Could Chris Kimball overcome the two biggest problem plaguing most whole-wheat breads: bitterness and dense texture? His new (March 2011 recipe) claims to have solved both. The trick: soak the wheat flour in milk for up-to 24 hours. Not only does this soften the wheat-flour’s hard bran (which inhibits gluten development), but it also converts some of the starch into sugar (resulting in a less-bitter loaf). The result: the texture was perfect; not too dense and not Wonder-like. Unfortunately, my goal of making a better, kid-friendly, whole-wheat sandwich bread was undone my the inclusion of wheat-germ.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the boys don’t like the wheat germ’s nutty flavor. But for an adult, it is better than most store-bought wheat bread, and without all the preservatives.
Cost: $1 each loaf.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 10:00 PM.
Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I baked it over the past 2 days are given below:
Prepare the Biga (8 hours to 24 hours before baking):
2 cups bread flour (11 ounces)
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees) (8 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- Heat 1 cup of water in microwave for 35 seconds to 100-110 degrees. Add yeast and let hydrate for 5 minutes.
- Add the 2 cups of flour to a large bowl, add water/yeast, and stir for about 1 minutes with wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature overnight.
Prepare the Soaker (8 hours to 24 hours before baking):
3 cups whole-wheat flour (16 1/2 ounces)
1/2-cup wheat germ
2-cups whole milk (16 ounces)
- Add whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and milk into a large bowl. Stir with wooden spoon for about 1 minute.
- Place dough on a lightly floured counter and knead for 3 minutes.
- Return the soaker to same bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the Dough:
1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Additional flour for dusting work surface
- Rip soaker into 1″-pieces and put in bowl of stand mixer. Add biga, honey, salt, yeast, butter, and vegetable oil. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes.
- Put dough on lightly floured counter and knead by hand for 1 additional minute. Shape into a ball and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.
- Gently deflate the dough by pressing down on center.
- Use an oiled spatula to fold dough over itself; lift and fold edge of dough toward middle. Turn the bowl 90 degrees; and fold again. Keep turning and folding the dough for a total of 8 folds.
- Cover again and let rise until it has doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
- Adjust two oven racks to the middle and lowest positions. Put a baking stone on the middle rack. Pre-heat to 400-degrees. Spray two 8-1/2″ by 4-1/2″ loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
- Turn dough out onto a well-floured counter and divide dough into 2 pieces.
- Working with one ball at a time, pat into an 8″ x 17″ rectangle. Roll the dough into firm 8″-long cylinder. Pinch the seam closed, and put into prepared loaf pan seam-side down. Lightly press into corners. Repeat with second dough ball. Cover both loaves with plastic wrap; let rise for between 60 and 90 minutes until doubled in size. The top of loaves should have risen 1″ over the lip of he pan.
- Place an empty heat-proof pan on the bottom oven rack. Boil 2 cups of on stovetop.
- Use a serrated knife to make a 1/4″-deep slash down center of each loaf. Pour the boiling water into empty pan and put loaves on baking stone. Reduce oven to 350-degrees. Bake for 45 minutes until internal temperature registers 200 degrees; rotating the loaves halfway through baking for an even crust.
- Transfer loaf pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Turn loafs out of pans and return to wire racks; allowing to cool for 2 hours to room temperature.