One of my very first attempts at making bread was a 100% whole wheat sandwich loaf. The combination of my baking inexperience and a recipe that rushed the process made for a loaf that looked and tasted like a brick. To be fair I’ve never bitten into a brick, but I imagine if I did it would taste similar to the loaf I made about two years ago. Older and wiser, I set out to conquer the whole wheat beast once more. This proved easier than expected.
As with many great bread recipes the key is letting time do the work. Whole wheat flour is coarser than your normal bread or AP flour and performs much better when well hydrated. The Peter Reinhart recipe I used accomplishes this by using a soaker, wherein you mix about half of the flour with liquid the night before and let it sit.
It also uses a preferment called a biga. This gives the bread a more developed flavor and, like the soaker, helps hydrated the whole wheat flour.
The combination of the preferment, soaker, and summer heat in my kitchen led to an impressively fast rise time for this loaf (about 55 minutes). It has a great crust and strong structure while being nice and chewy on the inside.
There is a notably more…earthy? taste to this bread and it has a much darker color because of the lack of white flour (in comparison to a light wheat bread). Both recipes bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, so why not make them both and compare?
In other news, I seem to have found my true calling in life: photoshopping in pieces of bread into iconic Michigan sports photos. Remember that perfectly spiraled loaf Denard threw in the Sugar Bowl?
100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
For the Soaker
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups milk
For the Biga
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 3/4 cup water, room temperature
- All of the Biga
- All of the Soaker
- 5 grams (5/8 teaspoon) salt
- 7 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
To make the soaker: Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl until all of the flour is hydrated. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
To make the biga: Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball. Knead for 2 minutes, making sure there are no dry bits of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours (it will keep for up to 3 days).
About two hours before mixing your dough remove the biga from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Divide the biga and soaker into small pieces (about 12 pieces each) and place in a stand mixer.
Add all of the other ingredients except the flour and knead for 3 minutes. Add flour if necessary to the dough. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then knead for another 3-4 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours.
Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Pat the dough out to about 6 x 8 inches and roll it up, pinching the seams as you go. Place in a buttered/floured loaf pan and let rise until it crests the top of the pan.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, turning halfway through. Let cool for 2 hours before slicing.
Recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads