Hi-Protein Wheat Sandwich Bread

March 8, 2009

I get bored with making my regular wheat sandwich bread, and occasionally change things up a bit to keep life interesting (hey, it’s either that or I start watching Desperate Housewives — which would you pick?). Since Townes (my 3-year old) has an array of dietary constraints topped with a dollop of attitude, I’m always looking for sneaky ways to get complete proteins into his little body. One thing he’ll eat without question is bread — so it seemed like a good target.

I recently remembered reading a recipe in the Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook. I had been looking at bread recipes using soy flour, planning to grind my own with my new grain mill (so far I’ve only milled wheat berries). When I consulted Laurel, I found that she recommended using cooked soybeans rather than soy flour, since the flour tends to add a bitterness to the bread. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so I simply added cooked, ground soybeans to my regular bread recipe. What resulted were edible, but very small loaves. The addition of the beans retards the rising a bit; so I went back to the drawing board. Starting with the same amount of flour as Laurel’s recipe, I adjusted my recipe percentages accordingly (the flour being 100%), added half the soybeans she calls for, and gave it a go. What resulted was two 2-pound loaves that were beautifully shaped, nicely textured, flavorful, and doubled in protein (as compared to my regular bread). You don’t even know the soybeans are there, except for an ever-so-slightly chewier texture. The crust gets a little browner, too — I’m guessing that’s due to the slightly extended baking time.

The key to adding beans is to do so after the gluten (the stuff that makes the dough stretchy) is fully developed (this is what you’re doing when you knead dough). This way, the addition doesn’t muck up that process, and you get a lovely dough that’s quite similar to regular wheat dough, with just flecks of soybean pieces here and there.

I buy a pound or so of soybeans in bulk at the health food store. I soak them about 4 hours, then rinse them well (look for any stones at this point), and cook them in my slow-cooker for about 4 hours, until tender. Drain the cooked soybeans, let cool, and then measure out 1-cup portions into plastic sandwich bags. Place all of those bags into a larger zip-freezer bag, and stick in the freezer. You can pull out a ready-made portion of beans for your bread each time you make it (either set them out a few hours early, or thaw in the microwave in a glass bowl). I grind mine in the mini-prep attachment on my immersion blender.

It’s our new favorite bread. Until, of course, I once again tire of the same-old same-old, and feel the need for change. I’ll keep you updated; but ’till then, have at it, if you so choose:

Hi-Protein Wheat/Soybean Sandwich Bread
(makes two 2-pound loaves)

  • 2 1/2 cups warm (about 100ºF — warmer than your wrist) water
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
  • 1 Tbsp table salt
  • 1 cup cooked and ground soybeans, room-temperature

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the water, oil and honey; stir to combine or until honey dissipates. Add the flour, then sprinkle the yeast on top. With the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until a rough dough forms, stopping once to scrape down the bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, sprinkle the salt over the dough, and knead on medium speed for about 10 minutes. If the dough doesn’t come away from the bowl after about 4 minutes, add all-purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Stop the mixer and flip the dough about halfway through kneading, or if the dough climbs the hook. At the end of kneading, the dough should be smooth and soft, and still a little sticky.

With the mixer still running, sprinkle the soybeans over the dough a little at a time, waiting until incorporated before adding more. Once all soybeans have been added, remove to a flour-sprinkled surface and knead a bit by hand, if you desire (you can omit this step if you’re sure the dough is complete).

Place dough in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled or sprayed with cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured surface, and divide in half. Knead each half into a ball, and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes (this is a good time to pull out your loaf pans, and grease thoroughly — get in those corners! — with shortening).

After the dough has rested, you can shape your loaves. The easiest way to do this is to roll each piece of dough into a rectangle that’s about as wide as your loaf pan is long. Roll up the dough, starting at one of the short ends, pinch the seam together, and place seam-side down in the loaf pan. Repeat this with your other piece of dough.

Cover the pans lightly with plastic wrap, and let rise another hour or so (the dough should dome up over the top of the pans; you know it’s done rising when you gently press your finger into the dough, and the impression either doesn’t fill in, or fills in very slowly). Preheat your oven to 375º after about 45 minutes, so it’ll have about 15-20 minutes to heat up before putting in the pans. I highly recommend getting a cheap oven thermometer to gauge the temperature of your oven — you can get them for about $3 at a discount store, and the dial on ovens is almost never correct.

Place the pans in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Don’t open the oven door! Then reduce the oven temp to 350º, and continue baking an additional 15 minutes (45 minutes total baking time).

Remove the loaves from the pans onto a cooling rack, and let cool completely before slicing.

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