If I could only make one kind of bread for the rest of my life, this might be it. Soft, delicious, straightforward, and entirely whole wheat… what more could you ask for? I’ve made this three times now, once with honey and twice with molasses. As usual, they didn’t rise as much as I would hope, but they still work great for burger and sandwiches! Thanks to Jill from The Prarie Homestead for the inspiration!
UPDATE (2/26/15): I experimented with baking this in a loaf pan. I prepared the recipe exactly as below, only instead of dividing the dough, I formed the ball into a loaf and placed it in a greased medium loaf pan, and baked it 20 minutes. It produced a tender (almost a bit too tender, a couple more minutes in the oven might have done it good), attractive, mildly flavored loaf good for toast and sandwiches. However, with the effort required to bake bread, it would be nice to have more than one small loaf to show for it. At some point in the future, perhaps I will experiment further with this recipe and see if I can make double the amount the dough, or even triple for two large loaves. It sure would be nice to have such a straightforward, tasty sandwich bread made entirely of whole wheat! But buns are great too!
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 tsp. (1 packet) active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. molasses (or 1-3 tbsp. honey)
1 tsp. salt
2 to 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water and let proof at the bottom of a large bowl. Meanwhile, heat milk, butter, and molasses over gentle heat until butter begins to melt — do not simmer or boil. Remove from heat and let cool until pleasantly lukewarm to the touch and butter has finished melting. Add to yeast mixture, along with salt. Gradually incorporate flour. As soon as it forms a ball, but still rough and sticky, let it rest a few minutes. Sprinkle with flour, turn out onto a floured board, and knead, adding only as much flour as necessary until the dough no longer sticky but still a bit “tacky.” This is critical to preventing the dough from getting too dry when working with whole wheat flour. Lightly flour board, let rest for a few minutes (now is a great time to clean out and grease your bowl) and then knead for 8-15 minutes to form a smooth, elastic dough– if you keep it moving, it should no longer require more flour to prevent it from sticking. Form into a ball, place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down, divide into 8 balls (or 12 for dinner rolls), place on a greased baking sheet, and flatten to desired diameter. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes, then bake at 375ºF for 12-18 min.
Optional: after 10 minutes, brush the top of the buns with melted butter before returning to the oven for a glossy, attractive finish. You can also sprinkle on sesame seeds or rolled oats at this point, though I found the oats fell off almost instantly.
Let cool, then slice and enjoy!