I’m a voracious reader, the kind of person who uses reading to procrastinate. I figure that reading since reading is actually educational, I can feel a lot less guilty about "educating" myself about nineteenth century courtship (courtesy of Jane Eyre) while I'm really supposed to be doing my homework. I will readily admit that a portion of my allowance goes towards expanding my admirable collection of books and that Chapters is my favourite store, ever. Currently, I’m trying to work through the College Board’s 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers. So far, I’ve read about four, but hey, I’ve got two more years to read the rest of the books on the list.
Besides trying to slug my way through the long list of impressive classics deemed “great” by the College Board, I also borrow heaps and heaps of cookbooks from the library. I rarely buy cookbooks because I can’t justify spending $40 on recipes that I could just google. But when I won the Culinary Arts Award at my school last year and received a $25 giftcard to Chapters, it seemed only fitting that I use the giftcard to buy a cookbook.
I ended up buying Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. I’ve tried making bread before, using random internet recipes, but with no avail. Each failed attempt further cemented in my mind that there was a complicated science behind breadmaking which internet recipes were not explaining thoroughly enough.
The first recipe I tried from ABED was Whole Wheat Pizza Dough. Not only did the end product taste amazing, but prepping the dough was relatively simple and quick. Encouraged by the success, I endeavoured to make 100% Whole Wheat Bread for the November Have the Cake Challenge. Whole wheat bread had been the source of many frustrations (why is the dough so tough? Why isn’t my loaf rising? Why does the bread look like a brick?) in the past, but I was determined to master it.
Following Peter’s overnight rise method, I produced light and airy bread, even though I had deviated slightly from the recipe. I forgot to dissolve the yeast with the wet ingredients as instructed in the recipe; instead I had mixed it with the dry. I also used whole wheat bread flour instead of regular whole wheat flour as called for in the recipe so I had to add more flour to the dough to achieve the correct consistency.
My older brother commented that the bread had tasted the same as store-bought, which I took as the ultimate compliment considering my past history of dense brick-like loaves. Sometimes the clarity and thoroughness of instruction in a cookbook written by a pro really does make a difference. Not all cookbooks are worth buying in my opinion, but this one definitely was.
Tips for Making Bread:
Use the fresh yeast; many of my brick-like loaves were a result of old yeast which didn’t rise properly.
If you use a machine to knead the dough, be careful not to over-knead; if you are kneading by hand, make sure you knead the dough enough.
The temperature of the water or milk is very important. Anything too cool and the yeast will not be activated; anything too hot and the yeast will die.
A small kitchen scale is particularly useful in the breadmaking venture. Volume and weight are two completely different things and depending on how packed your flour is, the actually amount that you measure out using a volume cup could be different from the weight of flour that is called for in the recipe. My kitchen scale is almost at antique status by now and mostly retired, so I borrowed my friend Jenny’s electronic scale. According to her, kitchen scales are pretty cheap these days, so if you are into baking, you may want to consider investing in one.
Click below for the recipe.
100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Source: Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday
Yield: 2 loaves
- 6 ¼ cups (28 oz / 794 g) whole wheat flour (I used 28 ounces of whole wheat bread flour and an additional 9 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) salt or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons (2.5 oz / 71 g) granulated or brown sugar
- 1 egg (1.75 oz / 50 g)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil (2 oz /56.5 g)
- 1 ¼ cups (10 oz/283 g) lukewarm water (about 95F or 35C)
- 1 ¼ cups (10 oz/283 g) lukewarm milk (any kind; at about 95F or 35C)
- 1 ½ tablespoons (0.5 oz / 14 g) instant yeast
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and oil together. In another bowl, combine the water and milk and then whisk in the yeast until dissolved. Add the egg mixture and water mixture to the dry ingredients. Using the paddle attachment, mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes so that the flour has a chance to fully hydrate.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. The dough will become more firm and smooth. At this point, add water or flour (a tablespoon at a time) if the dough is too dry or wet, respectively. The dough should be supple and slightly sticky. Continue to knead on medium-low speed for 4 more minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for a final few seconds, working in more flour or water as needed so that the dough is very supple and pliable and slightly sticky. Form the dough into a ball. Stretch the front end of the dough outwards and then fold it back on top of the dough. Do this from the back end and then from each side, then flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes. Repeat this process two more times, completing all repetitions within 30 minutes.
Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and then refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days. If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days, you can portion the dough and place it into multiple oiled bowls at this stage. I divided my dough into half and baked a loaf and some rolls on two different days.
Preheat oven to 200F for 1 minute; turn the heat off. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 hours before you plan to bake. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces for loaves or small pieces for rolls, about 2 ounces each. To make a loaf shape, flatten the dough and tuck opposite edges in, rolling to form a uniform log shape. Place the dough in greased 4 ½ by 8 1/2 0inch loaf pans. For freestanding loaves or rolls, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat and proof the dough on the pan.
Place the dough in the oven and leaving the door ajar, let the dough rise for 2 to 3 hours, until increased to about 1 ½ times its original size. In loaf pans, the dough should dome about 1 inch above the rim. About 15 minutes before baking, remove the dough and preheat the oven to 350. If making rolls brush the dough with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tablespoons water) (this is not necessary for loaves).
Bake loaves for 40 to 55 minutes and rolls for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. The bread is done when the top and sides are a deep rich brown, the load sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is about 185F (85C) in the center. I wasn’t sure how to tell whether the loaf sounded hollow when thumped on the bottom (because the loaf was too hot for me to take out of the pan and thump and check for sounds of hollowness), so I inserted a skewer into the center instead. It came out clean after 40 minutes, so I removed the bread from the oven.
Removes from the pans and cool for at least 20 minutes for rolls and at least 1 hour for loaves before slicing or serving.