Staples: Bread Machine Whole Wheat Bread

Before we purchased a bread machine, we deliberated buying one for months. Would we use it? Is it worth it? Will we like it?

I don’t live in an RV like Matt, but our kitchen is still small. When describing it to people who haven’t been in our home, I often refer to it as the dining room closet. A bread machine takes up a good amount of counter real estate, and I didn’t know if it was worth the sacrifice.

Ultimately, we ended up borrowing one from my in-laws when they decided to upgrade, and used theirs until it died after decades of regular use. A week after the borrowed bread machine’s death, we missed having one in the house, and took that as a sign that we should buy our own.

I’m telling you this lengthy story about our bread machine because I don’t think bread machines are for everyone. If you don’t regularly use one, it’s clutter in your kitchen. It’s not something anyone needs. There are healthy loaves of bread in bakeries and on grocery store shelves all across this country, and obviously ways to bake a tasty loaf in your oven. I bake bread at home because it’s less expensive than store-bought bread, I know exactly what is in it (which is important when you have a peanut-allergic child), and one of my favorite smells in the world is the scent of baking bread.

Simply stated, a bread machine is extremely convenient if you make all of your bread at home. You don’t have to tire out your arms kneading dough or find the right spot in your kitchen to get the best rise or heat up the oven or wash your hands 100 times from working with live yeast. You pour ingredients into a loaf pan, and three hours later you have an amazing loaf of bread. If you are busy, but would like to make bread at home, a bread machine makes that an incredibly easy task.

Erin’s Bread Machine Whole Wheat Bread — 2 lb loaf
Note: I use all King Arthur flours because the ones included in this recipe are all processed and packaged in a peanut-free facility.

  • 1-1/4 c. Water
  • 3 Tbl. Honey
  • 2 Tbl. Unsalted butter, diced into 27 small cubes (room temperature)
  • 1-1/2 c. Whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. High gluten flour or bread flour
  • 1 c. Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 oz. Active dry yeast

Layer all ingredients into the bread machine’s loaf pan, sprinkling the yeast on last.

As far as baking is concerned, I suggest starting with your machine’s programmed setting for whole wheat bread and only customizing if you don’t get your desired results.

Three minutes after the alarm sounds signaling your bread is finished baking, grab two oven mitts and turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. If you like a soft crust, immediately brush 1 Tbl. melted unsalted butter onto the six sides of the bread with a pastry brush.

To save time, on Saturdays when I’m making a loaf, I’ll pre-measure out a second bread’s worth of flours into a zip-top sandwich bag. During the week, when I’m busy and have less time and energy, it’s nice to have the flours ready to go.

(Final Note: If you are considering becoming a weekend baker and don’t want to invest in a bread machine, I highly recommend getting your hands on The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook and Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Actually, I recommend all of Reinhart’s books — the guy is a baking genius.)

26 comments posted

  1. Posted by Heather - 01/07/2011

    Hi -

    For a first timer looking for a bread machine, I would highly recommend looking at your local Goodwill or other thrift store. We got our first bread machine for $3, practically brand new, from Goodwill. It is still working well after regular use for 3 years.

  2. Posted by Erin Doland - 01/07/2011

    @Heather — That is a great idea. Additionally, it’s easy to find replacement loaf pans and paddles on Amazon — so even if it’s not a complete set, it’s still probably a really good deal.

  3. Posted by Bethany - 01/07/2011

    I recently came across a great low-effort alternative to a bread machine – I definitely don’t have the counter space. It’s a no-knead cold-storage method, so you can make multiple batches of dough at once and bake throughout the week. The book is “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I love it!

  4. Posted by Anne - 01/07/2011

    What size of loaf is this recipe for? I tried making whole wheat bread in my breadmaker, but the recipe was for a 1.5lb loaf and the machine has settings for 2lb through 3lb. It turned out edible, but very ugly/lumpy. I’ve also heard that just multiplying the recipe doesn’t work.

    Also, I have whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour, but not the high-gluten flour. Can I replace it with one or the other, or add something else?

  5. Posted by Karen - 01/07/2011

    I like my bread machine because I can make really good gluten free bread at home, rather than try to hunt down a good pre-made loaf of GF bread. Those are very hard to find. I use Pamela’s Amazing Bread Mix, and they have bread machine directions on the back that work like a charm. It saves money and time, and tastes amazing.

  6. Posted by Erin Doland - 01/07/2011

    @Anne — Good questions.

    The recipe is for a 2 lb. loaf pan.

    You need to add high gluten flour to whole wheat bread recipes. If you don’t, your bread won’t rise. Whole wheat flour doesn’t have enough gluten in it naturally, so you need to give it additional support. I’ve fiddled with this recipe for months to get the high gluten flour as low as possible, while still producing a decent bread. Unbleached white flour has some gluten in it, too, which is why it’s also making an appearance in this recipe. Think of these two flours as supporting cast members.

    Also know that not all brands of flours are made equally. Some all-purpose flours have a lot of gluten in them, while others barely any. Shirley Corriher writes about which brands are which in her book COOKWISE:

  7. Posted by Erin Doland - 01/07/2011

    @Bethany — I haven’t seen that book, but I’m familiar with that method. I’ll check out the book this week from my library. Thanks!

