Whole grain healthy

June 5, 2016

Whole wheat bread. This one is a keeper.

Whole wheat bread. This one is a keeper.

If one is going to eat a sandwich, at least one ought to eat it on whole wheat bread. That way, you’re at least getting complex carbs instead of the simple ones that turn straight to sugar and navigate directly to your backside and belly.

I’ve never had a lot of success making whole wheat bread. It tends toward being heavy and leaden. But I’ve found one that is soft, and light, and just really, really good. It’s Peter Reinhart’s 100 percent whole wheat bread, from his book The Bread Maker’s Apprentice.

This is one of my two or three go-to bread books, though it didn’t become so until a while after I got into baking bread. It was actually the first one I bought after I bought Miss Scarlett, the Kitchenaid stand mixer, and jumped into the world of breadmaking. I looked through it, and almost all the recipes call for a two-day process — making a biga, or poolish, (essentially, mixing up flour, yeast, sugar and liquid the night before and letting it ferment overnight, before adding everything else and baking the bread the next day.

I read that procedure, shook my head, thought “Screw that noise,” and ordered another breadmaking book. It wasn’t until I started working from home three years ago, and began enjoying the luxury of breaking loose for 30 minutes to do something in the kitchen, that Reinhart’s method made sense for me to use, and I went back to it.

The recipe:

SOAKER:

  • 1 cup coarse whole wheat flour or other coarsely ground flour (oats, corn, barley, rye); I used semolina
  • 3/4 cup water (I used whey)

POOLISH:

  • 1 1/2 cups high-protein whole wheat flour (I don’t know from high protein. I used generic ww flour)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup water (again, I used whey)

DOUGH, the next day:

  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/3 tsp salt (I believe I will use more next time)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten

For this bread, you make both a soaker and a poolish. For the soaker, you use whatever coarse-grind flour you want; I used semolina, because I had it, as well as your liquid. The recipe calls for water, but I used whey left over from making yogurt the other day. Made up the poolish, and put it in a plastic tub with a lid on it, to sit on the counter overnight. Then the poolish, which is whole wheat flour, honey, yeast and more liquid. That sits on the counter for a couple of hours, and goes in the fridge.

Those carryout containers from the Chinese place come in handy.

Those carryout containers from the Chinese place come in handy.

Next day, the poolish and the soaker go into the mixing bowl with everything else. Please note the poolish needs to come out of the fridge a minimum of an hour before you get going on mixing. It gets mixed and kneaded for a minimum of 10 minutes, more like 15, with the dough hook.

This, I think, is one place I’ve gone wrong in the past. If you don’t knead the living hell out of dough, it’s not going to be light and fluffy. It just won’t. You’ve got to develop the gluten in it.

Thank God for the KitchenAid. Not sure my hands and forearms would hold up to 15 minutes’ kneading.

This goes in a bowl to rise until doubled, and then gets shaped into loaves (see recent ricotta bread post about the shaping of loaves), and rises again. It took about twice as long to rise in each instance as the recipe said, but that’s, I think, because my house stays pretty cool (long as I can pay the electric bill).

This makes a very soft, fluffy, pliable wheat bread, perfect for sandwiches. It doesn’t have a huge amount of inherent flavor, surprisingly; I would have expected more of a “sourdough” taste from the overnight ferment. I had contemplated using flaxseed meal for the soaker; I may do that, at least in part, next time for a flavor component.

Like all homemade bread, you can eat it easily when it’s initially sliced, but it goes a bit stale in a hurry and loses the really soft quality. After Day 1, you’re better served to toast it.

Witness my BLT (well, actually a BST; bacon, slaw, tomato, as I had no lettuce on hand) the next day. Not a thing wrong with that sandwich, I’m tellin’ ya.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want a sandwich, come on over. I’ve got ricotta loaf AND whole wheat. We got yo’ sandwich covered; just bring the insides.

 

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