The Pleasure of Whole Grain Breads

The Pleasure of Whole Grain Breads

by Beth Hensperger

With everything from raspberry-millet muffins to oatmeal rolls with herbs and sun-dried tomatoes, veteran bread maker and author Beth Hensperger is back with a delightful book on baking with whole grains. Using clear, easy-to-follow instructions, Hensperger lays out foolproof methods for handling over a dozen kinds of grains and flours, including tips and recipes for…  See more details below


With everything from raspberry-millet muffins to oatmeal rolls with herbs and sun-dried tomatoes, veteran bread maker and author Beth Hensperger is back with a delightful book on baking with whole grains. Using clear, easy-to-follow instructions, Hensperger lays out foolproof methods for handling over a dozen kinds of grains and flours, including tips and recipes for bread machine users. Filled with mouthwatering color photographs, The Pleasure of Whole Grain Breads offers speedy quick breads for the busy cook, slow-rising yeast breads for the dedicated baker, and intriguing cross-cultural recipes (including Ethiopian injera, French chickpea crepes, and quinoa tortillas) for the culinary globetrotter. Healthy, delicious, and surprisingly simple to bake, these are whole grain breads to please every eater.
Author Biography: Beth Hensperger's previous books include The Bread Bible (0-8118-1686-9) and Bread for All Seasons (0-8118-0582-4).

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hensperger, author of The Bread Bible, puts to rest the stodgy image of whole-grain baking and its hockey-puck results. Grain-filled versions of familiar breads, such as Multigrain Sandwich Buns made with instant mashed potatoes and Sesame Semolina Bread, are reliable, but when Hensperger lets her imagination run wild, she scores with such fanciful fare as Fig-Pumpernickel Quick Bread and Oaten Rolls with Herbs and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. She also includes recipes for nonbread food: Buckwheat Blini, Three-Grain Vanilla Waffles and Quinoa Tortillas. All types of grains are featured (Oven-Baked Four-Grain English Muffins contain millet, oats, wheat flour and amaranth flour), as are specialty flours such as chestnut (in Chestnut Bread with Hazelnuts). A mail-order index makes these products accessible, and clear descriptions of the grains are full of historical facts (barley is named in a set of Babylonian clay tablets--the first known mention of any grain in writing). The photos of the breads are stunning, and this book's larg-size format makes it extremely kitchen-friendly. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
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10.11(w) x 9.65(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Seed As Perfect Food

When I started baking bread, I never imagined becoming so fascinated with the world of grains. I first used the grains that nourished me since childhood—the familiar wheat, rice, and corn—then turned to eating and baking with other forms of these familiar grains, which quickly became favorites. Friends served homey breads I was quick to adopt into my repertoire: Scandinavian rye from Minnesota, white corn bread from South Carolina, thick johnnycake pancakes from Rhode Island, sourdough bread from well-used Alaskan starter, soda bread from Ireland, tandoor-baked naan from India, and delectable sopaipillas from Mexico. From there it was only a short step to using less common grains such as blue corn, quinoa, amaranth, kamut, spelt, and teff.

    The word cereal refers to all food-grain-bearing grass. It is derived from the summer celebration of Cerealia, in honor of Ceres, Roman goddess of the crops and Great Mother of the Harvest. The word ceres was often used by the early Romans to mean a loaf of baked bread. Over the centuries, cereal has endured as the common word for grains in the Gramineae family, which includes wheat, barley, rye, rice, millet, buckwheat, and corn. Delicious flours are also made from edible tubers (potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, cassava), nuts and pods (chestnuts, acorns, carob, almonds, mesquite), legumes (peas, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, lima beans, lava beans), and rice. Some of these flours are familiar, while others, though unfamiliar, are an integral part of cuisines ofother cultures. Many of these old-fashioned flours are experiencing a renaissance in breads made for gluten-free diets.

    Bread baking has been described as an art form because it is a process that combines all of the senses with the goal of producing food for physical nourishment. It is no wonder that the rise of grain agriculture parallels the development of civilization. The great cultures of antiquity grew up around areas where cereal grains were grown, referred to as hearths of domestication, giving rise to many scholarly debates of when and why humans turned from being hunters and gatherers to settled agriculturalists. All the practical implications aside, there can be no generalizations on the complex factors that brought about the domestication of grain crops. Speaking simply, however, life as we know it would certainly be impossible without cereal grains.

