If the start of the month got me busy with Navarathri, the rest of the days kept me occupied with travel, weddings, house visits and condolences to attend. I had to keep myself free for two whole days as the bread needed some planning of time to undergo the 3 interesting phases of preparation.
We, the We Knead to Bake memebers, have been asked to adapt Peter Reinhart’s recipe for 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from his book “Whole Grain Breads”. Peter Reinhart’s recipe uses a soaking procedure and the Biga/ sponge and that is the secret to the softness and texture of this bread.
If whole grain flours are soaked overnight, especially whole wheat flour, it breaks down the phytates in them, aids mineral absorption and makes them softer and more digestible. Other than that, it is important to knead the dough well to develop whatever little gluten there is in the whole wheat flour. Also be careful while shaping the dough into a loaf and make sure that you do not tear the risen dough as this will tear the gluten “cloak” that would have developed. Do see this video which gives you an idea on how to shape bread loaves. (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-shape-a-sandwich-loaf-o-108773 )
This bread is not really difficult to make though it requires a little bit of planning as the Soaker (at room temperature) and the Biga/ Sponge (refrigerated) have to be made and rested for at least 12 hours. After this they can be kept refrigerated for about 2 days before baking them into bread.
Aparna made a few changes to the original recipe and here a few reasons why she did it.
The first change was to use water to make the 'Soaker' instead of milk because she wasn’t comfortable leaving dough mixed with milk on the kitchen counter overnight because it might spoil in my tropical temperatures. However, milk contributes to the softness of bread, so she used milk instead of water in my Biga/ Sponge which would be refrigerated and so be safe.
Then she added a little vinegar to the Soaker and the Biga/ Sponge. Vinegar tends to increase the acidity of the dough which, within limits, helps gluten development and contributes to the “bready” texture. She also added a bit of Vital Wheat Gluten, but not too much (see further down in this post), and some oil. All these helped to make a 100% whole wheat loaf which she felt was better and softer in texture.
About which whole wheat flour to use, we don’t have much choice in this matter in India. If you can find it, use fine milled whole wheat flour, the real “Chakki” ground Atta and not the packaged stuff. Packaged Atta doesn’t give the best results for whole wheat bread but when one has to work with whatever is available, you can use it and bake a fairly decent whole wheat bread with it. I used the Pillsbury Gold whole wheat flour which I use to make chappathis, to make this bread.
You can make this bread without VWG as the soaking and the Biga/ Sponge and the honey and milk are all supposed to make it soft and give it a really good texture. (I comfortably avoided VWG :))
100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
(Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)
For The Soaker:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup water at room temperature
1 tbsp vinegar (apple cider or plain)
For The Biga/ Sponge:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup milk (or a little more)
1 tbsp vinegar (apple cider or plain)
For The Final Dough:
All of the Soaker
All of the Biga/ Sponge
1 1/2 tsp Vital Wheat Gluten (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (and a few tbsp. more if required)
2 tsp instant yeast
1/8 cup oil (or melted butter if preferred)
2 tbsp honey
How to make Biga/Sponge
The recipe suggests to make the Soaker first, I did the other way round. I chose to knead the Biga/sponge, first as it keeps well for 3 days under refrigeration. The Soaker is left outside and once you prepare that, you need you work within 24 hours.
Mix all of the Biga/Sponge in a bowl and knead together well till a soft ball forms.Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. This will keep for up to 3 days.
How to make the Soaker.
Mix all of the Soaker ingredients together in a bowl until all of the flour is hydrated.
Start using 3/4 cup water and then adding a little at a time, until you have the desired consistency. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Two hours before you plan to mix your dough for the bread, remove the Biga from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. You might find your Biga rising a little during this time. Below is the Biga, resting in room temperature after 24 hours of refrigeration.
Both the dough, at a glance just before the final mixing up.
Divide the Biga and Soaker into small pieces (about 12 pieces each) using a sharp knife or scraper and put them in the food processor bowl (or stand mixer). You can knead this by hand too, but the dough will be tacky and a little difficult to manage. Do not be tempted to add more flour, when it is time to, than necessary.
Add the remaining ingredients for the dough, except the 1/3 cup flour and knead for about 3 minutes. I added the flour accidentally, but please don't do it :)
Let it rest for 5 minutes, then add as much flour as needed (if necessary) to the dough and knead for another 3-4 minutes. Your dough should now come away from the sides of the bowl but still be a little sticky but somewhat manageable. It’s really important to not add too much extra flour during this step.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). I missed to click the picture of the first rise :(
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat the dough out into a rectangle with a width that just a bit less than your loaf tin. See that you do not tear the dough. Roll it up and shape into a loaf.
Place your loaf in a greased and floured loaf tin (I used a 9” by 4” silicon bake ware. But I suggest to use a metal loaf tin)
and let it rise until it is just higher than your loaf tin. Bake the loaf at 180C (350F) for about 40 to 45 minutes until the top is a nice deep brown colour and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
If you are searching for those proper photos, I missed to capture both the risen dough in the bowl (first rise) and the well risen dough in the loaf pan (second rise) I clicked pictures in my mobile to send to my sis and drowned in the excitement I got confused and thought I clicked with my cam! Anyway, the above is an unedited, crude mobile shot :) as a proof to display the well risen dough. It rose quite fast and well!
How I served the bread!
Among all the bakes, I am an expert at and in the learning phases, whole wheat sandwich bread should be the one I should be regularly baking as it falls in our dinner menu. Toasted brown bread with white vegetable khurma and the red spicy khurma with an over load of whole spices and no vegetables. While children love the red dip and V vouches for the white one I enjoy the combination of the two! I left the slices un-toasted this time!