You’d think Diana Black Ballard (’76) owned a bakery: she’s made 6,200 loaves of bread, along with thousands of batches of muffins and cookies—all with whole wheat. “My husband and I decided to maintain a basic food supply because we wanted to ensure our children never experienced debilitating hunger,” Ballard says. Though an accomplished baker, she found working with whole wheat challenging at first. Now she is a specialist who has written the book Master Bread Making Using Whole Wheat.
“Early in our marriage we purchased a small churn-by-hand wheat grinder and a few pounds of wheat. I was determined to be successful on my first attempt, but my loaf of bread ended up being a brick,” Ballard says. She realized whole-wheat bread required more than simply following a recipe.
“Start with a high-quality hard white spring or hard red winter wheat with at least 13 percent protein,” she says. “Use a fine setting on the electric or manual grinder when making wheat flour, always use fresh yeast, and bake in cast-iron pans—they have even heat properties.”
Ballard encourages aspiring bakers to learn how to make bread dough by hand before relegating the task to a machine. “You need to knead bread dough at least 10 minutes. This is crucial for the gluten, the elastic framework of bread, to develop. Besides, it is a great way to work out frustrations,” she quips.
Learning the art of baking with whole wheat was one thing; getting her family to eat it was another. “I bribed them with whole-wheat cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese frosting, whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies, and whole-wheat waffles with strawberries and whipped cream—after that it was easy to introduce whole-wheat bread into their diet,” she says.
But Ballard does warn of one possible repercussion for aspiring bakers: once Ballard earned a reputation in her neighborhood for her baked goods, an interesting phenomenon occurred: “Nobody ever brings me hot bread!” she laments.
Whole Wheat Pecan-Onion Bread
(Auto Bakery Recipe)
1 1/4 cups scalded warm milk
1/4 cup softened butter
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups wheat flour
3 Tbsp. gluten flour
2 tsp. instant yeast
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Measure ingredients into the bread maker in the order listed, except the pecans. Set the machine on the raisin bread cycle. When the bread maker beeps, add the pecans.