My first venture into making artisanal (ha!) style whole-wheat bread has been…interesting.
Here’s the deal: I have a favorite 100 percent whole-wheat bread, from Farm to Market Bread Co., that I like to use for sandwiches. It’s tasty, has a nice texture and is local, more or less. (It’s from Kansas City, about 40 miles down the road.) It’s also $5.50 per one-pound loaf and is cruelly proportioned such that two slices seem like too much bread and one slice doesn’t seem like quite enough. Hence, I’d be pleased if I could make a satisfactory loaf.
My all-whole-grain loaf
Making it myself
I’ve been thinking for a while it would nice to be able to make a good, all-whole-grain bread myself, but I hadn’t seen any appealing recipes until I read Mark Bittman’s column on whole-grain bread. The column talks primarily about a quicker loaf in a previous column but provides instruction for a no-knead version more like baker Jim Lahey’s. Those are the instructions I followed. At least I think that’s what I did, as Bittman’s slow-fermentation instructions are given as sort of an aside.
In any case, here is what I did, in words and pictures. If anyone out there has made this recipe, I hope you’ll let me know if I did it right. Lacking experience with this kind of loaf, I’m not totally clear on whether I got the expected results.
Not-so-fast no-knead whole wheat bread
- 2 cups whole wheat flour (local!)
- 1/2 cup whole rye flour
- 1/2 cup coarse cornmeal (mine was regular old cornmeal)
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Oil as needed
1. Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. That’s what Bittman said, “shaggy.” What the heck does that mean? Beats me. I can tell you, however, the mixture comes together in a snap and has a rough texture, as perhaps you can see in the photos.
2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 24 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. Finding a spot that warm in my house was the biggest challenge, but I discovered one spot near the middle of the house that kind of traps warm air behind a door. Yea! Remarkably enough, this curious mixture did rise.
3. Oil an 8- by 4-inch loaf pan. Turn dough into pan and press to the edges. (The original instructions have you shape it into a rectangle before placing it in pan. My dough was far too soft to do so. You’re also supposed to oil the top; I forgot.) Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 2 hours or more.
4. Bake bread at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, or until loaf reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees. I used a thermometer, as the bread didn’t look promising after the originally specified 45 minutes’ baking time. Mine came out of the oven at 53 minutes, although it may still have been a little shy of 210 degrees.
5. Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack. Bittman said a nonstick pan works well. Might be a good idea. I don’t have a nonstick pan of the specified size, and it took a little work—knife around the edge and several good whacks—to dislodge the bread. Makes 1 loaf.
The final result
The bread is quite different from any yeast bread I can recall eating. The texture is fairly coarse and the middle is oddly moist—not gummy, but not far from it. It slices well.
Bittman says this bread can sit “for days” at room temp wrapped in a kitchen towel. Mine did, but before it developed the moisture content, as well as the density and appearance, of a brick I cut what was left into a couple of hunks and put them in the freezer. It also freezes and thaws well.
I’ll probably try it again, just to see if I get different results. I might add a tablespoon of honey or something to boost the flavor a bit. I gather that the loaf photographed at the link above is the quick version of this bread, which includes more yeast and shorter rising times. I don’t know if that explains the apparent finer crumb he got, based on the NYT photo.
In any case, I’d love to hear from anybody who tries this recipe. It truly could not be simpler, but I’m not sure that I might not be happier with a loaf that requires more effort and yields a finer texture. That may be the ticket with the recipe he provides for All Whole Wheat Sandwich bread, whose ingredients include added gluten, sweetener and milk.