How many of you are staring at that title, remembering that just 1 month ago I balked at the Bread Baking Day theme of 100% whole grain? What’s changed, you ask?
I got Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads for my birthday.
It has been on my wish list since before its release date. I am a huge fan of his The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and I figured this book could be the book that changed my mind about baking with whole grains. So far I think I was right.
And what on earth does 24 hours have to do with any of it? Well, nothing, but we stopped by the property again as there has been a little snafu with the kitchen design and we wanted to walk the interior. So more pictures! (Sorry if you have no interest in my house and are growing very bored with these).
OK so this is absurdly dark, but I love the shot of the setting sun (ok so it is gone) out my front door.
Anyway, about the bread. One of the things I like about Reinhart’s method of bread making is his reliance on delayed fermentation for extra flavor. This basically means he likes using less yeast with longer rise times for greater flavor development. If you love French bread, for example, you are benefiting from delayed fermentation, since all that is in French bread is flour, water, yeast and salt. But because French bread is made with long rise times, and in some cases by making bigas (a dough that starts rising a day or 2 before you make the bread and is then incorporated into the bread–I think of it as sourdough lite) it has incredibly complex and wonderful flavor. In a professional bakery they will frequently even use a pinch of the previous day’s dough, leading to really amazing flavors (which is not so practical for the home baker unless you are making French bread quite frequently). French bread is much more than the sum of its parts. Since I don’t really love the taste of whole wheat so much you can see why this method might attract me. And if my explanation is confusing, well, I recommend you either check out some of Susan’s tutorials over at Wild Yeast or check out his books–both of them explain breadbaking much better than I do–I mostly just kind of understand it, but not enough to teach it very well.
Reinhart’s method for whole grain breads relies on bigas–that’s the delayed fermentation part–and “soakers.” Soakers are, to put it simply, whole grains soaked in liquid. The process allows for the softening of the grains (necessary in some cases) and it also activates enzyme production–which is getting way over my head but it leads to better flavor. According to Reinhart, it gets the maximum amount of flavor out of the grain. Lastly, because of the large amount of fiber in the whole grains, soaking them softens the sharp edges of the bran, reducing tearing of the gluten we want to develop and providing for better structure in the bread.
OK, even if you just skipped the previous paragraph, just trust me–and Reinhart–and use the soaker.
What does all of this mean? This bread is NOT labor intensive–but it does require PLANNING AHEAD. My biga and soaker sat in my fridge for 3 days–you don’t need to wait 3 days, 12 hours is the minimum, but I figured that the longer it sat, the tastier it would be, and I knew I wanted to serve the bread with a lamb stew I would be making (and will be sharing with you). Aside from the wait time, I can honestly say that this bread is no more difficult than any other bread I have made. And like all of Reinhart’s doughs, it is a dream to work with.
One note before starting–I am willing to experiment but saw no reason to go crazy with it. 🙂 I used all WHITE whole wheat flour in this recipe. You may use whichever sounds better to you. And as always, be sure to check out Yeastspotting over at Wild Yeast.
1 3/4 cups (8 oz/227 g) whole wheat flour (see note above)
1/2 t salt
3/4 cup + 2 T (7 oz/198 g) buttermilk (you may also use milk, soy milk, yogurt or rice milk–as always I love the buttermilk best)
Mix all of the soaker ingredients together until the flour is hydrated and the mixture forms a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rest at room temperature for 12-24 hours or up to 3 days in the fridge. If chilled, be sure to remove 2 hours before mixing into the final dough.
1 3/4 cups (8 oz/227 g) whole wheat flour
1/4 t yeast (I used active dry, he calls for instant)
3/4 cup water, room temp
Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a bowl–I used my mixer. When it forms a ball, knead for 2 minutes by hand or about 1 minute by machine until the ingredients are evenly distributed and hydrated. This dough will feel tacky–let rest for 5 minutes and then knead again, another minute. Although it will smooth out, it will remain tacky. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover tightly. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 3 days; be sure to remove 2 hours before mixing into the final dough. The biga will rise–but don’t worry if it has not risen much.
ALL of the soaker from above
ALL of the biga from above
7 T (2 oz/56.5 g) whole wheat flour
5/8 t salt
2 1/4 t yeast (active dry or instant)
2 1/4 T honey
1 T melted unsalted butter or oil (I used oil)
extra flour or water for adjustments
Bring the biga and soaker to room temperature (2 hours). Pinch the biga and soaker into 12 segments–as I threw them into the bowl I sprinkled with the 7 tablespoons of flour to keep them from re-adhering. Reinhart calls for slicing the doughs but I found pinching much easier. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the extra flour and water, and stir either by hand or with the paddle attachment, until it forms a ball. Then knead–either by hand or with a mixer–until the mixture is completely integrated, 2-3 minutes with a mixer. It should be a little sticky and soft–add flour or water as needed in very small increments. I needed to add about a tablespoon of water.
Reinhart calls for kneading by hand to finish the dough. This was a wonderful dough to work with–the best whole grain dough I have ever experienced, and I did knead it a little by hand–but my youngest had the mother of all meltdowns, so I ended up letting the mixer do most of it. I kneaded for about 3-5 for minutes (it was hard to keep track through the screaming!). Reinhart calls for 3-4 minutes by hand, letting it rest for 5 minutes while you oil a bowl, and then kneading an additional minute.
Either way, oil a bowl and then place the dough into it, rolling it to coat it in oil. Cover it lightly with plastic wrap and leave 45-60 minutes, until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size.
This bread can be made free form or in a pan–as always I prefer the pan for convenience. Shape the dough as desired and cover loosely with plastic wrap, using an 8X4 greased bread pan if you want a loaf shape (I lightly spray the top of the dough with oil to prevent sticking) and leave again for 45-60 minutes, until 1 1/2 times its original size.
Here is where Sammy really got me, as the tantrum continued (yes, continued) and I finally fell asleep with her on my lap, and my bread over-rose. Plus it then deflated from sticking to the plastic. C’est la vie–but that explains its less than ideal shape. I gave it another 10 minutes of sitting while I waited for the oven, which should have been preheated 30 minutes into the rise at 425 F. So preheat your oven and tell your older kids to wake you up for goodness’ sake if they see the bread getting that big!
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place the bread in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 F. Reinhart calls for various methods of steaming the oven but I usually pass on them–I’ve never gotten enough of a result to make it worth the hassle, not to mention the $300 I cost us when I dribbled water on the hot oven glass and cracked it. Plus I want sandwich bread, not super crusty bread.
Bake the bread for 20 minutes and then rotate and bake another 20-30 minutes. The bread is done when it hits 195 degrees and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Reinhart calls for cooling for at least 1 hour, but thanks to Sammy we ate ours pretty darn hot.