Thursday, July 28, 2011

Whole grain bread

Whole grain bread isn't simple. The challenge is to make the bread taste so good that you don't even think about health benefits. It's a bit more challenging to make than bread made with unbleached white flour, but with a bit of help from Peter Reinhart, it's coming along well. I kind of bent or ignored half his advice and developed my own technique based on his theories (and mine).

The bread is made from two parts: a pâte fermentée that gets renewed as new bread is made, and a soaker. I decided to let the soaker ferment a bit as well and care for it like a sourdough starter. My soaker bubbles a little but appears to have no leavening quality at all. That's not what I'm looking for anyway - I want flavor, and I get the leavening by adding SAF Instant yeast in the final mix per Mr. Reinhart's advice.

I use either four ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast - or five by adding dark rye flour - or six by adding buckwheat flour - or seven by adding flax seeds  - or eight by putting sunflower seeds on top for a real multi-grain, complex symphony of cereal flavors. I've resisted adding sweeteners of any kind, not even agave. The goal is to let all the interplay of fermentation, whole grains and the baking process bring out the flavors inherent in the flour, without resorting to adding other elements.

This dough works better for large loaves, since this allows the crust to get thoroughly caramelized without overcooking and drying the interior. Although regular pains come out fine, they just don't have the same thick, crunchy crust.

The flour is 100% hard red winter wheat from Community Grains. The only place to get it, unfortunately, is at Whole Paycheck in the bulk section. The last time I was there, I cleaned out the bin and didn't even get five pounds of flour!

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