Kind-of-Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread
I just got Peter Reinhart's latest book Whole Grain Breads. It was published in August 2007 but I just found out about it a week ago.
He has been experimenting with ways to make whole grain breads that people actually want to eat. He has come up with some new techniques that make less dense whole grain breads that have sweeter and more complex flavors. He also presents many traditional breads from different countries.
I decided to start with the first recipe in the book - whole wheat sandwich bread. We eat whole wheat bread almost exclusively so it seemed like a perfect formula to try. A very intriguing aspect of this formula is that he uses both a wild yeast starter and some instant yeast.
Also in this recipe he adapts his cold preferment technique used in his baguette recipe to instead be soaked at room temperature without yeast. He reasons that soaking the flour will develop flavor but there is no reason to add the yeast. If you don't add the yeast you don't have to refrigerate the dough. I experimented in using refrigerated pre-ferments to make pizza so I was very interested in this new concept. He calls it a 'soaker'.
He also combines some barm (see below) with whole wheat flour to make a starter. Using a wild yeasted barm adds a more complex and slightly sourdough flavor to the finished bread.
Both the soaker and the starter sit overnight. The next day those 2 parts are combined with a few ingredients to make the final dough. By adding yeast to the final dough it produces a more predictable and quicker rise time. The fact that this bread is made with starter and commercial yeast makes it a kind-of-sourdough whole wheat bread.
Combine 1 3/4 cups (8 oz) whole wheat flour with 3/4 cup plus 2 T (7 ounces) scalded milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Stir until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter overnight, anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
Wild Yeast Starter
Combine 5 tablespoons (2.25 ounces) of barm with 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) water at room temperature. Stir until flour is fully hydrated. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 4 to 6 hours or until doubled in size. Knead the dough for a few seconds to degas it, cover it again and put it in the fridge overnight.
Final dough ingredients
Soaker from day 1
starter from day 1 (warmed up to room temperature for an hour)
7 tablespoons (2 ounces) whole wheat flour
5/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) instant yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons (1.5 ounces) honey
2 T melted butter
Combine all ingredients in the mixer. Mix on low speed for 1 minute to bring all the ingredients together in a ball. Add extra flour as needed to make a slightly sticky dough. Increase mixer speed to medium low and mix for 2 to 3 minutes.
At this point you can use the dough hook to knead the dough for 4 minutes on medium speed or you can knead it by hand for 3 or 4 minutes. Incorporate extra flour as needed so that the dough feels soft and tacky but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the counter for 5 minutes. Knead for 1 more minute and place it in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it has risen to 1 1/2 times its original size.
Take the risen dough and form it into a loaf. Put it in a greased bread pan. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise again until 1 1/2 times its original size.
Meanwhile prepare the oven. Place one rack on the bottom and one rack several notches above. Place a cookie sheet on the top rack. Preheat to 425 degrees.
When your dough is ready to bake slide the loaf pan onto the bottom rack and dump 1 cup water into the cookie sheet to create steam. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees, close the door and bake 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the loaf is a rich, reddish brown and sounds hollow when thumped. You can use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the bread and it should register at least 195 degrees.