    Many years ago I was advised by my physician that instead of eating wheat products on a daily basis, I should alternate wheat with other grains every other day to prevent a grain allergy. At the time, the concept seemed novel; I was familiar only with corn tortillas and Jewish rye bread as alternatives. As I discovered, embarking on any dietary change takes some planning and personal discipline. But with an increased serious interest in nutrition, more individuals are taking charge of contributing to their own good health. Grains now found in greater variety at most supermarkets, not only natural-food stores, are part of a sound nutritional plan.

    When you use whole-grain flours rather than refined flours, you take advantage of all parts of the grain: the fiber-rich bran, the vitamin-rich germ, and the protein-rich starch. Each grain is a tiny dry fruit that contains a single seed capable of reproducing itself. An inedible, hard outer shell called the hull protects the seed and must be removed to make the seed available for cooking or grinding. The seed is surrounded by a layer of starchy carbohydrates designed to feed a developing embryo. The embryo, or germ, contains a concentration of micronutrients, fat, and proteins. It is rich in vitamins E, A, and B-complex, protein, calcium, and iron. The outer coating, the bran, provides fiber and is composed of cellulose, a complex sugar. Grains are high in valuable water-soluble fiber, a major source of complex carbohydrates and a gold mine of minerals. In varying amounts, they contain all ten essential amino acids. The New World's "lost" sacred grains, amaranth and quinoa, are known for their high percentage of lysine, an essential amino acid lacking in all other grains.

    During the digestion process, grains provide an even flow of energy and stamina and absorb water, creating that full feeling. They are also free of cholesterol and low in fat. Most people are well acquainted with the virtues of whole grains through the highly advertised need for more dietary fiber. Known as roughage, fiber in the form of pectin gums and brans is the indigestible part of a plant food, the amount and type of fiber varying from plant to plant.

    As the recipes in this book show, whole-wheat bread can be made from kamut, spelt, or semolina. The addition of other whole grains and specialty flours to wheat flour creates loaves with an irresistible variety of flavors, aromas, and textures: wild rice and rye, corn-meal millet, sprouted wheat berry, oatmeal whole wheat, teff honey egg. Multigrain breads are wildly popular, and in this book, you will find recipes for both yeast loaves and quick breads featuring all sorts of whole grains. You don't need to know how to make yeast breads to make loaves with delicious grain combinations. Quick loaves, pancakes, muffins, and scones can be made with whole grains. If you are looking for instant nutrition, whole grains can give it to you. And they taste good, too.

Bread-Making Basics

The following information is invaluable for choosing ingredients, mixing, shaping, and baking doughs and batters, and storing breads. Baking with whole grains is different from using all-white flour: whole-grain flours absorb more liquid, require a bit more leavening power, take more muscle to knead, and take longer to rise.


If you are buying whole grains in bulk, avoid grains that seem too dried out or soggy, or contain larvae—problems that can occur when grains are not stored properly directly after harvest. Unground whole grains have a long shelf life—about one year—when stored in moisture-proof airtight containers or sealable thick plastic bags, out of direct light and at a cool room temperature. Unbleached flour keeps up to one year in a tightly closed container at room temperature. Wholegrain flours should be stored in tightly closed containers in the refrigerator for up to three months or in the freezer for up to nine months. If flours and meals are stone-ground and contain the germ and bran, they are highly perishable. Corn, oat, rice, barley, and wheat brans should be stored in the refrigerator for six to eight months; raw and toasted wheat germ is best refrigerated and used within three to four months. If a flour or grain is rancid, it will have a definite sour smell. Remember to label and date stored flours; it is amazing how similar they look.

    Yeast needs to be dissolved and activated in warm liquids. Liquids should be 90º to 120ºF, or feel comfortably warm on the back of your hand or inside of your wrist. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast; water that is too cold will delay the action. It is advisable to invest in a yeast thermometer until you can recognize the exact warmth by feel.

    All types of yeast are interchangeable. An envelope of active dry yeast (a scant tablespoon) is equal to a .66-ounce cake of compressed yeast. One .66-ounce cake of compressed yeast is equal to 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast. One .25-ounce package of active dry yeast (a scant tablespoon) is equal to 2 teaspoons of instant dry yeast.

