Saturday, May 23, 2009

Whole wheat sesame millet sandwich bread

This is a recipe adapted from the Fanny Farmer Baking Book by someone who did a guest post on the TheKitchn blog. I've adapted it further by using Peter Reinhart's soaker and sponge technique.

Makes two smallish loaves

For the soaker:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup millet
3 Tablespoons roasted sesame seeds (if what you've got hasn't been pre-roasted a brief toasting on the stove-top will suffice)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup hot water
1/3 cup honey
1 Tablespoon vital gluten

Mixed, covered and let sit out overnight.

For the sponge:
2 cups white bread flour
1 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 Tablespoon vital gluten

Mixed, lightly kneaded, covered and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

When I was splitting up the ingredients from the original one-day recipe I wasn't sure where to put the honey. I ended up choosing the soaker but I didn't have a good reason for that and the soaker was rather wetter than the other Reinhart recipes I made. Seemed to work out OK, though.

In the morning I brought the sponge out and let it warm up. Once it was close to room temperature I tore it into small pieces and mixed it into the soaker. The soaker was so wet it didn't hold together at all so that began easily. But the sponge was surprisingly resilient. I probably shouldn't have put the gluten into it. That meant that getting the two halves to mix homogeneously was a bit of a trial. At the same time, the whole was so wet that I worked in over another half cup of white flour to get a proper workable dough out of it. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but my hands were covered with bread-muck. The mixer couldn't handle it at all so I had squeeze and stir and knead handfuls to get it to come together. I also added around another teaspoon and a half of yeast. The original recipe calls for a Tablespoon, but I had less in the house than I thought. That just meant a longer rise time; no big deal.

Once I finally got the dough together, I kneaded it as best I could (It was still pretty wet and sticky), and put it in an oiled bowl to rise for a couple hours. When it was about doubled I poured it out onto a floured board, punched it down a bit and cut it in half. I rolled both halves into loaf shapes, wrapped one up in plastic wrap and then foil to go in the freezer, and put the other in a loaf pan for the second rise.

A couple more hours later it had doubled again. I attempted to slice the top and baked it in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes until it reached 210 degrees inside. I poured some melted butter over top after 25 minutes too.

There wasn't any rise in the oven. In fact, it looks like it might have fallen a little. So the bread is pretty dense. But it wears it well. It has a spongy texture with lots of tiny bubbles and a strong gluten structure. It holds up to spreading unsoftened butter and has a very nice hearty chew to it with little crunchy bits from the seeds and whole grains. You can smell the whole wheat just a bit, but the flavor doesn't hit you over the head; it tastes more like a country white loaf: sweet, buttery and nutty. It's got a lot of flavor, but not so much or so unusual that you couldn't use it for sandwiches. Pretty darn good, especially considering it's half whole grains.

On a related note, I was thinking of maybe submitting a guest post for The Kitchn too. Is there anything I've posted about that you think I should use? The black sapote bars were the biggest sensation, but not many folks have heard of sapotes and they're out of season anyway. Maybe something about radishes? It's the start of CSA season for a lot of folks who could use ideas on using them. Or maybe I could write up something about how I went from no-knead bread to machine mixing to doing everything by hand with slowly increasing confidence in my abilities. What do you think?

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