Thursday, April 14, 2011
Perfect Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
Remember when I told you about my plan to bake a loaf of bread from scratch every week?
Well, I thought you should know that I have definitely kept that promise. Every single week my kitchen fills with aroma of bread dough rising and then baking. I've made dozens of different kinds and now consider myself a master bread baker.
I made that one loaf, and another the next week...and this one in February. I haven't bought any bread at the store though, so it's not like I'm cheating. We just don't eat a lot of bread around here. Maybe I should give it another go and aim for once a month. That seems much more reasonable.
Anyway, the title really says it all here folks. The people at Cook's Illustrated know what they are talking about. There are a lot of steps (I broke it into two days), but the work is worth it. This bread is light but sturdy, with a crispy crust and soft interior. The recipe makes two loaves. I froze one and used it a week or two later. The crust wasn't as crisp, it was softer, more like the crust of the bread you would buy at the grocery store. If you prefer that texture, freeze the loaves for a few days and let thaw out before using. Otherwise, eat them as fast as you can!
Perfect Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Day One- Make Biga and Soaker:
2 cups bread flour
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
1/2 tsp instant yeast
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until mixed well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter for 8-24 hours.
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole milk
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon for about one minute. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Put it back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in refrigerator for 8-24 hours.
Day 2- Rise and Bake:
1/4 cup honey
4 tsp table salt
2 tbsp instant yeast
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Take the soaker out of the fridge and tear into small, gumball sized pieces and put in the bowl a stand mixer. Clean the bowl it was in. Add the biga, honey, salt, eyast, butter and oil and mix using the dough hook for about 2 minutes. Then up the speed to medium and mix until dough is elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball with your hands and put it into the clean (and lightly greased) bowl the soaker was in earlier. Let rise for 45 minutes.
Press the air out of the dough lightly and then hold the edge the dough and fold it over. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat 7 more times. Cover and let rise for 45 more minutes.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease two loaf pans.
Divide the dough into two equally sized pieces and, using your hands, form each one into about an 8 by 17 inch rectangle. Then roll it from the short side, making a cylinder, pinch the ends close and place it seam side down in the loaf pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and rise let them sit and rise for another 60-90 minutes, until they are about 1 inch taller than the bread pan.
After the loaves have risen, make a shallow slash down the loaf lengthwise and put them in the oven. Put an empty loaf pan on the lowest oven rack and add two cups of boiling water (I just microwaved some), then close the door and put the temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake about 40-50 minutes and rotate halfway through.
Allow the loaves to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before cutting, if you can resist the smell of freshly baked bread (I couldn't).