It’s almost time for me to return Mollie Katzen’s The New Enchanted Broccoli Forrest cookbook to the library, so I decided to try one of her bread recipes. I chose the basic whole wheat loaf.
As usual, there were some substitutions involved (FYI – most people advise against make substitutions in bread baking – it can be a very exact science). I began by making the sponge – I mixed a packet of yeast, 2 cups of warm water, and 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour in a bowl. I covered with a towel and allowed it to sit for 40 minutes.
After this initial rising, it was time to add the mix – 1/4 cup of canola oil, 1/3 cup of honey, 1 Tbs of salt. I added this liquid mixture to the sponge and then began adding in the additional flour. The recipe called for 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 4 cups of all-purpose flour. This is where I ran into some problems. First of all, I only had 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour on hand so I had to increase the whole wheat portion. Furthermore, the dough was very dry (perhaps due to the weather or humidity of my kitchen?) and would not take 7 extra cups of flour. I actually had to add over 1/4 cup of water to make the dough workable. Bread is so finick-y! I ended up adding 3 1/2 cups of ww wheat flour and 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. I kneaded this for a good 15 minutes and then covered and set aside for 1 1/2 minutes.
Once the dough had done its thing for 90+ minutes, I kneaded it one more time (~10 minutes), divided the dough ball in two, and placed it in 2 greased and sesame seed sprinkled loaf pans. I pressed the dough into the bottom of the pan and then flipped it over. This ensured a nicely shaped top and evenly sesame-seeded top. I covered the pans and allowed it to double in volume (I let it sit for 20-25 minutes, but you should probably wait longer). Finally I popped the loaf pans in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.
After the loaves finished baking, I carefully popped them out on to a wire rack and allowed them to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. If you cut the bread when its too hot, the structure of the bread will collapse – you don’t want that!
This bread had a high ratio of whole wheat flour and it was noticable. Whole wheat breads don’t rise as high and are denser than white bread. However, I really liked the taste of this loaf. It reminded me of rustic peasant bread :-) It’s been delicious toasted and covered with raspberry jam.
There are plenty of variations that you could make while baking this bread. Here are a few:
- For a thick, crunchy crust – bake the bread at 425 F for the first 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 F for the remaining 30 minutes.
- Brush milk, egg yolk, or egg white on the bread loaves just before baking. These glazes will result in slightly different effects on the crust.
- Sprinkle sesame, poppy, or sunflower seeds into the batter or incorporate them as part of the crust.
- Play around with the ratios of whole wheat flour and white flour – just keep in mind that whole wheat flour creates a denser, chewier loaf.