I tried a new bread recipe yesterday, my first from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible. Though I bought the book last Spring, and I’ve read through several of the recipes, I hadn’t gotten around to actually trying any of them. And while I don’t bake a lot of sandwich loaves, preferring the chewy texture and hearty crust of a more artisan-styled hearth bread, I was looking for something that did not require an overnight rise, or a separate sponge; just a simple loaf of bread that I could put together in a few hours. This recipe seemed to fit the bill: I had all the ingredients in the pantry, it called for less than 2 hours of rising time in total, and there were not a lot of mixing/folding/kneading steps. Just a simple loaf of bread.
Of course, I had to go and complicate things. Because I don’t use all-purpose white flour, and in fact, do not have any in the house, I substituted whole-grain white wheat flour in the recipe. And because of the use of 100% whole grain flour, yet still wanting a minimal rise time, I decided to try out adding some vital wheat gluten, a tactic Rose suggests to ‘lighten’ and improve texture for heavy, whole grain breads (although not suggested in this recipe, as she uses mostly AP flour). And, because obviously I know more about baking bread than Rose Levy Beranbaum, I decided I should preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, instead of the recommended 375 degrees F, so that I could get a good oven spring (and I would not lose any of the crucial early heat by the addition of steam-inducing ice).
Well, I got “oven-spring” to spare. My bread has wings that Icarus would envy. Despite the fact that the slices look like Mickey Mouse, the bread is quite tasty: good texture, soft, yet not too dense, nice crunch from the flaxseeds, and a lovely crisp crust. And healthy? With three different whole grain flours and plenty of omega-3-packed flaxseed, a slice of this bread is practically a mutli-vitamin with added fiber; luckily for us, it tastes much better.
Below I’ve included the recipe and noted where I deviated from Rose’s original. This one is worth a try, even with the wings. And hey, they do look like Mickey Mouse – perfect for convincing the kids to eat whole grains!
Adapted from Flaxseed Loaf in The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 13 oz (2 and 2/3 cups) white whole wheat flour (Wild Hive all-purpose flour, soft white winter wheat)
- 5 oz (1 cup) whole wheat bread flour (Wild Hive bread flour, hard red spring wheat)
- 2 and 1/2 oz (about 1/2 cup) rye flour (Wild Hive)
- 2 oz (1/2 cup) flaxseed
- 1 and 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 4 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
- 2 tbsp (1 and 1/2 oz) honey
- filtered water, warmed (110 to 115 degrees F)
- 2 tsp salt
- Make dough. Combine flours, flaxseed, vital wheat gluten (if using) and instant yeast in a large bowl. Whisk together to mix thoroughly. Add warm water and honey; moisten all the flour, then add salt. Thoroughly mix, with a wooden spoon or with wet hands, and knead lightly in the bowl for 1 to 2 minutes. The dough will be quite wet and sticky, but should come together in a cohesive mass. Allow to rest in the bowl, covered with a clean kitchen towel, for 20 minutes.
- Knead and rise. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead dough until smooth and elastic, 5 – 10 minutes (the dough should be much less sticky after the rest). Add as little flour as possible in order to prevent sticking; alternate kneading with wet hands, and with a sprinkling of flour, scraping with a dough scraper if the dough sticks to the work surface. Form into a tight ball, transfer to an oiled bowl, turn the dough ball in the bowl to oil all sides, and allow to rise in a warm spot until not quite doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F [I preheated to 450 degrees F, to counteract the temperature drop from the ice, but it may have been too hot, given the ‘wings.‘] If you do not have a baking stone, place a baking sheet in the oven to preheat. Place a skillet or roasting pan on the floor of the oven to preheat (this will hold ice cubes to produce steam during the initial baking).
- Shape and rise. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten gently into a rectangle, trying not to deflate all of the air, but eliminating any large air pockets by dimpling the dough. Form into a loaf shape by folding into thirds, like a business letter; with the skinny end of the ‘letter’ at the top, grasp the underside of the top of the ‘letter’ and roll down towards you, pushing the edge of the dough back into the body of the ‘letter’ to tighten surface tension. Repeat this rolling process until you come to the bottom edge of the ‘letter’; finally tuck the bottom edge under and seal the seam with your thumbs. If the loaf is shorter than your loaf pan, roll it back and forth a bit to slightly elongate it and tuck the edges under until it fits the pan. Place, seam-down, in an oiled 9″ X 5″ loaf pan [Rose suggests that the unrisen loaf should be 1″ below the top of the pan; mine was about even. Perhaps a larger pan would have produced a better shape.]. Cover with a damp towel, inverted bowl, or oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until it is 1 inch above the edge of the pan, about 30 – 45 minutes.
- Bake. With a sharp, serrated knife dipped in water, make a single, 1/2-inch deep slash down the center of the risen loaf. Quickly set the pan directly on a baking stone (or baking sheet). Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the heated skillet or pan and quickly shut the oven door (lest steam escapes). Bake at 375 degrees F [I baked at 450 degrees F for the first 2 minutes, then reduced the heat to 375 degrees F] for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown, a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, or the internal temperature at the center is 190 degrees F [I think the bread could have baked for another 5 minutes or so; next time I’ll go to 195 degrees]. Remove the bread from the oven and unmold from the pan onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.
Yields one loaf.
- Vital wheat gluten helps add structure and airiness to whole grain breads, especially those with seeds (which can cut developing strands of gluten on their sharp edges). If you would like to eliminate the vital wheat gluten, you may find that an overnight rise in the refrigerator, or a second rise prior to shaping, aids in developing texture and structure for your loaf. Of course, maybe the vital wheat gluten assisted in the excessive rise and collapse of the top crust, producing the ‘wings.’ It’s my first time using it; next time I bake this bread I’ll try it without the vital wheat gluten and update.
- You can substitute unbleached all-purpose white flour for the whole white wheat flour. In this case, you should not need vital wheat gluten.
- If desired, once the bread comes out of the oven you can brush the top with 1 tbsp of melted butter.
Up to 3 days at room temperature, wrapped lightly in a clean kitchen towel. Also freezes well for up to 3 months.