100% Whole Wheat Loaf, Yes, Yes…

Okay, honestly? It’s 96% whole wheat.

I have a preferment that I’ve been using for the last few months and since I make a variety of breads ranging from whole wheat to wheat/rye to white it’s got a hodge-podge of flours and aged yeasts, so I guess I have to factor that in.

I have always had the most difficult time making 100% whole wheat sandwich bread. I think it’s because whole wheat bread tends to have a lot less gluten in it. Also, the flours are grainier than unbleached white flour, so I sometimes find it difficult to knead properly because it feels weird on my hands, and since I’m the kind of baker that goes by feel as opposed to measurement, it always feels off.

Also, you may recall a recent dilemma over plastic wrap in which I didn’t know if I should continue using it or move to a reusable resource: flour sack towels. I moved in favor of the towels.

My first loaf since the abandon of plastic wrap did not turn out so well. It wasn’t bad, of course.. I mean fresh, warm bread is rarely bad, but it just wasn’t very tall and the crumb was merely acceptable as opposed to delightful. I didn’t bother photographing it, as you can imagine. We ate it, silently, with egg salad and lettuce.

I tried again, and this time (pictured above) I used a flour sack towel with hot water on the top, gave it a 3/4 rise in a cool oven and then transferred it to the refrigerator to finish its rise to bake off this morning.

The nice thing is that the towel has significant weight to it when it’s wet, so it sort of holds the bread down (like [but looser than] The Man does to me) allowing the bread to rise stronger and heartier against it. This creates a crumb that is firm and moist. The slow retard in the fridge gives the yeast time to manufacture special taste agents that can’t be acquired any other way.

About a half hour before baking, I took the dough out of the refrigerator and set it on the stove burner (not on) and preheated the oven to 450. On the dough I noticed a little bit of darker, dry area from where the towel had lost its water overnight, so I liberally sprayed the top of the loaf with water and then slashed it down the middle (which I think I won’t do again, because for some reason down the middle doesn’t seem to work as well as diagonal) and then sprinkled some wheat flakes on top.

I also noticed that I had left an air pocket for gas to escape in one corner of the dough ball so when I lifted the towel, the bread was nice and firm and high on one side. I knew it was too late to try to pinch it back together, but I tried anyway. And of course it fell a little in the oven for the same reasons but it’s still super tasty and an acceptable height for sandwich makin’.

Recipe: (use organic when you can, preferably always)

  • Preferment (if you have it; if you do not see bolded note below)
  • 1c warmed water
  • 1 good pinch of brown sugar
  • 1.5tsp yeast
  • appx 2c whole wheat /stone ground flour
  • appx 1tbs vital wheat gluten per cup of flour
  • pinch or two of salt
  • wheat flakes, wheat berries, oatmeal, chopped garlic or onion, spices or whatever sounds nice to you.

Yields 1 5x5x9 loaf

Use 1/4c of the warm water to proof the yeast with the brown sugar. Let stand until foamy. Cut the preferment into cubes or otherwise necessary for the type you’re using and dissolve or otherwise mix with the rest of the warm water. Mix both preferment and proofed yeast together.

Add flour 1/2c at a time until it pulls from the sides of the bowl. You may need more or less flour depending on the humidity of your home. Turn on to a floured surface. Knead by hand for 5-10m or until dough acceptably passes a windowpane test. It should feel relatively smooth and elastic and not taking up too much flour at this point. Shape dough into a ball.

Oil a bowl and place dough ball in seam side up, swish ball around to coat sides of bowl and then flip ball over so the seam is down. Place bowl and ball in a draft-free, over 60degree place for a couple hours with a warmed, wet flour sack towel (or whatever you got going on) for at least one hour or until ball at least doubles in size.

**After first rise, cut off a third of dough and store in an airtight container in the fridge. This is your preferment. >> If this is the first time you’re making a preferment, increase all the ingredients above 30% **

Turn oily dough onto a lightly floured surface (only to prevent sticking). Stretch, fold into thirds, both ends toward the middle and then one on top of the other. Repeat in other direction. Shape into an elongated ball and place into a well oiled bread pan seam side up, swished and flipped over, just like the bowl. Same thing here: use the wet flour sack towel, let rise 3/4 and then place in fridge overnight.

Remove from fridge in the morning, preheat oven, check for dry spots, rehydrate as necessary, slash, sprinkle with wheat flakes or wheat berries or onion or garlic or whatever you like or none and then bake at 450 for about a half hour or until bread feels hard /sounds hollow on top when tapped.

By this point you are alerting your neighbors to your ultimate coolness. Don’t answer the door unless you feel like sharing. 🙂

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