Bread Baker: Healthy Honey Wheat Bread

After I started baking bread on a regular basis, my goal was to eliminate store-bought bread completely from my shopping list. The hardest part of that challenge was to find a suitable replacement sandwich loaf.

Big bread companies like Oroweat and Sara Lee have mastered the art of the healthy whole-wheat sandwich bread, with a per-slice calorie count of about 60. My challenge was to try and replicate that figure at home.

I looked high and low for healthy bread options and came up empty. I e-mailed King Arthur Flour’s baker’s hotline to ask for advice. The response I got back wasn’t that encouraging. “I’m afraid that the home baker will not be able to compete with this commercially prepared loaf,” Frank from King Arthur Flour replied.

Undaunted, I kept searching for recipes, and came across one that pledged to be healthy. Its ingredients certainly fit the part – they included whole wheat flour, oat and wheat bran, flax seeds, oats and applesauce. I mixed up a loaf and baked it. My wife liked it, and its calorie count came in at 85 per slice. I had found my go-to sandwich loaf, which I called my brown bread.

I was reluctant to publish the recipe for this bread on The Manly Housekeeper, however. I want to demonstrate that baking bread can be easy, and making a loaf of this brown bread is kind of a pain. It requires 15 different ingredients, including things like dry milk and vital wheat gluten.

I decided I would try to make my own healthy bread recipe with fewer ingredients that were easier to acquire. I set 85 calories/slice as my upper limit. I knew I wanted the foundation of my recipe to be white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat is still real whole wheat, with the bran and germ in the flour. It is simply a different strain of wheat with a much milder flavor.

I was wary of only using whole wheat flour, however. Whole wheat flours don’t develop gluten as easily, so they usually don’t rise as high. I included one cup of bread flour to aid in the rising process.

To up the healthiness of this bread I added more wheat bran, plus a couple tablespoonfuls of oats. They increase the protein and fiber in the loaf. Whole wheat bread recipes usually include sugar – as much as half a cup. Because white whole wheat flour has a natural sweet taste, I cut the sweetener level to just two tablespoons of honey.

I ran my calorie calculations – 77 calories/slice. Nice! I baked the loaf and tested it; it was delicious. It rose well in the pan, had just a hint of honey, and was a bread that would work well for either turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

This morning I was thinking more about my bread recipe and wondering how the loaf would turn out if I only baked with white whole wheat flour. Since the rising times are short, it was no trouble to quickly throw a loaf together and have it ready by lunchtime. The verdict? Just as good, with an even lower calorie count (71) and increased fiber (2.3 grams), thanks to the additional whole wheat.

Developing a new sandwich bread was a great learning experience for me. I came up with a recipe that was easier to make and had fewer calories with no significant loss of fiber or protein. I also cut my ingredients list from 15 to 7.

My healthy honey wheat bread isn’t a perfect copy of grocery store bread; it’s a little more dense (that makes it a bit chewier, which I think is a good thing). In every other aspect, however, I’m competitive. Plus, I can keep sandwich bread off my grocery list.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned or quick-cook oats
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Step 1. Combine all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Measure the water and then add and mix the honey. Pour the honey water into the dry ingredients, then knead until a smooth dough has formed, 5-10 minutes.

 

Step 2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 hour.

 

 

 

 

Step 3. Dump the risen dough out onto a lightly floured cookie sheet and stretch it into a rough square.

 

 

 

Step 4. Fold the dough in thirds and shape it into a log. Place the log of dough into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Step 5. Let the dough rise again for about 90 minutes, until the dough has completely filled the pan and has crested about 1 inch above. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 6. Bake between 35 and 40 minutes, until the top of the loaf has browned or an instant-read thermometer measures 190 degrees F.

Step 7. Remove the bread from its pan quickly so water doesn’t condense. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.

1 loaf makes 20 slices.

  • Sam

    Sounds good.  The simpler the better.

  • AML

    Trying this is a must… looks so yummy and healthy too

  • Lauren

    I can’t wait to try making this!

  • Lisa C

    I decided to make this tonight as well as make some homemade yogurt.. only to realize i have one oven. It was either waste an entire 1/2 gallon of milk or postpone the bread until tomorrow. Needless to say, my dough is nestled safely in the fridge while my yogurt incubates in the oven. I’m so excited to bake the loaf tomorrow. I’ve been itching to make this bread for weeks now but had some leftover pitas i had to work my way through. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    • Lisa C

      Okay, so i just made it before and it’s awesome. My cooking thermometer said 190 degrees so i took it out but it’s still a little undercooked in the middle. OH WELL! I’m sure it being in the fridge for 15+ hours didn’t help. I also added 4 tsp of vital wheat gluten hoping it would make it fluffier and followed your folding method. It still came out really dense but once again, i’m sure the fridge hindered those two things. It’s still delicious though and that’s all that matters. Next time i’ll make sure my oven is free and bake it after the second rise. THANK YOU!

  • sharonlr

    This is excellent! Easy to make and delicious. Thanks so much for sharing.
    We’ve been making it once a week. Great for sandwiches and toasted.

  • Dewindoet

    I can’t wait to try making this too …. thanx for sharing!!

  • nicci

    i’ve made this recipe twice already and my husband thinks its too dense. he prefers the light store bought bread. is tehre any way to make this lighter (not calorie lighter but just not so dense)?

  • faifai

    just sliced up a loaf of this bread that i made today; first of all, i don’t have white wheat flour, just regular whole wheat flour. also, i don’t have any wheat bran. everything else was exactly the same. and it’s AWESOME! so so awesome! not too dense for me, the crust is delicious, it’s everything i want in my every-day sammich bread. i managed to get 17 slices out of my loaf (how did you get 20? do you have magical bread slicing skills) and it comes out to 91 calories a slice. sure, i can get 50 calorie bread at the store, but it’s so much better when you know what exactly is in your food, not to mention the feeling of satisfaction at making it yourself!
    next time, i’ll see what can be done combining it with some Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain whole-grain flour.

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