Are you a fan of baking some nutrient-rich whole wheat bread but have had a bit of trouble getting your loaf to be as light and fluffy as you want?
If so, this article is the perfect read for you, as it will provide you with all of the information you need to get your whole wheat bread as fluffy as can be.
Once you are equipped with the right know-how, your bread is sure to rise to the occasion.
Whole Wheat Is Different
There are many of you out there who know how to make their loaves of bread fluffy and light and are confused as to why their whole wheat bread loaves are turning out harder and smaller than usual.
Along with several essential nutrients, bran and germ are also found in whole wheat bread. Due to their presence, baking this type of bread requires you to use more water in the dough, as bran and germ pull in moisture.
Their presence can also prevent your loaf from rising as much. This is an important piece of information to have when you are trying to make a fluffy loaf of whole wheat bread.
What Is Leavening?
When it comes to getting bread and other baked goods to rise, what is responsible for this are leavening gases. These gases also help give bread its flavor, texture, and coloration
The four most common types of leavening gases include steam, air, biological gases, and carbon dioxide. We will take a look at each of these below, but all work together to help your bread rise.
Understanding how leavening works is a great base of knowledge for figuring out how to get your bread to turn out fluffier. Thus, this section will be providing details about that very topic.
Water vapor gets trapped inside of baked goods, causing them to expand, or rise. This is a big part of what makes bread fluffy.
Air is created when your dough is moved around, such as while it is being folded or kneaded. This is also achieved by whipping foods.
This movement results in air bubbles getting stuck in the mixture, which helps to inflate it.
There are gases created by certain biological processes. This occurs when you use active yeast in a recipe. The yeast leads to fermentation.
There are two types of yeast that you can get. These include wild yeasts and commercial yeasts.
Carbon dioxide is a chemical-based leavening gas. It is the result of the use of ingredients such as baking soda and cream of tartar in your baked goods.
How to Make Your Bread Fluffier
Now that you know a little bit about how leavening gases help to get some fluff in your bread, you should learn about some different ways that you can get your whole wheat bread to turn out light and soft.
What this really all comes down to is getting enough leavening gases into your bread and keeping a good gluten structure intact.
The gluten structure is what keeps your bread standing tall, so you want to make sure you work with your dough with this in mind.
1 – Kneading
The way you knead your dough as well as the amount of time you spend doing it can greatly affect how fluffy your whole wheat bread turns out. Whole wheat flour contains bran and germ, and the bran is sharp enough to cut through the gluten in the bread.
Thus, if you knead your dough for too long or too forcefully, it can weaken the gluten structure of the dough, resulting in a flatter loaf.
About ten minutes of kneading should do the trick. Try to fold the dough onto itself rather than smashing it with your hands and fingers.
2 – Water
When it comes to any bread, the amount of water plays a huge role in the finished, baked product. Since water vapor is a leavening gas, it is important that there is enough of it in your dough.
This is even more vital for whole wheat bread dough, as it holds less moisture due to the bran and germ it contains.
The more water you use in your dough, the softer your bread will end up.
3 – Rising Time
The rising time of your dough is a huge factor in how inflated your bread ends up. The amount of time the dough needs to rise really just depends on how much yeast you used in it.
You can check to see if the dough has risen long enough by putting a finger into it, then pulling it out. If the dough grows back to its original form within a couple of seconds, it has risen for a sufficient period of time.
4 – Fats
Fats of all kinds, such as butter or vegetable oil, coat the gluten structure in your dough and hinder its rising ability.
Thus, if it’s possible to do so, try to wait to add any fats to the dough until right before you knead it, so toward the end of the mixing stage of preparation. This can help preserve the gluten structure and lead to fluffier whole wheat bread.
5 – Precise Measurements
Basically, with any recipe for a baked good, it is important to use precise measurements. This is especially the case with bread.
This is because too much or too little flour, yeast, or other ingredients can make a dramatic difference in how your loaf comes out of the oven.
Thus, you should always put in those extra seconds to measure any and all of your ingredients so you can ensure that your bread is fluffy, light, and ready to enjoy.
6 – Bread Flour
There is flour specifically designed for baking bread, which you should certainly consider using in your recipe.
This variety of flour has more protein in it than the regular kind, which helps to increase the amount of leavening gases.
7 – Moisture in Oven
Just as putting enough water in your dough is extremely important for fluffy bread, so is having enough moisture in your oven.
There are a couple ways to make sure that you have sufficient moisture. One is by simply putting some water in an oven-safe dish or bowl and placing it in the oven with the loaf.
You can also use a baking stone, which helps hold in moisture. To make your oven as moist as possible, you could employ both techniques.
However you add moisture to your oven, as long as you do, you are much more likely to end up with a fluffy loaf of whole wheat bread.
8 – Cool Loaf
One trick for light, fluffy bread that is often overlooked is letting your loaf sit with enough cool air around it right after you remove it from the oven.
This allows the loaf to release gases, keeping its structure sturdy.
9 – Active Yeast
A mistake that a lot of people make when baking bread is using expired yeast. Those people who do not often bake bread are affected the most by this, since they end up keeping yeast in their cupboards for months before using it again.
You should always check to make sure that your yeast is not expired as this can leave it inactive, and therefore, useless in the rising process of your bread. This is because it will no longer make those biological leavening gases that fluff your bread up.
Even if your yeast is expired according to the date on its container, you can actually do a quick and easy test to see if it is still active. Simply add a bit of it to some warm water, and then check it ten minutes later.
If it has bubbles in it, it is still active and okay to use in your bread.
10 – Scoring
To prevent your loaf from rupturing, it is a necessary step to cut into the top of it before putting it in the oven for baking. However, if you make your cuts too far into the loaf, or if you make too many cuts, it can result in a dense loaf of whole wheat bread, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
When you make your cuts in the loaf, try not to go too crazy. Make a few shallow scores so you end up with that fluffy whole wheat bread you desire.
It should be apparent that there are several factors that you need to juggle during every process of baking bread. Whole wheat bread is a bit more complicated to bake than white bread, so keep this in mind if you have never baked a loaf of whole wheat.
As was stated before, the fluffiness of your bread depends on those leavening gases and the gluten structure; these are the keys to that perfectly soft, puffy loaf that you can sink your teeth into without them breaking.
As long as you provide your dough with that good structure and those essential gases, you are sure to end up with some delicious whole wheat bread.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.