March 8, 2013

Whole Wheat Artisan Bread

While I love whole wheat bread with oil and sweetener, I wanted to find a more basic recipe, the flour-water-salt-yeast kind. I turned to Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which includes my favorite no-knead bread method. This bread gets the air bubbles just like the white bread version and a crunchy crust. I haven't made it yet with the seed mixture on top, but I will soon.

Of course, I'm still using my new grain mill to grind up fresh wheat flour, which definitely makes a difference. I also have been collecting free food-grade buckets from the bakery at the grocery store, bought some gamma seal lids, and my first 50-lb bag of wheat berries! I'm very excited.

73% Whole Wheat Artisan Bread
from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

yield: four 1-pound loafs (can be doubled or halved)

5 1/2 cups (1 pound, 9 ounces/720 grams) whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
2 cups (10 ounces/270 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets/.55 ounces/15 grams) granulated yeast
1 tablespoon (.55 ounces/15 grams) kosher salt
1/4 cup (1 3/8 ounces/35 grams) vital wheat gluten
4 cups (2 pounds/900 grams) lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
1-2 tablespoons seed mixture (sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, etc.) for sprinkling (optional)

To make the dough:
Whisk together flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl or lidded plastic food container (not airtight). Add water, all at once, and mix without kneading using a wooden spoon, 14-cup food processor, or heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix until everything is evenly moist with no dry patches. The dough will be shaggy, wet, and loose.

Cover with lid (not airtight) or plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until top of dough flattens, about 2 hours. If desired, let rise overnight. Refrigerate dough (lidded or wrapped in plastic) and use over next 14 days. Note that fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with. Refrain from punching dough down.

To bake:
Prepare a pizza peel (or just a piece of parchment paper) by sprinkling liberally with cornmeal or lining with parchment. Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece of dough.

With lightly floured hands, gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you form a ball. The bottom may appear uneven but will flatten out during resting and baking. The final shape should be smooth and cohesive. If you prefer a oval-shape, elongate the dough with your hands and taper the ends by rolling them between your palms and pinching. The entire shaping process should only take 20-40 seconds, any longer and your loaf could be dense.

Allow shaped loaf to rest for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). 30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water for steam on any other rack that won't interfere with the rising bread.

Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top of loaf with water. Sprinkle with seed mixture (if desired). Slash the loaf with 1/4-inch deep parallel cuts across the top using a serrated knife.

With a quick forward-jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto preheated baking stone (or just place the parchment paper and bread both on top of the stone). Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup hot water from the tap into broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch. Allow bread to cool completely on a wire rack for best flavor, texture, and slicing. Crust will firm up when cooled.

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