Milk bread is ideal for sandwiches or for toasting. It produces a softer, tighter crumb and a softer crust than breads made with water. Made with wholemeal, or wholewheat, flour, this loaf smells and tastes as real bread should!
Bread isn’t difficult if you break the process down into 3 steps. Each step involves a ‘wait period’ during which you can get on with something else. For more information about the technique I use, here’s a link to my page on Breadmaking.
Whole Wheat Milk Bread
- Step 1
- Preparation time: 5–10 minutes
- Waiting time: 30 minutes
- Step 2
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Waiting time: About 1 hour 30 minutes
- Step 3
- Preparation time: 10–15 minutes
- Waiting time: 1 hour
- Cooking time: 35–40 minutes
- 455 g (1 lb) wholemeal/whole wheat flour (3 cups + 2½ tbsp)
- 65 g (2 oz) strong white/all purpose flour (½ cup)
- 360 ml (12¾ fl oz) semi-skimmed/2% milk (warm, about 40°C/100°F) (1½ cups)
- 10 g (1 tbsp) instant yeast
- 10 g (1½ tsp) salt
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 56 g (2 oz) unsalted butter (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
- olive oil for oiling the bowl and tin
- Step 1
- Pour the flour into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add most of the milk and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or a plastic dough scraper. If some flour is left in the bottom, add the remainder of the milk. It may not need it all. Just make sure that all the flour has been taken up.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to stand for 20-30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare for the next step by weighing out the salt, yeast, sugar, and butter.
- Step 2
- At the end of the 20–30 minutes, melt the butter and add it with the salt, yeast, and sugar to the mixture, making sure that the yeast doesn’t come into contact with a wodge of salt, and mix well.
- Cover the bowl with the tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
- Lightly oil your hands and the work surface, and tip the dough out. Take the edge of the dough that’s furthest away from you and fold it towards you to meet the near edge. Push it into the dough with your fingers or the heel of your hand, stretching it gently away from you. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this 8 to 10 times, then rotate the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl.
- Cover with the tea towel again, leave for 10 minutes, and repeat the fold and stretch.
- Cover again and leave for 10 minutes. While waiting, lightly oil another large bowl for the dough to rise in. Then fold and stretch the dough for a third time.
- The dough should now be smooth and silky. Tip it out and shape it into a ball. Put it into the lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
- Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.
- Depending on the kind of loaf you want, prepare for the shaping while you wait. If you want a classic rectangular shape as shown in the photograph, prepare a loaf tin. (For this amount of dough, I use one which measures 23.5 × 13.3 × 7 cm /9¼ × 5¼ × 3 in. Lightly oil the whole of the inside to prevent the loaf sticking.) If making a natural-shaped loaf, say a cob or a boule, line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Step 3
- Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. It should feel smooth. Then flatten it out into a rectangle, with a short side towards you. Lift the dough from the furthest edge and fold it down towards you about half way. Press the edge down with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough round and repeat. Then shape the dough.
- For the classic shape
- Flatten the dough into a rectangle, short side towards you, with the width about the length of the loaf tin. Roll the dough up away from you making sure that the join ends up at the bottom. Place the dough in the tin, moulding as necessary to make sure it's even along its length.
- For a natural shape
- Rotate the dough into a ball and shape appropriately. Place on the baking tray.
- Cover with the tea towel or cling film and leave to prove for at least another hour. You can tell when it's ready when it's doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.
- Before the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (gas 6).
- Dust the top of the dough with flour and slash the top lengthways with a sharp knife. Then bake for 35–40 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn out the loaf and tap it on the bottom – it should sound hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
- * Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.
Updated: March 10, 2017