Well it's been ages, but I'm finally going to post a healthy tastes-spotting blog on one of my true passions-- BREAD BAKING! Josh hasn't been digging our Healthy Life 35 calorie per slice bread that I've been buying as of late so I finally succumbed to the requests, each more desperate than the last, to make bread again. Home made bread has made one or two brief appearances in the house since I started Spark, but it used to be a staple. Time to put on the carb repellers and exercise my now well-practiced Will power!
I love the science behind baking and highly recommend any book written by Peter Reinhart. The first 100 pages of his books are an in-depth introduction to the 12 stages of bread and the chemical reactions that take place between the different ingredients and processes. You learn what the different ingredients are actually FOR and therefore will be much more adept at making substitutions if and when you find yourself out of something. But with bread, there are basically 3-5 ingredients, so you most likely won't have that problem :-) He also gives excellent descriptions on how to shape loaves and how to know if a dough is completely kneaded.
For this Spark-tastic loaf, I used his book "Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor". This bread takes two days from start to finish, so plan accordingly! His method involves both a soaker (flour soaked in water overnight) and a biga, the beginnings of a dough that is put together the night before and slowly fermented in the fridge overnight. Both take about 5 minutes to throw together the night before, so don't be dissuaded by the 2 day thing. You also have to let the Biga warm up for about 2 hours before you get started making the complete dough, so factor that in, too. When the cat wakes me up at sunrise I just go take it out of the fridge and then return to bed for a couple hours.
Whole Wheat Hearth Bread, adopted from Peter Reinhart
1 3/4 cup (8 ounces/227 g) Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp (.14 oz/4 g) salt
3/4 (6 oz/170 g) water
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients more or less form a ball. Cover loosely with saran and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
1 3/4 cups (8oz/ 227 g) whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon (.03oz/ 1 g) instant yeast
3/4 cup (6oz/ 170g) water, at room temperature
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 and tacky. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover tightly with saran. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
The next day....
About two hours before making the final dough, take the Biga out of the fridge.
All of the Soaker
All of the Biga
3 1/2 Tbs (1oz/ 28.5 g) whole wheat flour
5/8 tsp (.18/ 5g) salt
2 1/4 (.25 oz/ 7 g) instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp Molasses (optional)
1 1/2 tsp sugar or brown sugar (optional)
1 Tbs melted butter or olive oil (optional)
a little extra flour for adjustments
Ready? Let's go!
1. Chop your soaker and biga into 10-12 small pieces each and sprinkle with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other.
The biga is on the left and the soaker is on the right.
sprinkle with a bit of flour and....
2. Add the pre-dough pieces and all the ingredients, aside from the extra flour, to a bowl and combine. I use a kitchenaid stand mixer and mixed it first with the paddle attachment on slow speed for 1 minute. If using your hands, wet them and knead the dough in the bowl for two minutes. Add more flour or water as needed for the dough to be slightly sticky (as in, you touch it and a bit sticks to your finger)
Make sure to scrape it down!
3. Dust your impeccably clean counter with flour and roll your dough in it to coat.
Knead by hand for 3-4 minutes until the dough is tacky (the dough is bouncy and doesn't come off on your fingers). I would definitely time yourself in some way to make sure you don't overestimate your time or get lost in bread-kneading la-la-land. It's delightfully meditative! My suggestion is to knead for the duration of one song.
After your song is done, let the dough rest on the counter for five minutes while you spray a large bowl with oil. Naturally it won't take you five minutes to do this, so may I also recommend some push -ups? Just kidding.
4. Resume kneading the dough for 5 minutes to strengthen the gluten. Place it in your large bowl and cover loosely with saran. Let it rise about 50 minutes, or until it is 1 1/2 times its original size.
5. Gently transfer the dough to your lightly floured counter, making sure not to rip or tear it. Try and keep as much gas in it as you can! Form the dough into a torpedo and pull the sides tightly to ensure upward rather than outward lift. Place this on your parchment-lined baking sheet (or baking sheet sprinkled with semolina or course cornmeal) and cover loosely with saran for another 45 minutes.
6. While your dough has its last rise, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F (260c) and prepare it for hearth baking. This is where you emulate the steam of a professional baker's oven by placing a metal pan on the top shelf during the pre-heat that you will pour hot water into when you place your loaf in.
Here is our dough before putting it in the oven! I've given it a few slashes with a very sharp knife. This is optional, but I like it all the same.
Place gently on the bottom shelf of your oven and pour one cup of hot water into your steam pan. Shut the door quickly, lower the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.
Rotate the bread 180 degrees and continue baking for another 15-30 minutes. I baked it for about 20 more. The bread will be a golden brown, sound hollow if thumped on the bottom, and should register at 200 degrees F or higher.
7. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and resist the temptation to slice into it for at least one hour.
Don't forget a picture! Our brunch made to star the bread!
Thanks for hanging in there, guys! I usually don't like to post very intricate recipes, but if something so delicious comes from only a handful of ingredients, its going to need a bunch of steps to get it there! And you are in luck, because here is where I introduce the Giveaway part of this blog! My dear boyfriend gave me a flour grinder for Christmakkah, which means my breads are even more delicious and healthy because the flour includes all the bran, germ, and endosperm that is partially or completely taken out of commercially produced flours. Fiber, Protein, Vitamins, oh my! I am going to send one of my dear sparkfriends 7-ish cups of freshly milled flour as a thank you for helping me on this journey/ humoring me by reading my blogs :-) All you have to do is leave a comment on this entry that is either a link to an awesome food blog or telling me what your favorite cookbook is. My, erm, random number generator (ok, Josh) will pick one of your comments randomly and I'll inform the winner via sparkmessage, hmmm, let's say Tuesday evening. Good luck!