Week Forty-Four: Multi-Grain Breads
I’m not really sure what to write about this bread. See, the original recipe is one of those multi-day, sourdough-starter-already-made recipes that can’t help but produce a good bread. And since this bread is made entirely from whole-wheat and rye flours – two flours notoriously difficult to use alone in artisan style breads – such elaborate preparations are nearly requisite.
My issue, however, came from the fact that one of the ingredients for the starter was a starter. You know, let me just pull out my appropriately-hydrated whole-grain starter. That I have.
I’m sure there are gasps from the panary hardcore amongst you, my Dear Readers; but no, I do not keep starters in my fridge. Not live ones, anyway. And, okay, in fairness this recipe is from a book that I don’t personally own; I’m sure the recipe for this second-level starter is included therein. Me, I work with what I got.
In addition to the jerry-rigged starter (or perhaps because of it), my dough didn’t rise quickly enough to accomodate my schedule, which resulted in less than ideal rising conditions (the half-proofed dough was shoved in the fridge as I ran out the door, to be later revived under a less than watchful eye).
It all seemed to be going well, despite the abuse, until I pulled it from the oven. With practically no oven-spring, I’m still not sure if the fault was mine, or one inherent to the flours themselves. All that aside, though, the bread wasn’t dense. It wasn’t particularly airy either, but no surpise there from a whole-grain bread.
It did, however, have an odd flavor that I’m at a loss to pin down. It was a decidedly sourdough taste, but either more potent or somehow different than what I’m accustomed to. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it took me a few bites to wrap my brain around it.
Texture-wise, the crumb was as tender as you could possibly expect, with enough pull to remind you that this dough was cared for. The crust was a bit thick and chewy, which I think could be remedied by baking this loaf in a covered pot, à la No-Knead Bread.
All in all, this bread was good, but not really great. Take that with a grain of salt, though; you’ve seen that I hardly followed the original recipe. If there’s anyone out there with a whole-grain starter, try it and let me know how it works out. And please include your starter recipe.
For the starter:
2½ ounces (about 1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water, at room temperature
For the soaker:
2½ ounces mixed seeds (see note 1 below), plus about 1/3 cup extra for finishing the loaves
3 tablespoons water, at room temperature
For the final dough:
8½ ounces (1 3/4 cups) whole wheat flour
5 ounces (1 generous cup) rye flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
9 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water, at room temperature
1. Mix the starter ingredients together until a shaggy ball of dough is formed. Knead for about 2 minutes, or until smooth. Place in a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for about 12 hours before using in the final dough.
2. For the the soaker, mix 2½ ounces of mixed seeds (reserving the remainder) with the water in a small bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before using in the final dough.
3. For the final dough, whisk together the flours, salt, and yeast. Add the water and all of the starter. Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until a rough dough forms. Increase the speed to medium-low, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, and the gluten network is well-formed.
4. Add the soaker, and knead until evenly incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly-oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until increased 1½ times in size, which may take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the strength of your starter.
6. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface, and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round or oval-shaped loaf.
7. Place the remaining mixed seeds on a flat plate. Spray or brush the top of each loaf lightly with water, and roll in the seeds to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450º F.
8. When fully risen, use a sharp serrated knife to gently and decisively slash each loaf 3 or 4 times diagonally, letting only the weight of the knife press into the dough. Bake at 450º F for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the loaves halfway through baking if necessary. Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before slicing.
1. You can use any combination of seeds you like, such as flax, sesame, poppy, or millet, or even any cracked or rolled grains, such as oat or barley; just make sure it all adds up to 2½ ounces. Due to such variation, the volume measurements will vary wildly, so the best way to properly measure this mixture is to weigh it.