Thursday, October 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake 10 - 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

The group has been baking breads with much success that now we thought we were ready to graduate to somewhat difficult breads. Some members had requested Aparna that we bake whole wheat breads and she obliged. Thus this month we were set the task of trying Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. 

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's book Peter Reinharts Whole Grain Breads we made small workable modifications. 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. 

Soaking  whole grain flours overnight, especially whole wheat flour, breaks down the phytates in them, aids mineral absorption and makes them softer and more digestible. It is also important to knead the dough well to develop whatever little gluten there is in the whole wheat flour.

 While this bread is not difficult to make, it requires a little bit of planning. 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. 

The first change was to use water to make the Soaker instead of milk because leaving dough mixed with milk on the kitchen counter overnight might spoil in tropical temperatures. However, as milk contributes to the softness of bread, we used milk instead of water in the Biga/ Sponge which would keep with the refrigeration.
Next change was to add 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 texture. We also added oil to the dough. All these helped to make a 100% whole wheat loaf which was better and softer in texture.

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 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup water at room temperature
1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider or plain)

For The Biga/ Sponge:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup milk (or a little more)
1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider or plain)

For The Final Dough:
All of the Soaker
All of the Biga/ Sponge
1 1/2 teaspoon Vital Wheat Gluten (optional) ( I did not add any)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (and a few tablespoons more if required)
2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/8 cup oil (or melted butter if preferred)
2 tablespoon honey


Mix all of the ingredients listed together in a bowl until all of the flour is hydrated.  I found that I needed more than the original 3/4 cup of water suggested and used around 1 cup. This may vary from flour to flour. The Soaker should be somewhat like reasonably firm bread dough in consistency. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours. 

Biga/ Sponge: 
Mix all of the Biga/ Sponge in a bowl and knead together well till a soft ball forms. Again you might need more than the originally suggested 3/4 cup of liquid; I needed a little more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. This will keep for up to 3 days. 

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.
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.
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.  Let it rest for 5 minutes, then add flour as needed (as much as only necessary) to the dough and  knead for another 3-4 minutes.
The dough should now come away from the sides of the bowl. It will still be a little sticky but  manageable. It is important to not add too much extra flour during this step so as not to dehydrate the dough. 
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. 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 (a 9” by 4” loaf tin) and let it rise until it is just higher than your loaf tin. I did not have a tin that has much height. So I baked them in smaller loaves.
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.
Let the loaf cool completely before slicing it. 
Refrigerate the loaf if not consuming immediately.

Using Vital Wheat Gluten will help give a better rise.
The dough needs to be kneaded well and it is important to be careful while shaping the dough into a loaf.  Ensure that you do not tear the risen dough as this will tear the gluten “cloak” that would have developed. 
This bread was one of the difficult ones I have tried. I was not able to work the dough so well as it requires to be. On one trial I added a bit too much flour that the bread had cracked on top and the crust was falling apart when I sliced. It took me few tries and I cannot say I could perfect it yet.
To check on other members' breads have a look at Aparna's post