honey. As for the techniques, you’ll notice that my directions have you doing a couple of things very differently than other recipes that you may have made before. The first technique is the 20-minute rest known as an autolyse and the second technique is delaying the addition of the salt and oil. Using an autolyse in ANY yeast bread recipe will produce a dough that is easier to work with and a finished bread that has more flavor and better texture. And if you’re making yeast bread by hand, it will reduce the amount of time required to knead your dough.
After I’ve finished kneading my dough, I put it into a clear food storage container that I use for all my yeast breads. I call it my proofing bucket and it maintains a level of humidity that my yeast breads love. When I first put the dough into it, I pat the top of the dough down flat then slide the red rubber band level with the top of the dough so I can tell when it has doubled. I used to get so frustrated trying to figure out if my dough had doubled when it was in a bowl but this makes it a no-brainer.
This dough took 45 minutes to get to this level and is now ready for its final shaping.
The dough has been turned out of the proofing container onto a lightly oiled counter and is resting for 5 minutes. I use oil instead of flour because I have Formica countertops, oil doesn’t get all over the floor, and it’s easier to clean up. If you are working on a wood board or countertop you don’t want to use oil at all, you’ll lightly dust your work surface with flour. The recipe made three pounds of dough which I divided into equal portions for shaping into a braid and a sandwich loaf. Another time I’ll shape and bake half as a baguette to serve with pasta, and the remainder will be shaped and baked into dinner rolls that will go into the freezer for a company dinner.
The loaf on the right is in a pain de mie loaf pan. Mine is 9″ long, but 13″ long pans like these are used to produce the square sandwich loaves that you see in grocery stores. I let the dough rise to just below the top of the the pan, then slide the lid on before putting the pan in the oven; the lid keeps the dough pushed down and gives a square fine-textured loaf that’s perfect for sandwiches. The pan can, of course, be used without the lid and is great for making nice square meatloaf.
The loaves are fully proofed and ready to bake
A silicone brush works well for gently applying the egg wash before adding seeds to the braid. Here I’ve used a mix of sesame seeds, flax seeds, dill seeds, caraway seeds, crushed dried shallots from Penzey’s, and margarita salt (yep, it’s cheap and works better than kosher salt, which is too fine for this use).
The baked braid is golden brown and delicious.
I didn’t have quite enough dough in the sandwich loaf, so the ends and top corners are more rounded than I would like…
But it still makes a great sandwich!
And the braid was wonderful with Joe’s soup.
So please do try this recipe and the autolyse technique and let me know how it works for you.
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Thanks, and bon appetit!
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) warm (110°F) filtered or bottled water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
- 3 cups (12 oz, 339 grams) King Arthur white whole wheat flour
- 3 cups (12-3/4 oz, 360 grams) King Arthur bread flour
- 1-1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) warm (110°F) cultured buttermilk
- 1/4 cup (84 grams) honey
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) canola oil
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- your choice of seeds and/or coarse salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the warm water and yeast with a fork and let sit for 4 or 5 minutes.
- Attach the flat beater to the mixer, add 1 cup of bread flour, 1 cup of white whole wheat flour, and the buttermilk to the yeast and beat until smooth.
- Add the honey and the remaining 2 cups of white whole wheat flour and beat until smooth.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic and let the mixture rest for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare a clean bowl or
with a light film of canola oil to put the dough into when it's ready for its first rise and prepare your loaf pans or baking sheets for the shaped dough's final rise. other container
- After 20 minutes, sprinkle the salt over the dough and beat it in well, then beat in the oil.
- Switch to the dough hook and mix in the remaining 2 cups of bread flour then knead on speed 2 for 5 minutes; this will be a soft dough that sticks to the very bottom of the mixing bowl but
resistthe urge to add more flour.
- Scrape the dough into the prepared rising container and cover with plastic.
- Place the container somewhere that's about 70°F and let the dough rise until double in size, 45 to 60 minutes.
- Gently turn the dough out of the container onto a lightly oiled work surface, then divide and shape according to what you want to make.
- Cover the shaped rolls or loaves lightly with a tea towel and put them somewhere about 70°F to rise away from drafts, until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.
- Twenty minutes before the bread is ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F.
- When the dough has doubled in size, add optional finishing by brushing with an egg wash and sprinkling on seeds or coarse salt.
- Slide into the preheated oven and bake until the internal temperature is about 200°F; rolls will take about 20 minutes, loaves will require 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and set the baking pan on a cooling rack for five minutes, then turn the loaves or rolls out of the pan and allow to cool completely.
White whole wheat is a whole grain that is milled from a hard white winter wheat instead of the traditional red wheat. This gives it a milder flavor and lighter color.
Resting the dough for 20 minutes (autolyse) makes a dough that's easier to work with, and the finished bread has more flavor.
The salt is mixed in after the autolyse, then the oil is added.
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