I was in graduate school the first time I made bread. Years before I became vegetarian, I was trying on vegetarianism as a weight-loss diet and cooking vegetarian dishes out of a popular cookbook of that era. For some reason, the book’s authors recommended cooking whole wheat bread in 2-quart cans, the kind juice comes in, and I followed that advice. (With what we know today about BPA, I shudder to think what leached into that bread.)
In those early days of my bread making, there was no white whole wheat flour, no vital wheat gluten, no bread machine, just me and my muscles and the most basic whole wheat flour, and the tube-shaped loaves I created were better suited for weight lifting that eating. My bread made even avowed bread-lovers like my parents run the other way when they’d see me stagger up their driveway with a basketful of heavy, brown cylinders.
But that was a long, LONG time ago, and I’ve learned a few things since then. First of all, I let my new bread machine do all the kneading, shaping, and even baking (in a rectangular pan, thank you very much). And I’ve learned that white whole wheat flour makes a much lighter loaf than traditional whole wheat flour and that vital wheat gluten helps trap more air bubbles so the bread rises higher. Finally, thanks to a tip by Philippa Sonnichsen, a reader of this blog, I found that one small substitution makes an even better loaf of whole wheat bread. And that secret ingredient is…
…bean broth. Or aquafaba, as people have started to call it. It’s simply the liquid in a can of beans or the broth that’s created when dried beans, usually chickpeas, are cooked. As it turns out, the liquid that most of us have been pouring down the sink can be whipped into meringues and used to replace eggs in lots of recipes. If you want to see some amazing uses of aquafaba, check out the Facebook group where I first learned about it.
We’ve been told for years to rinse the liquid off our canned beans (because it tastes bad, because it contains too much salt, because…), and though I do use the liquid from a can of chickpeas in my Hummus in the Blender, I was really reluctant to go much farther with aquafaba. The meringues and other desserts made with it depend on sugar to hold their shape once they’re whipped, so I couldn’t see any healthy uses for bean water. But when Philippa wrote to tell me that chickpea broth was improving the quality of her homemade bread, I just had to give it a try.
First I substituted it for the water in the bread I’d been making with a blend of whole wheat flour and bread flour, and it was a definite improvement. Then I decided to put it to the test in 100% whole wheat bread, and I was amazed. The whole wheat bread was almost identical in height to the bread made with a blend of flours, and though its texture was a little denser, the difference was hardly noticeable.
I used the liquid from two cans of chickpeas in the following recipe, which gave me about 1 2/3 cups of aquafaba. I topped it off with water to get the full amount of liquid needed for the recipe. (I used the chickpeas to make 3-Minute Chickpea Salad.) The chickpeas I had were salted, so I reduced the amount of salt in the recipe to account for that.
Fat-Free Whole Wheat Bread for Bread Machines
- Place the water or chickpea broth in the bread machine’s pan. Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed (or as recommended by your bread machine’s manufacturer.) Make sure the yeast doesn’t come into contact with the liquid by placing it in a shallow well at the top of the ingredients.
- Choose either a quick-bake whole wheat cycle (use 2 1/2 tsp. rapid rise yeast) or a regular whole wheat cycle (use 2 tsp. active dry yeast). Press start. Remove bread when baking is complete. Bread will slice best if allowed to cool first.
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.
Stir flour before measuring. Use nesting measuring cups and spoon flour into cups until over the top. Level by sweeping across the top with a knife.
Bread will slice better after it’s cooled.
To make an even lighter loaf, you can substitute bread flour for part of the whole wheat flour. Use these proportions:
1 2/3 cups water or aquafaba
2 2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (1 tsp. if using aquafaba)
2 1/2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (2 tsp. active dry yeast if using regular cycle)
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 2 hour(s) 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Nutrition (per serving): 134 calories, 6 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 221.5mg sodium, 154.6mg potassium, 27.6g carbohydrates, 4.4g fiber, 1.7g sugar, 6.5g protein.
Makes approximately 12 slices. Nutrition data is for one slice.
If you’d rather not use chickpea broth, I understand, and the recipe will still make a great loaf of bread. But if you give aquafaba a try–in this recipe or any bread recipe–leave a comment to let me know what you think.
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