April 24, 2010

virtuous bread

If you don't already have a whole wheat bread recipe you love, may I offer this favorite recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum? This bread is fantastic: think chewy, nutty and righteously flavorful from that mix of whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, honey, and pumpernickel flour. (I feel virtuous just listing those ingredients, which is why I call it virtuous bread.)

The other nice thing about this bread (besides being delicious and healthful) is that it is one of the faster breads we make. The recipe doesn't call for a pre-ferment (or sponge or biga), which means we can come home from work and crank out a loaf of bread in just a few hours. And that means I can look forward to perfect toast in the morning. I'm serious about toast and, guys, this toast is perfect: for a runny egg, for a simple swipe of salted butter, or for a dip through a pool of extra virgin olive oil. Or, make me a sandwich on this and I'll be a happy girl. Who am I kidding with the "virtuous" stuff? This bread is good and the health factor is just icing on the cake... er, hummus on the celery stick.

Flaxseed loaf (Rose Levy Berenbaum)

1. We buy whole flax seed, store it in the freezer, and grind it just prior to making the bread. The best way to grind flaxseed is to use a little coffee grinder. We have two grinders: a nice burr grinder dedicated to coffee and a cheap re-purposed coffee grinder dedicated to spices.
2. This bread stays fresh and soft for about 3 days, after which it starts to dry out significantly. However, it continues to make excellent toast.
3. Most of RLB's recipes call for the following oven set up: pizza stone on the bottom rack and a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven. You can improvise by using very sturdy baking sheets in place of the pizza stone/skillet set up. However, we have had great success with this set up for bread and pizza. Our first baking stone cracked after 3 years (not bad!) and we recently bought this one, which is holding up well. While we are recommending kitchen items, we like the Lodge unseasoned cast iron skillets.

374 grams unbleached, all-purpose flour (2 2/3 cups)
144 grams whole wheat flour (1 cup)
71 grams pumpernickel flour (about 1/2 cup)
58 grams ground flaxseed (1/2 cup)
4 grams instant yeast (1 1/4 teaspoons)
40 grams honey (2 tablespoons)
414 grams warm (110-115 degrees F) water (1 3/4 liquid cups)
13.2 grams salt (2 teaspoons)
optional: 14 grams melted butter (1 tablespoon)

9-by-5 inch loaf pan, lightly greased with cooking spray or neutral oil
a baking stone or baking sheet
a cast-iron skillet or baking sheet

1. Mix the dough, either using a stand mixer or by using your hands.

Mixer method
In a mixer bowl, whisk together the three flours, flaxseed, and yeast. Make a well in the center and add the honey. With the dough hook, on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), gradually add the water. Continue mixing for about 1 minute or all the dry ingredients are moistened enough to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle on the salt and knead for 7 minutes on medium speed (#4 KitchenAid). The dough should be very elastic and jump back when pressed with a fingertip, but still moist enough to lightly cling to your fingers. If it is still very sticky, knead in a little flour. If it is not at all sticky, spray it with a little water and knead it in. (The dough will weigh about 2 pounds, 7 ounces/1103 grams.)

Hand method
In a medium mixing bowl, with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir together the water, honey, flaxseed, pumpernickel flour, and yeast. Then stir in the salt, whole wheat flour, and all-purpose flour until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, enough to develop the gluten structure a little, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible to keep it from sticking. Use a bench scraper to scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point, it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.

Knead the dough for another 5 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic. It should still be moist enough to cling slightly to your fingers. If the dough is very sticky, add some of the remaining reserved flour, or a little extra. (The dough will weigh about 2 pounds 7 ounces/1103 grams.)

Both methods: Let the dough rise. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 4 quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75 to 80 F) until doubled, about 1 hour.

Shape the dough and let it rise. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press down on it to flatten it slightly. Shape the dough into a loaf. Set int in the prepared loaf pan; it will about 1/2 inch from the top of the pan. Cover it with a large container or cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and allow it to rise until the center is about 1 inch higher than the sides of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes. When the dough is pressed very gently with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat the oven to 375 F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place an oven stone or baking sheet on it, and a cast iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.

With a sharp knife or single-edged razor blade, make a 1/2 inch deep slash lengthwise down the top of the dough. Quickly but gently set the pan on the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (an instant-read thermometer will read about 190 F). Halfway through baking, turn the pan around for even baking.

Remove the bread from the oven and unmold it onto a wire rack. Turn top side up, brush it with melted butter, if desired, and allow it to cool until barely warm, about 2 hours.


Lauren said...

1. We (I) make bread a lot, but in the bread machine, not by hand. I do have to say that we eat it shamefully fast. I've made three one-pound loaves of oatmeal bread this week that have only lasted about twelve hours each.
2. I throw a couple tablespoons of flaxseed meal into every loaf I make. It doesn't really change the taste or texture, and it adds a little nutrition.
3. I find that, as easy as bread is to make (especially in the bread machine!!), it is still extremely well received as a gift. People always appreciate it so much. There is just something about freshly baked bread.
4. I will have to try out your virtuous bread sometime. I just need some pumpernickel flour. Would rye flour substitute, do you think?

Kim said...

3 loaves gone in 12 hours each, wow! this recipe makes a 2 pound loaf, which takes us all week to finish (and we still end up freezing a few slices). you guys win! agreed that bread makes a fab gift. :)

as far as the pumpernickel flour - this is a good question. my guess is it would probably taste good but a) maybe not taste as strongly of rye since pumpernickel flour has extra flavor from bran/germ and b) maybe the texture would be slightly less nubby since pumpernickel flour is ground coarse. the pumpernickel flour (also called coarse rye btw) is only 11% of the flour in the recipe, so maybe you could just see what happens? definitely let me know how it turns out!

Lauren said...

Oh my gosh. You know a lot about flour.