All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beard's "William Melville Childs'" Health Bread

"William Melville Childs'" Health Bread

This bread was "perfected" by a Baltimore resident for a benefit cookbook put out by the Walters Art Gallery.  William Melvill Child's Health bread is supposed to use whole-wheat berries that are ground into course meal.  I haven't done that here, but if the bread is wonderful, I may decide to do so, next time I make it.  I wanted a fast bread that could be made in one day, and this one fit the bill.

James Beard's book, "Beard on Bread" includes a version of the recipe in the section on Whole-Meal Breads, and I jumped right in to making it without understanding the recipe and its variation; without actually reading all the ingredients first, to be honest.  In his discussion of the bread, Beard says "His variation on this recipe which follows, uses absolutely no white flour and has a somewhat denser texture; but also more flavor."

"That's for me," I thought, and I started measuring out the ingredients.  But I didn't realize that the truly 100% whole wheat version -- the one I wanted -- was the variation that Beard includes after the one I make here.

Beard does use some all-purpose flour in his version of the recipe.  By the time I got to that ingredient in the list, I just groaned and continued to follow Beard's recipe as faithfully as I could, all the while thinking, "He lies, he lies".  I really didn't get it, until I started putting the notes together for this blog entry.

Next time I make this (if ever I do), I will make the 100% whole wheat variation.

Here are the weights I measured as I made the (2) loaves:

  • 23g Active Dry Yeast
  • 177g Warm Milk
  • 15g Granulated Sugar
  • 533g boiling water
  • 201g quick-cooking Oats
  • 540g whole wheat flour
  • 193g dark molasses
  • 29g butter
  • 20g (sea) salt
  • 538g all-purpose flour

Hydration Math
I never know how to calculate hydration in a bread like this.  Does one add the molasses to the water and milk, since it certainly does add some liquid to the whole?  Does one add the oats to the flours, when calculating everything that, in baker's math, totals to 100%? 

Let's do it for every case:

Adding the milk, water, and molasses together as the liquid, and both flours, this bread is 84% hydrated; if you add the weight of the oats to the flour, consider it 71% hydrated.  Or, if you don't want to exclude the molasses as part of the hydration, the values are 66% (without oats) or 56% (with oats).


 The yeast is proofed in warm milk and sugar.  It expands and multiplies quickly. 

 The boiling water is added to the whole wheat flour and oats;

 when the temperature here is relaxed somewhat, the warm mixture of salt, molasses and butter is stirred in,
 as well as the yeast mixture. 
 Finally, the all-purpose flour is added, all but about one cup, which later gets kneaded in anyway.

The dough rises to double,

is kneaded for 12 minutes, the rest of the flour incorporated,
before kneading

five minutes of kneading

ten minutes of kneading

and it is divided and placed in pans. 
Again the dough is expected to double,

the loaves are scored,

and then it is baked for an hour at 350 degrees F.

When shaping the loaves, I tried two different techniques.  The loaf on the right was shaped as a boule, and then slightly elongated to fit the narrow pan.  I didn't worry about pressing it down into the end corners.  The loaf on the left was pressed flat, and then rolled up tightly before fitting it into the pan.

The boule-shape, the one I was slightly more gentle with, saw a greater rise while proofing., and filled out into the corners of the pan all by itself.  The other dough, the one I rolled up tightly, was perhaps a bit overhandled. 

I also slashed both loaves differently.  The one on the right got two slashes, the one on the left was slashed once, lengthwise.  In my opinion, the one that was slashed twice was deflated more because of it.

I used a pan of water to make steam during the initial part of baking.


This is a typical sandwich style loaf, fairly sweet.  There are enough oats to see some some of them in the crumb, but not really enough to change the taste or structure of the bread.  I'm still not completely sold on molasses as a sweetener, but it does complement the natural bitterness of the whole wheat, so I can see why it has been traditionally used.


Notes to Myself

  • This bread uses a lot of sugar (both granulated, and in the form of molasses), and a lot of yeast.  I was frankly alarmed at how much yeast I was using.  Two tablespoons!  Of course my dough rose quickly, especially when I put it in the other room near the wood fire, where things are nice and toasty.

  • I could use a lot less yeast in this dough and achieve the same results over a slightly longer time, I'm sure.  I might not get the same sort of amazing rise in the loaf if I did this, but I would feel better about it, and no doubt the taste will be superior, I'm sure.
  • Next Time: use 1 Tbsp Yeast.  Use the Whole Wheat variation of the loaf.  Use less molasses.  Use a longer proofing time.
  • Use a tight boule shape before putting this dough into the pan.
  • Before baking, give it one quick slash along its length.


  1. This sandwich loaf looks good. I got a tip from king Arthur flour that if add orange juice to wholewheat flour, it will reduce the bitterness.

  2. It's a thought.

    I'm sure that I've used OJ before in bread (Although the classic King Arthur Whole wheat bread recipe that I made here ( didn't have OJ. Good thing, too: my take on that bread was it was far too sweet already.)

    I don't buy a lot of OJ since I read Alissa Hamilton's book "Squeezed: What you don't know about orange juice". And I usually eat the whole orange rather than make my own juice.

    I've been thinking though, that adding all these extra sugars -- white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, or even Orange Juice (because OJ is fructose +/-) -- to a food (bread) that is essentially a starch is, I feel, a step in the wrong direction. I think (but still don't know for sure) that too many simple carbs in a bread is going to spike the insulin response far beyond what an unenriched whole grain bread will do, and that is not going to be healthy in the long term.