    To substitute honey and other liquid-based sweeteners like molasses for granulated sugar, use three-quarters cup honey for each cup of sugar and reduce the total liquid used in the recipe by a quarter cup. For recipes in which no liquid is required, compensate by adding an extra quarter-cup flour. Avoid sugar substitutes in baking; they can't withstand the heat and tend to have a bitter, chemical aftertaste. Naturally sweet flours such as oat, barley, chestnut, and white whole wheat reduce the need for sugar.

    Many expert whole-grain bakers swear by the addition of vital wheat gluten, a premium dough conditioner, to make an elastic dough that rises high. Add one and a half teaspoons vital wheat gluten for each cup of whole-wheat flour; add two to three teaspoons vital wheat gluten for each cup of glutenless flours such as barley, oats, rye, or soy.

    The quantity of flour used in a recipe can vary according to weather conditions. In hot, humid climates, dough might require a bit more flour. Dough will absorb slightly different amounts of unbleached flour depending on the weather conditions where the wheat was grown and the type of specialty flour used.

Kneading and Rising

When kneading dough, beginning bakers often add too much flour. Adding too much flour results in a dough that is slack, cold, and tough. Too little flour and the dough has sticky spots.

    Knead dough only until it retains a moist, tacky quality, yet feels smooth when you run your hand over the surface. It should hold its shape and be springy to the touch. Leave whole-wheat dough sticky; it will firm up as it rises. If it is still too moist, add a few tablespoons of flour after the rise. Doughs with flaked grains, such as rolled oats or barley, wheat, or quinoa flakes, have a nubby feel. The addition of cornmeal, barley grits, and small raw grains, such as millet, quinoa, and teff, make a dough that is gritty or pebbly to the touch. Using cooked grains makes a slightly lumpy dough.

    The longer that dough slowly rises at room temperature, the more developed the flavor will be and lighter the texture. Never desert a very slow dough; whole-grain doughs take from one hour to four hours to rise. Dough generally rises to no more than double in bulk; occasional exceptions are noted in specific recipes. Never overrise these doughs.

    Many expert bakers refrigerate dough overnight as a standard procedure, as dough that rises slowly develops the best flavor and texture. Yeast dough may be refrigerated at any time during the rising process: after kneading, after the first rise, or even after being shaped. Place the dough ball in a well-greased deep container and cover with two layers of plastic wrap. Water-based doughs keep up to four days and milk-based doughs up to two to three days in the refrigerator with frequent punching down during the first six hours, Let the chilled dough stand at room temperature for thirty minutes before proceeding.


Oven temperature is crucial when baking whole.-grain loaves. An oven that is too hot will result in an overdone crust and underdone interior; too cool, a dense, dry loaf. Resist the temptation to open the oven door during the first fifteen minutes, to prevent the bread from collapsing.

    Bread is not finished baking until it has cooled, allowing the crumb to set and the excess moisture to evaporate (hot bread weighs more than a cooled loaf). This is especially important for whole-grain breads. Let loaves rest for at least thirty minutes. Breads are best served warm, at room temperature, or reheated.

Storing Bread

Whole-grain loaves have a good shelf life and do not go stale quickly. They generally stay moist for about three days. Store enclosed in plastic wrap, at room temperature. Sweet breads and breads containing cheese fillings or dairy products should be refrigerated.

    To freeze bread, wrap first in plastic wrap, then in a layer of aluminum foil (to prevent freezer burn). Or, wrap in a double layer of lock-top plastic freezer bags. It must be completely cool, or the center will freeze solid and later defrost into a soggy mass. Label and date the package. Freeze two to three months.

    To thaw frozen bread, defrost in the wrapping at room temperature for at least three hours, shaking out any accumulated ice crystals. Unwrap and reheat at the temperature at which the bread was baked for about eight to ten minutes. Bread may be refreshed or thawed in a 325ºF oven for twenty to forty minutes, or until heated through. If the bread is unwrapped, the crust will crisp. Rolls are best reheated wrapped since they tend to dry out more quickly than loaves.

Using a Bread Machine

If you plan to make breads rich with whole grains and sticky starters, you must own a machine that has specific settings for them. The machines that outperform the rest at this writing are the Zojirushi (the "Zo"); Home Bakery BCC-15 and BBC-V20; Breadman TR800; Welbilt ABM7500; and Toastmaster Breadmaker's Hearth Breadmaker and Cook's Oven 1193. All have a strong kneading action and are able to work the stiffest doughs; many have a Dough Only setting for overnight starters.

