100 Percent Whole Wheat Bread

For Christmas, my sister-in-law got me Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Bread’s.  Until now I have been too busy to even sit down and read it, let alone make anything out of it.  I have been interested in getting into whole grain breads for a little while now, several people, both friends and family have to switch over to whole wheat bread for health reasons.  Store bought whole wheat bread still has much of the same softness that white bread does and a lot more flavor.  However, I have tried making whole wheat bread before, and to me it tastes like eating my horse’s grain.  It’s ok, but only when slathered with butter, therefore negating some of the health benefits of eating whole wheat bread.

Peter Reinhart’s book is interesting, in that he explains that the job of the baker is to evoke that best possible flavor from the grain.  He challenges us to use different methods to do this.  The recipe for the above bread is for his 100 percent whole grain sandwich bread.  This bread uses a soaker and a biga starter.  The idea behind the soaker is to start the activation of enzymes in the whole wheat flour.  Those enzymes start to break down the carbohydrate chains to release the sugars.  The biga is made separately with a little bit of yeast to start the process of fermentation.  Both the biga and the soaker are made on day one of the bread making process.

100 Percent Whole Grain Bread adapted from Whole Grain Breads

Soaker (day 1)
8 ounces whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 plus 2 Tablespoons milk (I used 2 percent milk cold, unscalded)  You can optionally use water

I mixed the ingredients together in a glass bowl with a metal spoon.  In the cookbook, Peter Reinhart states that the book that the soaker should be a firm ball.  My soaker however was more like a thick paste.  I am not sure if I used too much liquid or what.  I covered the soaker with plastic wrap and left it at room temperature overnight.

8 oz whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
6 oz water (I used room temperature filtered tap water)

I mixed these ingredients together in a metal bowl with a metal spoon until they came together into a ball.  I then kneaded it by hand for 2 minutes and let it rest for 5 minutes.  I then kneaded it for an additional minute, covered it with plastic wrap and stuck it in the refrigerator.

In theory, I was going to make this final dough the next day.  However, life got in the way and so I did not get around to making it until a couple days later.  If that is the case, just stick your soaker in the fridge along with your biga.  The soaker will get gross if you leave it out on your counter for 3 days.

Anyway, the day that you want to make your final dough, take both the soaker and the biga out of the fridge a couple of hours early to take the chill off.

Final Dough
All of the soaker
All of the biga
7 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Chop up the biga and soaker into pieces into your bowl.  Add the additional ingredients and mix together until the ingredients form a ball.  Here Peter Reinhart recommends autolaysing the bread for a few minutes to allow the gluten to start forming on its own.  When I made this bread I was dog sitting my sister’s 1 year old lab and she managed to break the line she was tied out on and I had to chase her around the neighborhood.  Thus my bread autolaysed for 10-15 minutes, not the recommended 5.  However, it seemed to work out fine.  The directions in the book also indicate that you should only have to knead for 1 additional minute after the autolayse, however, in order to pass the windowpane test I had to knead (with my KA mixer) for more like 7 minutes.  I then let it raise for about an hour and a half.

After that additional hour, I kneaded it for about 1 minute and shaped the bread into a boule.  I then let it raise for another hour.  I baked the bread at 425 degrees for twenty minutes and then reduced the temperature to 350 degrees and baked for another 10 minutes.

This bread turned out so much better than I was anticipating.  It was soft and subtly sweet.  The sweetness was similar to that of breads I had made before with much more honey or sugar.  I believe that the soaker and the biga really contributed to the sweetness.  This bread is a great choice for some breakfast toast or for a sandwich.