My guidelines for nutrition can pretty much be summed up by:
- Only eat when hungry. But don’t eat too much.
- Don’t eat processed crap.
- Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can stand.
- Don’t be a baby about whole grains.
I’ve been getting worse and worse about that last one recently. I’ve walked by Reinhart’s book on whole grain breads in the bookstore so many times and never even bothered to pick it up. It’s just that white bread, made well, is so darn good, you know? I’m not talking about Wonder Bread or something, I mean a nice sweet tender sandwich bread or a fantastic complex rustic baguette.
But my interest was sparked when I saw the whole wheat bagels that Stefany made from this book. They look at least as good as any bagels I’ve made – but they’re so much healthier. Within a week, I tried the recipe, was pleased with the results, and bought the book.
It’s Peter Reinhart, so we’re not talking about the most simple recipes here. In general, they’re two day affairs. The first day, you mix two things. One is a thick paste of whole wheat flour, liquid, and salt, and the other one is a mixture of whole wheat flour, liquid, and yeast. These both set overnight (or longer, if necessary) and are incorporated into the rest of the dough the next day. On the day of baking, you follow essentially a normal bread-baking procedure, from mixing and kneading, through rising, shaping, proofing, and baking.
Most homemade whole wheat bread recipes call for, at most, half whole wheat flour. This recipe uses 100% whole wheat flour, and it’s as good as any of those other recipes. It’s tender and light, just like you want from a sandwich bread. And it tastes seriously good. Obviously it tastes whole wheaty, but it has more to it than that. The long soaks from the pre-doughs give the bread a full flavor that includes sweetness and a bit of acidity. I am officially hooked on 100% whole wheat breads.
One year ago: Lemon Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
Reinhart also has a “Transitional Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread” that is made the same way, except it uses white unbleached bread flour in the biga. If you decide to make this version instead, keep in mind that you’ll need a little less water when working with white flour (1-2 teaspoons per ounce of flour).
1¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon (4 grams) salt
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (198 grams) milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk
1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.
2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill.)
1¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
¾ cup (170 grams) filtered or spring water, at room temperature (about 70F)
1. Mix all the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky.
2. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
3. About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remove the biga from the refrigerator to take off the chill. It will have risen slightly but need not have risen significantly in order to use it in the final dough.
All of the Soaker
All of the biga
7 tablespoons (56.5 grams) whole wheat flour, plus extra for adjustments
5/8 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
2¼ teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
2¼ tablespoons (42.5 grams) honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
1. Using a metal pastry scraper, chop the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces each (sprinkle some of the extra flour over the pre-doughs to keep the pieces from sticking back to each other).
2. If mixing by hand, combine the soaker and biga pieces in a bowl with all of the other ingredients except the extra flour and stir vigorously with a mixing spoon or knead with wet hands until all of the ingredients are evenly integrated and distributed into the dough. It should be soft and slightly sticky; if not, add more flour or water as needed.
If using a stand mixer, put the pre-dough pieces and all of the other ingredients except the extra flour into the mixer with the paddle attachment (preferable) or dough hook. Mix on slow speed for 1 minute to bring the ingredients together into a ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, occasionally scraping down the bowl, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pre-doughs become cohesive and assimilated into each other. Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
3. Dust a work surface with flour, then toss the dough in the flour to coat. Knead by hand for 3 to 4 minutes, incorporating only as much extra flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and tacky, but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes while you prepare a clean, slightly oiled bowl.
4. Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute to strengthen the gluten and make any final flour or water adjustments. The dough should have strength and pass the windowpane test, yet still feel soft, supple, and very tacky. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1½ times its original size.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. To shape it for a loaf pan, pat it out to a square approximately 1-inch thick, then roll the dough into a cylinder. Place the dough in a greased 4 by 8½-inch bread pan. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1½ times its original size.
6. Preheat the oven to 425F. When the dough is ready to bake, place it in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is a rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and registers at least 195F in the center.
7. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.