  8. Posted by Daphne - 01/07/2011

    We’ve had a bread machine for years and make a loaf every night before going to bed. (Family of 5 with three teenagers.) Nothing better than waking up to the smell of fresh-baked bread.

    Because our machine gets such heavy use, we’ve had to replace it a couple of times. We always buy from Costco — but here’s the deal: with a new machine, you often have to adjust the recipe a little bit. The machines are FUSSY!

    We also throw in flax seeds and sometimes millet. Nice for texture!

  9. Posted by Amy - 01/07/2011

    I had a bread machine but my bread never came out as it should unless I was using a mix. The mixes can cost more than a loaf. Additionally, I can buy a loaf of bread that is 100% whole grain. If anyone has a good tried and true recipe for 100% whole grain bread, I’d be willing to try again.

  10. Posted by Merikay - 01/07/2011

    I love my bread machine for pizza dough! Also I mix bread in it, let it go thru the first rise and then take it out, let it rise again in a regular pan and bake it in the oven. Best of both worlds. Easy to mix and no holes in the bread loaf.

  11. Posted by Anna - 01/07/2011

    What a timely post! I just got a bread machine for Christmas and LOVE it. (I become giddy every time I get to make a new loaf. :) ) So far I’ve only tried white bread recipes and I’ve been meaning to experiment with whole wheat, so I’m giving this one a go… looking forward to the taste test already!

  12. Posted by Sandi - 01/08/2011

    I echo Bethany’s comment about the book “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. It’s fantastic! In terms of saving space overall, it doesn’t really … you need a large proofing container that you keep in the refrigerator. And a “peel” (which also works great for pizza, so it’s not a unitasker :-) But the breads…yummmm!

  13. Posted by Sherri Mancusi - 01/08/2011

    I also cannot say enough about the both books by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois – “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day”. It’s cheap – the only equipment I use is a large Rubbermaid storage bin and a sideless cookie sheet – and easy. It literally takes 5 minutes to make dough for 3 loaves, there’s no kneading or multiple rises. Once the dough sits in the frig overnight, you rip off a piece, shape it, let it rise and stick it in the oven. You can even shape the dough in the morning and let it rise in the frig all day while you’re at work. And you get these great crusty loaves – the kind you pay $4 each for in the grocery store.

  14. Posted by Mark Hagewood - 01/08/2011

    I just put this recipe in my bread maker so I am anxious to see how it turns out in about 3 hours. FYI, I figured up the nutritional info and it is about 50 calories and less than 1 gram of fat for a 1 oz. slice (or 1 Weight Watchers point.)

  15. Posted by katie - 01/08/2011

    For those without a bread machine, the Sullivan Street Bakery technique for “no knead bread” is foolproof and produces and excellent, crusty loaf. You can find it on their website.

  16. Posted by wrennerd - 01/08/2011

    I wholeheartedly echo the comments about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day — it is fast and easy and convenient (since you can make the dough up to 2 weeks before, and bake a loaf as you need it). It’s better than any other bread I’ve ever made. Let us know on this forum if it turns out in a machine — but a machine is definitely not necessary for the recipe. If you’re on the fence about the book, try out the basic recipe first (available in multiple places online — search on “basic boule”). Try this link: http://www.sprinkledwithflour......boule.html

    After I’d made it a dozen times, I figured I owed them royalties, so I bought the book.

  17. Posted by Stephanie - 01/08/2011

    Oh, snap! I’ve been trying to eons to figure out why my bread machine loaves always sink… I see that you have a full half cup of high gluten flour. The instructions that I had were to add a tablespoon of vital gluten flour for each cup of flour in the recipe. So apparently that’s not enough. I can’t wait to try this recipe!
    Also, I have the same bread machine pictured above, and I love it. It’s worth the $ if you do a lot of bread machine baking.

  18. Posted by Empirical Baker - 01/09/2011

    I have not yet checked with the company, but I thought that King Arthur could not guarantee that their flour was peanut and tree nut free, because of the multiple suppliers that they use. Some of the processors have peanuts in their processing plants, and some do not. If you have more recent information, I would love to hear it! (All of their gluten free flours are allergen free.)

    And, I echo the Artisan Bread in Five discussion :)

  19. Posted by shebolt - 01/09/2011

    Bread machines are also great for making dough. We love homemade pizza and meat pies in our house.

    I often use the machine to make the dough, then form it into the shape I want before it bakes. I do this when I have guests coming because my bread machine makes an U.G.L.Y. loaf.

  20. Posted by Erin Doland - 01/09/2011

    @Empirical Baker — Five years ago, they couldn’t make the guarantees that they can today. They have changed a lot of their processes since 2007, and they have a couple peanut-free facilities now. The flours named in this recipe are all peanut free. You can call their consumer hotline for verification about these flours.

    I know nothing about tree nuts, as my son is not allergic to tree nuts (peanuts are legumes) and my walnut allergy isn’t sensitive to trace amounts of exposure. I have to eat a handful of walnuts to have a reaction.

