16 January 2013

Simple Gifts 100% Whole Grain Bread: **Detailed Recipe**

Dear Lissy,

I've been baking bread seriously for 20 years, including a stint as a professional breadmaker for a restaurant.  This loaf is my signature bread.   I developed the recipe for a King Arthur flour contest, but had a conflict the weekend the contest was running.  Oh, well.  It still blesses our family, which is far more important.
A Caraway Rye variation of Simple Gifts.  Notice the thin, crackly crust on the middle loaf , a result of steam-baking in a covered casserole.  The bread "sings" when it comes out of the oven.

Simple Gifts Whole Grain Loaves  
2 loaves

12 to 24 hours before making bread:
4 cups (18 oz) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
½  cup cultured buttermilk
1- ½ cups filtered water 
½ tsp active dry yeast
Dough will be soft.  Stir until combined, and cover with plastic wrap.  Leave on counter if room is cool (68 F or less), or place in refrigerator.  This step develops the complex flavor of the flour, releases extra nutrients, and autolyzes the dough to cut the kneading time in half. Good 100% whole wheat bread requires a full 24 hours from start to finish.  Patience, Grasshopper.

Next day:
Dissolve and let stand 15 minutes until foamy/creamy
3/4 cup warm (110 F) water
1-1/4 tsp (rest of pkg) active dry yeast

Combine in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook:
Flour/buttermilk mixture (Soaker)
Activated yeast
2 Tbsp.  - 1/4 cup filtered local honey
2 cups (9 oz) additional King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
2-1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. Vital Wheat Gluten (if no one is gluten sensitive/intolerant)
2 Tbsp. cool (65 degrees F) butter* Don’t add this yet!!!
At this point the dough should offer no resistance when squeezed with wet fingers, but will still be very sticky.  It should clean the sides of the bowl, but still adhere to the bottom and the hook.  If the dough is too tough, add water a TBSP at a time, if too slack, flour a TBSP at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Knead for up to 10 minutes on speed 2, or until dough is silky smooth and a golf ball sized piece can be pulled and stretched thin enough to see light through without tearing (called “windowpaning”).   I stop the mixer and begin checking for windowpaning at about the 7 minute mark.
This dough can be hand kneaded, but will take a full twenty minutes by hand. Remember, whole wheat should be kneaded on a wet, not floured, surface if kneading by hand.  Instead of adding the butter in chunks at the end of kneading, smear it on the kneading surface a little at a time.

A note about windowpaning from Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book...
Halfway through kneading you can gently tug and pull the dough out flabby-thin.  The surface will still be plenty rough, with little craters all over; the dough will tear easily.
Halfway there!

When the dough is fully developed, it will pull into a paper-thin sheet, smooth and bright.  When you hold it to the light, you can see the webbing of the gluten strands in the sheet.
Dough is done.  Whole Wheat will have flecks of bran visible.

Add cool room temp butter  by teaspoons when the dough is close to the windowpane stage.   Once the butter is incorporated, stop the mixer and test the dough again.  It is possible to over-knead and end up with a liquid mess.  If you decided to skip the pre-soak, it will take close to 20 minutes of kneading for the dough to windowpane.  If your mixer seems hot or struggles, give it a break at the halfway point for about 10 minutes.

Form dough into a smooth ball with wet hands and pull and tuck the sides underneath until the top has a smooth, tight surface and the bottom looks like a bellybutton.   Place in an UNGREASED bowl.  Cover with Saran or another overturned bowl and allow dough to rise until a 1/2" indentation made with a wet finger feels spongy and doesn’t fill in, about 90 minutes. If dough feels firm and springy it isn’t fully proofed yet.  If dough sighs and deflates, it is overproofed and you will have to briefly re-knead it before the second rise.  Dough will rise best at about 80 F. If the room is much cooler, the rise will take longer (no harm done!).  If the room is much warmer the dough will develop a beery flavor.

