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I baked this loaf of Transitional Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread a couple days ago, and I am going to show you how to make it using the delayed fermentation method as presented by Peter Reinhart in Whole Grain Breads.  I do recommend that you buy his book for the wealth of information in it, but if you don’t yet have the book and are eager to get your hands into some bread dough, I can help you do that!

DAY 1.  Make a Soaker and a Biga.  If you have questions about the meaning of some words, you will soon be able to find definitions for them, within a post called “Fairly Common Bread Lingo” which is under construction.  It will be located within “Bread Terminology.”  I will highlight words with definitions that will be offered there for you.

IMG_3535Soaker–In Medium Bowl (#1): Mix together 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 3/4 c. + 2 T.  milk until it comes together into a ball.  Cover this loosely with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.  (If it’s going to be longer than 24 hours, refrigerate it.)

IMG_3538Biga– In Medium Bowl (#2):  Mix together 1 3/4 c. unbleached bread flour, 1/4 tsp. instant yeast and 1/2 c. + 2 T. spring water, at room temperature.  Wet your hands and knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes.  The dough will become very tacky.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.  Knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute.  The dough will become smoother, but still tacky.   Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the next day.  Plan to remove it from the refrigerator to take off the chill,  at least 2 hours before you use it.

Now, go read a book, watch TV or go to bed.  You are all done with Day # 1 of bread making.  How easy was that?

DAY 2.  We are going to make the Final Dough and Bake the bread.

You removed the biga from the refrigerator 2 + hours ago, so it’s less chilly, right?  If so, then, you are ready to proceed.  The final dough will be a combination of the biga, the soaker and some additional final ingredients.  The method for mixing all these ingredients together is kind of fun.

IMG_3549Final Dough.  Place both the biga and soaker doughs on your work surface.  Using a bench scraper, divide each dough into 12 pieces.  Dust them with a just a little whole wheat flour so that they don’t stick back together.  Then, put all 24 pieces of dough into a Large Bowl (#3) and add the following: 3 1/2 T. whole wheat flour, 5/8 tsp. salt, 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast, 2 1/4 T. of honey, and 1 T. unsalted butter, melted.

IMG_3558Put all of the above ingredients together and then dive in with wet hands to knead it together.  The dough will not stick to wet hands.  I was pretty happy when I learned that.  When the ingredients are evenly distributed, knead the dough for about two minutes.  If the dough is not soft and slightly sticky at this point, you may add just a dusting of flour, or wet your hands again until the dough does feel soft and sticky.   (Set aside a bit of extra flour {3 1/2 T.} and borrow a bit from that, if needed, for adjustments.

5 minute rest before shaping and final proofing.Now you are going to knead the dough on the work surface.  Dust the surface with some of that extra whole wheat flour you’ve measured out.  Roll the dough in the flour to coat it and knead it for 3 or 4 minutes, using only as much flour as needed to make the dough feel soft and tacky (not sticky).  You will feel the texture of the dough change within these few minutes.  Kind of magical.  It will become very soft and silky.  Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes.  While the dough is resting, clean Medium Bowl #2 and lightly oil it

I found a big bag of these bowls covers for $1 at the Dollar Store.

I found a big bag of these bowls covers for $1 at the Dollar Store.

Knead the ball of dough one more time, very briefly, which strengthens the gluten and if you need to make any final water or flour adjustments, you may do so.  Gather the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl, rolling it so that all surfaces are oiled. Cover this bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise for about 45 or 60 minutes, or until it is 1 1/2 times bigger.  This is called proofing.

Go call a friend and tell them you’re baking bread today.  Wait for them to be impressed.

Recipe from "Whole Grain Breads"

Remove the dough to your floured work surface and shape it into a loaf.  Grease the loaf pan well before placing the dough into it.  You may spray the top of the loaf lightly with pan spray, and if you like, sprinkle flour on it.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1 1/2 times its’ previous size.

This is a good time to get out of the kitchen.   Check your emails and post a message on Facebook that you are making bread.  Someone will want to know if they can come over and share some with you.  

A wet lame makes the cut easier.

Preheat the oven to 425 F at least 30 to 40 minutes before you intend to bake.   When the bread has been proofed, you may wish to score the loaf before placing it in the oven.  Decrease the oven temperature to 350 F.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Rotate the loaf and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.   The loaf should register at least 195 F in the center when it is ready to come out of the oven.

Go throw in a load of laundry or wash your dirty dishes while you’re waiting.  Your home will start to smell absolutely wonderful.  People walking by outside will pause and sniff the air.  You will feel a little smug and will feel justified in your smugness.

IMG_3592Using oven mitts, remove the pan from the oven and check the internal temperature with your instant-read thermometer.  If it’s at least 195 F, turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack.  Allow the loaf to cool at least an hour before cutting into it.  Whatever you have to do to avoid cutting into the warm loaf, do it—run an errand, walk the dog, write your memoirs–the bread is still baking on the inside and the flavor is still developing.

One hour later you have a beautiful loaf of healthful, delicious home made bread to eat and to share with someone you love, or at least, someone you would like to make happy.  Enjoy!

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