    Some King Arthur flours are processed in factories w/ peanuts or contain peanuts (I know some of their boxed mixes contain chocolate, so those are definitely out), but none of those are used in this recipe or processed in the same plant as the flours in this recipe. Rumor has it the current CEO of King Arthur has a peanut-allergic child, which is why they changed many of their procedures. I wasn’t able to confirm that, though, when I talked with their customer service hotline. They now even have a gluten-free plant, and in addition to the entire facility being gluten-free, it’s also peanut free.

  21. Posted by Roxanne - 01/10/2011

    I just use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a dough hook. I bake bread every week and after 17 years it has become a no-brainer. I have the closet size kitchen issue so a bread machine is not going to fit. I bake quite a bit because of my son’s allergy issues (egg yolks, nuts) and the Kitchen Aid has a prominent position on what little counter space there is.

    Bob’s Red Mill is another good sourse for the nut and gluten challenged.

  22. Posted by Sarah - 01/19/2011

    I’m real curious to know how and where you store your homemade bread. Plastic, paper? Counter, frig? I can’t seem to find away that preserves the crust and/or the crumb. Since you’re interested in the science behind food stuff… What is your solution?

  23. Posted by EngineerMom - 01/20/2011

    I use my KitchenAid, too. I rise my bread in my oven after turning it on for 30 seconds, then leaving the oven light on for a bit of extra warmth. We keep our house fairly cool during the day in winter (60-65F), so it won’t rise on the counter.

    I bake my bread by positioning the loaves in the oven (I make 3 loaves at a time in loaf pans), then turning the oven on. It preheats with the loaves right there, so the oven is only on for 23 minutes total, about 10 minutes are consumed with preheating, and I don’t lose any heat by opening the oven to put the loaves in.

    I turn the oven off when the loaves are done, and since it’s an electric oven, it really doesn’t heat up the kitchen that much. Gas ovens will heat the kitchen up a lot more since they have to be vented, and much of the heat is lost that way.

    On gluten, you can buy straight wheat gluten, then just add a tablespoon or so to regular flour, or to whole wheat flour if you want 100% whole wheat bread. So if your cheap all-purpose flour doesn’t have a high gluten content (compare the grams of protein per 1/4 cup to that of King Arthur – you want something similar or higher), you can up the gluten content easily without buying super-expensive flour. In my experience, Meijer brand flour is fine for bread-making, while SuperTarget brand flour is too low in gluten and needs supplementing.

  24. Posted by EngineerMom - 01/20/2011

    @Sarah: The best way to store homemade bread is tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen. In general, h.m bread will keep for up to 1 week if kept in a ziploc bag on the counter, up to 2 days if left in the open air (it will dry out quickly in winter especially), and up to 3 months if frozen properly. Do NOT keep h.m. bread in the fridge. It does not have the proper preservatives and dough conditioners to survive that kind of storage.

    Also, h.m. bread will not have the same texture on day 2 as it did on day 1 when freshly baked. However, the texture it has on day 2 will be approximately the same as on day 5 if stored in a ziploc bag on the counter. Putting it in the bag will also soften the crust. If you want it to stay crusty, you have to store it cut side down on the counter, just out in the air. It WILL dry out after a day or two, which is why there are so many recipes for bread crumbs and stale bread.

    The sooner you freeze your bread, the fresher it will taste when thawed. To thaw: If you sliced your bread before freezing, just grab a slice and pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds or toast it. If you froze the whole loaf, let it sit, still wrapped in the plastic, on the counter overnight. Slicing frozen bread is nigh-on impossible, but if you use a serrated knife you might be able to get a slice off the end.

    I learned how to make bread at age 4, and I’ve been making almost all of my family’s bread for several years, mostly 50/50 whole wheat/white bread made with skim milk and no fat or eggs. It’s definitely cheaper (see for her expense estimate of homemade bread vs. storebought) for what you get, and I know exactly what goes into it. For me, it’s 2 hours start to finish, with about 20 minutes of “working” time – 5-10 minutes to knead the dough after it comes out of the mixer, then another 5-10 minutes to grease the loaf pans and shape the loaves. Not a lot of work, and even when I was working, it was easy to make the bread for the week on a weekend while also doing laundry. I wash my hands three times during the process – once before starting, once after the first knead, and once after the second knead. I’ve never used a bread machine in my life, and I never will.

  25. Posted by Susannah - 01/21/2011

    Another good source for cheap bread machines: eBay. Unlike goodwill, they’re often new, unused, even unopened: people get them as wedding gifts and don’t want them (or receive more than one).

    I love Artisan Bread in Five (baked in the oven on a pizza stone) but I’m the only one in the family who likes the crust. Husband and two preschoolers prefer the softer crust achieved by lightest setting on our bread machine.

  26. Posted by Ann - 01/21/2011

    I’m planning to try some of the no-knead breads because although I’ve used a bread machine many times and loved it–we used ours more to mix doughs of all kinds and then form and bake in the oven–I’ve decided to get rid of it. Out of health concerns about Teflon-type non-stick surfaces, I’ve stopped using non-stick pans, and haven’t been able to find a bread machine without a non-stick coating.

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