With wet hands deflate dough gently from the center outward.  Using a wet rubber spatula or bowl scraper, release dough from bowl and fold edges under to form another tight ball/bellybutton.  Do NOT punch.  Whole grain dough needs TLC!  Try not to tear the top of the dough.  Cover and allow to rise until spongy once again, about 45 minutes.  (If you're pressed for time, you can omit the second rise.  It's only purpose is to give the bread a finer crumb which is better for toast and sandwiches.)

Turn out dough upside down onto floured counter and gently deflate.  Divide dough in half.  Form dough into a tight, smooth balls by bringing the sides up to the center and then flipping the dough over so the smooth tight portion is on top and the bellybutton is underneath.  Allow to rest for 10 -15 minutes.  Try not to tear the dough that forms the smooth outer covering of the balls.

Form the dough into loaves using your favorite method, keeping the smooth tight surface on the top of the loaf. I have played around with every method from simply kneading the dough into shape, to rolling the loaf “cinnamon roll” style, to a fairly complex folding/rolling pattern.  The folded and rolled loaves seem to offer the best structure for the final proof and oven spring. The loaves I just kneaded into shape were rather flat...but then I can be an obsessive dork...they still taste the same☺

Place the loaves in two 2-1/2 qt. covered casseroles** that have been well greased and dusted with cornmeal.  Cover with lid and place in a very warm (90 F max) place to proof.  If the final proof is too cool, the top of the loaf will “break” on the side when it springs in the oven. If the final proof is too warm, the outsides of the loaf will be spongy and the interior dense.   You don’t want the crust to dry out and form a skin during final proofing, so spritz with water or brush with oil if your home is very dry. When pressed lightly on one end with a wet finger, the dough should feel spongy throughout, but should not sigh or deflate.
**Note: I have a small oven, so I use two inexpensive graniteware chicken roasters lined with parchment paper   Check to be sure both of your covered casseroles will fit in the oven  before you’re actually baking the bread.  It’s fine to bake these loaves in tins like normal sandwich breads, but the crust will be thicker and tougher than in a covered pot.

Pour 2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup water over dough, wetting entire top crust.  Use a lame or knife dipped in water to slit the top of the loaf.  You can easily make a lame with a razor blade and a popsicle stick if you don’t own one, or just be really, really careful with a standard razor blade.    The cut should be about 1/4" deep and at a sharp angle, not straight down into the loaf.  Cover with tight fitting lid. If the lid allows any airflow at all, seal with foil strips.
Tonight's loaves fresh out of the oven still in their parchment lined graniteware chicken roasters.
Place in the center of a 450 oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and reduce oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 10 minutes or until internal temp reaches 190 F.  If you are making the loaf in a heavy clay or LeCreuset type casserole, the uncovered bake may take almost double that amount of time because the pan has to heat up initially.  Tip out of pans on rack to cool.  If there are any soggy spots on the bottom of the loaf, place directly on oven racks for a minute or two to dry out.   Butter tops if a soft, shiny crust is desired.

Love ya, my little flour girl!

Linked up at Raising Homemakers and Homestead Barn Hop


  1. This loaf sounds delicious! I do a bit of baking, sometimes as often as twice a week and sometimes (like lately lol) we resort to store bought. We grind our own grain into whole wheat flour, which changes the recipe a bit, I've found. I think I'm going to give this one a try on Wednesday, when everyone is out of the house and I'm here all by my lonesome. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Enjoy! You might want to start the soaker on Tuesday night if you have time so it's all ready to go Wednesday morning. I also have, use, and love the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book -- a great resource if you are grinding wheat and other grains yourself.

  2. I will probably start the soaker on Tuesday late afternoon. I'm used to making a poolish or sponge or whatever people are calling it nowadays. :) Our kitchen is cold (low 60s in the day, 50s at night) so it'll be a very slow developing soaker. ;) I am going to have to look at the book - thank you for the suggestion!