• Read the recipe carefully and never exceed the capacity of your machine for best results. Follow exactly the manufacturer's instructions and recipe guidelines for your model. Check the recipe format in this book against the instructions for your machine; some models take a dash more yeast or a tablespoon or two more liquid.

• All bread machine models require the use of active dry yeast.

• Layer the ingredients according to the manufacturer's instructions. In the delayed cycle, layer the yeast and dry milk in the bottom of the baking cylinder. It is important that they do not touch the liquid.

• Hold back ¼ cup flour when loading the canister. Check the dough consistency after the first 10 minutes; if the dough is too moist, add the additional flour.

• Small machines make a 1-pound loaf, yielding about 8 slices (perfect for two people). They have the capacity for ¾ to 1 cup liquid and 2 to 3 cups flour, which means that most traditional yeast bread recipes calling for 5 to 6 cups flour need to be divided in half. This total amount of flour includes any other dry ingredients (except dry milk powder) such as bran, whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, and other specialty flours. Larger machines use 1 ½ cups liquid to 4 cups of flour to make close to a 1 ½-pound loaf, yielding about 12 slices. To make a 2-pound loaf in the largest machines, double the quantities used for a 1-pound loaf.

• The best loaves are made with a high proportion of high-gluten bread flour; this helps to ensure a loaf that is not too dense. Add 1 ½ teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per 1 cup flour. Loaves with whole-grain flours or meals will always be more compact in texture than loaves made entirely of white flour.
• Machine-made bread is best eaten the same day it is made, as the loaves dry out quickly.

Milling Flour

If you become a serious baker of whole-grain bread, the allure of milling grains will eventually call to you. Owning and operating a home grain mill are an investment in time and money, but have notable advantages.

    When you mill your own grains, a minimal time lapses between milling the grain and mixing the dough. Bakers who engage in this old-fashioned task swear by the flavor and texture of their breads. I had always heard that aging improves flour performance, but whole-grain flours actually begin to deteriorate as soon as they are ground. So in this case, fresh is best. Another advantage is that you can buy whole grains and grind them in different textures, depending on your needs.

    There is a practical model of grain mill for every bread baker's taste, aesthetics, and pocketbook. My first mill was the very heavy, rustic cast-stone Samap hand mill. Operating it was tremendously laborious, but was a very artistic way to grind coarse grains. The counter-clamped steel Corona hand mill for making masa and cracked grains graced all early back-to-the-earth kitchens; grains had to be ground many times to get even a coarse texture. Today a grain enthusiast who wants commercial mill quality should try one of the efficient plastic-bodied electric mills, like the Magic Mill or the Whisper Mill, which grind hard wheat berries, soybeans, and corn kernels perfectly in one grinding. KitchenAid offers a grain mill attachment with steel blades for their heavy-duty electric mixers, and Braun has a small electric mill.

    Grind settings on mills for home use range from very coarse to very fine. Large grains (wheat, corn, rye) yield one cup flour per one cup whole grain. Small grains (amaranth, teff, rice, millet) yield one cup flour per three-quarters cup whole grain.


Along with buckwheat and quinoa, amaranth is one of the very few non-grasses to yield edible grain seeds. The plant has gigantic seed heads (up to half a million per plant), and its spinachlike leaves and stems vary in color from purple and red to gold and white. The genus name, Amaranthus, means "everlasting or unfading," probably a reference to the jewellike colors' of the seed heads when dried. Amaranth belongs to a group of super-performers categorized by botanists as C4 and including the world's fastest-growing crops, which also have the advantage of quickly adapting to environmental changes.

    The genus is so large that there are plants grown specifically for dyes, colorful ornamentals (cockscomb and love-lies-bleeding), and vegetables as well as grains. Wild species are distributed all over the world. Although amaranth is considered a New World grain, it is recorded as ramdana, "seed sent by God" in old Sanskrit records, and hundreds of strains dot the Himalayas, where it is a favorite crop of today's hill farmers. In China, the grain was known as "the thousand-ear cereal," and in the Andes as "Incan wheat." For the ancient Mayans, it was a medicinal and religious staple.

    Amaranth was gathered as a staple food by the early cave dwellers of the Americas and by the nomadic native tribes of the Southwest just a hundred years ago. It is among the thirty thousand plant fragments found at Meadowcroft Rockshelter on the Ohio River, the earliest occupied site in the United States, first settled over twelve thousand years ago.

    Cultivated in conjunction with maize and bean crops, amaranth was used to make tortillalike flat-breads, and was fed to runner messengers and soldiers going into battle. A paste of the ground seeds, zoale, was fashioned into honey cakes in the shape of Aztec deities and consumed by worshipers. When Hernando Cortés conquered the Aztecs in 1519, he destroyed the massive fields of grain amaranth and forbid the cultivation and consumption of the sacred grain. Cortés took the seed back to Spain, and from there the grain spread to Africa and India.

    Amaranth has experienced a contemporary resurgence of interest. In 1976, a food technologist named Larry Walters attended a seminar on amaranth hosted by John Rodale of the Rodale Research Institute in Pennsylvania. Walters planted his first crop, with seeds obtained from Rodale, in Earlsville, Iowa, in 1980. His company, Nu-World Amaranth, Inc., was born when an article in the February 1982 Organic Gardening magazine listed him as a purveyor. Today his company is the main source for growing, processing, distributing, marketing, and educating the public about the grain.

    High in calcium and phosphorus, amaranth contains approximately sixteen percent protein, which is concentrated in the germ. It has two times more protein than cereals such as corn or barley. The only grain to contain vitamin C, it also boasts a high proportion of lysine, an essential amino acid rarely found in vegetable matter.

    Amaranth seeds are minute golden-beige dots the size of a grain of sand, flecked with black and tan. They have a strong, sweet, wild grassy flavor likened to the taste of fresh corn silk. When toasted, the seeds mellow to a mild nutty flavor. When cooked, amaranth has a rather gelatinous, yet crunchy, grits-like texture and a transparent appearance. Adding the warm cooked grain to yeast and cornmeal batters helps baked goods retain moisture and lightness.

    Amaranth flour is great in combination with high-protein wheat flour in yeast breads and can be used interchangeably with teff flour to add a distinctly peppery taste to baked goods. At most, use a one-to-four ratio of amaranth flour to wheat flour, or one cup amaranth flour to four cups wheat flour. The flour is also excellent in quick breads such as muffins, pancakes, and waffles. If you cannot find the flour, whole seeds can be ground in a flour mill, or amaranth seed, cooked whole like rice, can be added to bread doughs. While the seeds can be ground in a food processor or blender, a steel mill is the only efficient method I have found that successfully breaks the tough seed coat. Amaranth is never stone-ground, as mill stones cannot be set close enough to grind flour, and the result is gritty.

Types of Products

Whole amaranth seed is the whole unhulled grain. It is so tiny that it is never hulled. Amaranth flour is finely ground raw or toasted whole amaranth.

Along with quinoa and buckwheat, amaranth is another great nonwheat flour that has found a place in the baker's repertoire. This is a high-protein bread that tastes rich and homey. Delicious toasted, it is also excellent served with warm chèvre and a salad.

Amaranth Seed Bread

Makes two 9-by-5-inch loaves

3 ½ to 4 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ½ cups amaranth flour
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppyseeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon toasted whole amaranth seeds (see page 22)
½ cup dry buttermilk powder
1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 ½ cups hot water (120ºF)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup dark molasses

1. In a large bowl using a whisk or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of the bread flour and the amaranth and whole-wheat flours, sesame, poppy, flax, and amaranth seeds, buttermilk powder, yeast, and salt. Add the hot water. Beat hard for about 2 minutes. Add the melted butter and molasses; beat 1 minute longer. Add the remaining bread flour, ½ cup at a time, beating on low speed until a soft, shaggy dough that just clears the sides of the bowl forms, switching to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is soft, sticky, and elastic and holds its shape, 1 to 3 minutes for a machine-mixed dough and 4 to 7 minutes for a hand-mixed dough, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time, just enough as needed to prevent sticking. Place in a lightly greased deep container, turn once to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, 1 ½ to 2 hours.

3. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans (I like to use terra-cotta pans). Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into 2 equal portions. Pat each portion into a rectangle and roll into a loaf shape. Place the loaves, seam side down, into the prepared pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough is puffy and about 1 inch above the rims of the pans, about 45 minutes.

4. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat an oven to 350ºF and position a rack in the center of the oven.

5. Using a sharp knife, make 3 diagonal slashes no more than ¼ inch deep down the top center of the loaf. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, of until the tops are deep brown, the sides slightly contract from the pan, and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Remove from the pans to cool on a rack.

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