Fern’s Whole Wheat Bread

One of the wonderful things about this blog is that I am getting e-mails from family and friends who want to share their recipes.  Recipes that they are clearly proud of.  This recipe for whole wheat bread was sent to me by my sister-in-law Fern, who lives in Bet Shemesh, Israel.  Recently retired from her professional career as an attorney, Fern is traveling, swimming and baking.  My husband, the other baker among the siblings, tried this out last night.  I arrived in Los Angeles from my NYC flight (where I served my cholent) after midnight and I came home to this freshly made, chewy and dense bread.  It is delicious and perfect for a sandwich.  Thanks Fern!!  The recipe makes two nice sized loaves.

Fern’s Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole rye flour (can be replaced by whole wheat)
1 cup mixed grains (any combination of wheat germ, wheat bran, rolled oats, oat bran, millet, ground flax,  quinoa, bulgur)
2 cups white bread flour
1 tbsp light brown sugar or honey
2 tbsp dry yeast or 50 gm (2 oz) fresh yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil and some for oiling the bowl
3 cups water at room temp.
1/4 cup crushed raw walnuts and/or unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together flours and grains.  Make a well and add sugar or honey.  Add yeast and then 2 cups of  the water.  Mix well, using a wooden spoon.  Add salt and oil and continue mixing.  Add more water as necessary until dough forms a sticky mass.  Knead on floured surface, adding more bread flour as necessary, until dough becomes pliable and elastic, five to ten minutes.  Dough will be slightly dense.  Form into a ball, oil and place in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until dough doubles in size, about 11/2 hours.  Remove dough from bowl, punch down and cut in two. Use bread flour if necessary on working surface.  Roll each piece into a round about the size of a dinner plate, about a quarter of an inch thick.  Crushed walnuts and/or sunflower seeds may be sprinkled on the surface of the rounds.  Roll up each round, forming a loaf.  Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.  Bake at 360 F for 50 minutes until golden and sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on rack.  Bread will freeze well either sliced or whole.


The scent of dough rising in the kitchen can create so many associations.  It can bring us back to the bakeries we frequented as children, holding on to our mothers’ hands, and eating the sprinkle cookie given to us by the woman behind the counter.  It can remind us of a flour covered apron worn by a grandmother making Challah.  My own mother would make blueberry buns from blueberries that I was sent out to collect with my sister near my aunt’s house in Lakewood, New Jersey.  There is something special about working with yeast, it has that distinctive lifelike quality and scent, always recognizable, like an old friend in the kitchen.  My husband has recently started making home-made bagels, hazelnut flutes and artisanal French breads.  They are wonderful, wheaty, warm and yeasty.
January, even in California, is a perfect time to bake.  A warm kitchen is so inviting so go ahead and create a memory that your children will cherish. The scent of yeast.

Here is my tried and true recipe for challah.  Be creative and add some dried cranberries, some chocolate chips, some dried figs or dates and most of all, have fun.

½ cup oil
3 tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
½ cup cold water
2 pkgs dried yeast
1/3 cup warm water
3 eggs
7-8 cups all purpose flour

Put oil, salt and sugar in large bowl, add 1 cup boiling water and stir till sugar is dissolved.  Then add ½ cup cold water and stir.  Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water along with a pinch of sugar and proof for several minutes till bubbly.  In a small bowl beat 3 eggs and add to cooled oil mixture. Then add yeast and stir.  Add 7 cups of flour, one at a time, and stir after each cup.  Put dough on floured board and knead for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Put in oiled bowl and let rise until double, about two hours.  Punch down and knead gently for several minutes.  Divide and make 2 large challahs or four medium sized.  Let stand 45 minutes.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown.