Saturday, January 1, 2011

Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart

I got a fantastic bread baking book for Christmas and have been trying out some recipes. I highly recommend checking to see if your library has Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. I'm sure there are others out there, but this is the first book I've liked that is really, truly for whole wheat. He has a few 'transitional' recipes in there (50/50) but everything else is actually whole wheat or multigrain. I'm so excited to have so many recipes to try that I don't have to 'tweak' to make fit my ideals.

This is my first loaf out of the book and I am super impressed. I have to say, it's the best loaf of whole grain sandwich bread I've ever made. It was honestly hard to believe it wasn't a 50/50 loaf - except that I'd ground the wheat myself!

For copyright reasons, I'm going to limit myself on posting recipes from the book and I don't know that this will be in my top three choices yet since it's only my first try. So for now, I'm just going to describe the method he uses. As far as I can tell, it's the same method for all of the recipes in the book.

You begin the night before by making a 'soaker' and a 'biga'. The soaker is pretty much what I'd been doing to soak my flour for my soaked wheat bread recipe. It's just flour, yogurt or water, and salt. The biga is just like a poolish. It's just flour, water, and yeast. You leave the soaker on the counter overnight and the biga goes in the fridge. The next day, you mix both of them in with the remaining ingredients. You only have to mix for like 3 minutes to get a really nice dough because of the overnight magic that happened earlier.

Sprinkle with some flour, knead for like 2 minutes - yeah 2 minutes! Let it rise, shape it, let it rise and bake it. Bam, bread. I love that there is very little hands on effort for this bread. It doesn't tax my poor kitchen aid or my weak hands at all. The dough was amazingly soft and easy to work with. The downside is that only half of the flour actually gets 'soaked' but I think I'm fine with that since the other half is getting a long-rising time in the fridge.

I could not believe how fluffy the final product was for a whole wheat dough and V really liked it too. I am a little hesitant to sign off on this being 'the one' though, because I did read the author's newer book that I got from the library last month and his new method appears to be to mix everything together the night before and then do the rising and baking in the morning. So I'm curious to see the difference in texture and read up on any benefits or disadvantages nutritionally for that method. I also am not thrilled with the high amount of yeast used in this recipe though he does say you can substitute a sourdough starter for the biga and allow for longer rising time instead of adding more yeast the next day. I will definitely have to experiment with all of that eventually as well.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am super simplifying the methods in the book. There is a ton of scientific reasoning behind what's actually going on that the author does a fantastic job of explaining, and I've only made a few recipes from one of his books so I am really no expert here. I mostly just wanted to sum up what I've been learning the last few weeks.


  1. You ambitious woman you - maybe when my kitchen is back to normal (repairing water damaged new wood floor under the fridge at the moment), I'll have to take you up on that suggestion - wheat bread here we come.

  2. So when are you bringing me a loaf?

    Rachel (Todd's wife)

  3. haha. I'll take that into consideration ;)