    Besides, I sort of like the bitterness of whole grains: or, rather, I don't taste it exactly as bitter any more. By insisting on whole grains, one's tastes change.

  3. Hi there, I had a friend who made the grind-it-yourself super grainy version of this bread, and I really loved it. It was super flavorful and intensely chewy and grainy. I think it is the original version of this bread, which could be why there's so much yeast, those grains seem like they will be heavy! I'm going to make it this weekend, I'll let you know how it turns out.

  4. Cool! I'd love to hear about it. If it is a hit, I'll try grinding my own for this recipe too. I think that I would use slightly more oats and slightly less yeast, next time I make this (and maybe the OJ idea, with less molasses): that's just my taste, though.

    Its fun to rediscover these older recipes and remake them. An incredible number of ways to make bread, isn't there? And just changing the order or timing of ingredients can make a huge difference in the outcome...

  5. Hi, I'm back, I've made my first loaf of bread, or brick of bread which is more accurate. I don't know how you calculate hydration, but the grind it yourself wheat version must be something like 30-40% hydrated! And it IS delicious, although I think I either have further to go on the bread learning curve in general and/or I will add more liquid next time I make this so it's not so darned dense.

    My pal who shared this recipe with me said the only way to make bread really flavorful was to grind the flour oneself, and I am inclined to agree with her. Since my interest in baking bread is to buy less prepared foods, it seems silly to work at baking bread that is a lot like what we can buy locally. There is a great food community here, and I can get wood fired oven crusty white or wheat loves : ) But these super grainy ones have to be homemade.

    So I'd love you to make this version of the bread too, it seems you like hefty bread too, and challenges, and it will be one! Then I can benefit from your experience and expertise! I am going to make the Fertig Caraway rye next (can I add more rye and less wheat?) and also a really crazy all rye berry, caraway, sesame and a little rye flour bead I ate in Big Sur at Esalen last month. It's like a black brick!

    I love your blog, thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Whoa. I never said I had expertise. No one is ever more amazed than me when a bread I make comes together nicely. Experience swings both ways: I make a lot of disastrous bread, too, and I don't try to hide it here.

    I will try grinding my own whole wheat flour next time, as per your suggestion. But here too one can achieve a lot of variation: how fine does one grind it? I can run some berries through a grinder and have them the consistency of cracked wheat, or I can mill them down to the finest powder. I personally love the taste of cracked wheat, but chunks this big likely need some kind of cooking or soaking to release their taste. It is going to be a balance between keeping these things a bit crunchy and making them too soft.

    Pulling the flavour from the grain is a combination of many things, not just grinding it yourself. It is true that the fresher the milling, the better the oil from the kernel (healthwise); but green flour, or flour that has not been cured, has its own problems (baking-wise). Again, finding a balance is a bit of a hit-and-miss thing. I miss at least as often as I hit.

    I like the taste of rye, and believe without much evidence that it is a healthier grain over all than wheat. Most rye bread recipes will have some wheat in them, though; and I think that this is because wheat has given bakers and consumers such a different expectation of what bread is. Rye alone, or rye in a combination with wheat in a ratio of >50%, just doesn't feel the same to bakers. If you can get over that expectation, and can tolerate having your hands in goo rather than dough, you can make a rye loaf with lots (or all) rye no problem. I have read, though, that for rye gluten to form properly (and some say, for the taste to fully develop), it requires a sourdough-like environment, a different pH. That is why most flavourful ryes are sourdough or have other ingredients that emulate this environment.

    If you have a recipe for that Esalen loaf, I'd love to see it!

  7. Whoa acknowledged, but compared to me in this area, you IS an expert!

    I saw what was happening as I ground the wheat, and elected to keep it sort of 50/50 fine to coarse grain, and I believe it was the finer stuff that reacted with the yeast to make the gluten to pull the bread together when I kneaded, or rather pummelled it. It seems like it could benefit from having some of the whole grains cooked before adding them, for more flavor, chew and air.

    I'm totally with you on rye, and I absolutely love the taste of it. The Esalen recipe -- for which I have a recipe for 18-20 loaves (must reduce) utilizes only rye berries and rye flour, and sourdough rye starter, no is the heaviest bread I've ever eaten. I've got a wild yeast guy on board for that one, and I'll share the recipe when I've reduced it.

  8. I've made this bread again, here:

    But I still haven't milled my own whole wheat flour for it. Next time.

  9. I just made this bread again myself, and I soaked the grainiest bits of my flour (imperfectly milled in the blender) in boiling water to try to make a more moist chewy loaf. It was a much bigger loaf than the first time, containing more moisture, so I made its final rise on my pizza stone and also baked it there. The bread has a wonderful (a bit too moist) texture and is delicious.

  10. @Qwendy

    Hi. I have also been to Esalen recently and loved the rye bread there - you are right it is like a black brick but so delicious. Would you please, please, please be able to email me the recipe for the "dark russian rye bread" from the Esalen cookbook, I seem to be unable to buy the book here in England and would love to recreate the bread. My email address is: - I would be so greatful if you could email it to me.

    Thank in advance. Jana

  11. Your choice if you want to hang your email out there for the world to see. Or if the unwary want to respond to it.

    If you are for real, Google Books might be able to help you. Is this the recipe you're looking for? Check it out at:

  12. Oops, no, that was the esalen sourdough rye. This is the Russian Rye: