12 January 2011

100% Whole Wheat Hearth Bread

Another bread knocked off the list from the cookbook; this time the "hearth" 100% Whole Wheat bread. Hearth in the title refers to the consistency of the dough as well as the cooking method - it aims to be light and fluffy, full of air pockets, with a crispy crust. Very much like a baguette or ciabatta you get fresh from a bakery. You probably don't want to use it for a sandwich and you are ripping off chunks instead of slicing it. Unlike sandwich bread, it usually contains only the essentials (flour, water, yeast, salt), although that was not the case with this loaf due to working with whole wheat.
Whole wheat flour is very hard to get fluffy bread from. It is dense and doesn't really develop gluten as readily as your standard white flour. To give the recipe a little bit of spring, it called for a bit of brown sugar (to help the yeast, I believe) and a bit of oil (to remove the dryness you get from whole wheat). The water percentage is also much higher than a standard loaf of bread, but not quite as high as the rustic bread I've cooked a few times into mini baguettes. It still uses stretch-and-fold instead of kneading, and a ridiculous amount of stirring. Five to seven minutes at "medium" by hand with a wooden spoon is not the easiest thing in the world.
On the left is the dough ball fresh out of the fridge, ready to rise for 2-3 hours. On the right, it has spread out quite a bit after the rise, and been scored. I tried something new with the scoring - I cut it very deeply, then sprinkled a mixture of white flour and corn meal into each of the scores, smearing it with my fingertips. This created a distinct look to the scoring and possibly helped avoid my usual scoring problem of the bread simply rising through the scores and only ending up with light wrinkles. I did cut the dough deeper than usual as well.

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