A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

3.5-Grain Bread

Lawson gets really depressed by whole wheat bread.

He likes the various crusty white European loaves I make, and he likes all those storebought multigrain and honey wheat breads, which are pretty slim on actual whole wheat. True, some whole wheat can be cardboardy. But even the freshest, most wonderfully brown homemade whole wheat makes him kind of sad. Whole wheat tortillas, too. And whole wheat biscuits. So I don't make all-whole-wheat bread very often.

Because I don't want to either eat white bread or make Lawson sad all the time, over the past year I've been making bread out of varying combinations of good white flour and various other grains and seeds. The doughs are still built over several days, like good artisanal bread, with very little yeast or sugar and lots of liquid. But I add various things in hopes of upping their fiber and vitamin content. Wheat berries are fun -- I soak them separately and add them to the dough near the end of the kneading. 1/2 cup of coarse cornmeal or grits gives makes for the perfect amount of extra chewiness -- I use a little in most breads now. A little bit of oatmeal is good. And I play around with flax seeds, poppy seeds, and sunflower seeds. So far I haven't tried amaranth or barley or any of the myriad other grains out there, but I intend to.

Here's a typical recipe:

Mix 1 1/2 cups bread flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1 cup water in medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in fridge for 1 day.

Add 1 1/2 cups bread flour and 1 cup water. Mix and return to fridge for a day.

Bring to room temperature. Add the following, mix, and knead thoroughly:

- 1/2 cup coarse cornmeal or grits
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Water. Start with 3/4 cup and add more. I like very wet doughs.

You shouldn't have to knead all that much -- plenty of gluten should have developed over the first several days in the fridge.

Work in 1/4 cup flax seeds at end of kneading.

Refrigerate for one more day. Bring to room temperature again, gently shape into loaf, let rise, score, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake at 450-500 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. Baking stones are good. Baking in a preheated cast iron Dutch oven a
la Jeffrey Steingarten's explanation of Mark Bittman's explanation of Jim Lahey's technique is good. The important thing is to bake it as long as you can stand without burning it. It'll come out of the oven rock hard but will soften as it cools.

I have procured some white whole wheat flour; I'll report on my experiments and their reception.

1 comment:

Kris said...

I feel sad about this flaw in Lawson. I thought he was perfect.

White refined foods make me feel like I'm living in a sterile post-apocalyptic world (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little).

I agree that baking the bread a really long time makes a huge difference. I used to accept a raw, doughy taste, but now I know better. I still sometimes get loaves that are too dense, but I slice them thinly to compensate.