My original idea was to do a sourdough cracked-wheat bread, I had the recipe printed out, and my starter going. Woke up on Saturday bright and early, in great spirits to attack the preparation. Surprise number 1: recipe called for a whole-wheat starter. Mine wasn’t. Surprise number 2: recipe suggested an overnight fermentation in the fridge before baking, but I absolutely had to start and finish the bread on the same day. Not sure how many times in my life I’ve made the mistake of NOT reading a recipe carefully enough before baking day, and/or before shopping for ingredients (sigh). Plan B had to be set in place, and quickly. I found a recipe for cracked-wheat bread with a very interesting technique: spreading a dry mixture of flour, sugar and yeast over a fermenting “sponge”, forming a sort of a protective blanket over it. All of a sudden my Saturday was bright again, and the best was that the bread turned out fantastic!
CRACKED-WHEAT SANDWICH BREAD
(adapted from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
To make the sponge:
1/2 cup bread flour (78 g)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (72 g)
3/4 tsp instant yeast (2.4 g)
1/2 tbsp sugar (6.2 g)
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk (8 g)
1 tbsp agave nectar (20 g)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp water at around 80F (266 g)
Flour mixture for topping the sponge:
2 cups bread flour (312 g)
1/2 tbsp sugar (6.2 g)
1/4 tsp instant yeast (0.8 g)
For the final dough:
1/2 cup cracked-wheat
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 + 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter
In a medium bowl combine the sponge ingredients and whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes, trying to incorporate as much air as possible as you stir.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour mixture ingredients. Sprinkle on top of the sponge to cover it completely. DO NOT MIX TOGETHER. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1-4 hours at room temperature. The longer you allow it to ferment, the better. I fermented mine for 2 hours.
Place the cracked-wheat in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in the water until all the water is absorbed, about 1 hour.
With your stand mixer, add the bulghur and the oil to the bowl and then add the dough and starter. Mix with the dough hook on low speed for a couple of minutes, until no dry bits remain, but do not overmix. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the salt and knead the dough on medium speed for 12 minutes. The dough should be very elastic but still slightly moist.
Scrape the dough into a greased container. Lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours (mine took 90 minutes). Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and press down very gently to form a rectangle, don’t try to get all the air out of it. Give it a business letter fold, turn it 90 degrees and do another business letter type fold. Smooth the edges and return the folded dough to the bowl. Cover, and rise until doubled, 1 to 1.5 hours (mine took only 45 minutes).
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it as a loaf. Place into oiled loaf pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until the center is about 1 inch higher than the rim of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for 30 minutes before baking. Place oven rack at the lowest shelf and place baking stone on top. Place a sheet pan on the floor of the oven and have some ice cubes handy.
Once the dough has risen, brush the top with the melted butter, then cut a 1/2″ deep slash down the middle of the dough. Quickly set the load pan on the baking stone. Take a 1/2 cup of ice cubes and quickly throw them onto the sheet pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until golden brown and the internal temperature is 200 F. Remove pan from oven, remove bread from pan and set on wire rack. Brush with remaining melted butter. Let it cool completely (yeah, right… before eating.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: Cracked-wheat (an ingredient similar, but not exactly the same as bulghur, for a nice explanation click here), gives this bread a perfect texture, and just the right amount of ‘grain-feel’. You can substitute bulghur if you have trouble finding cracked wheat.
It is a very easy dough to handle, as most of the kneading is done with a mixer. It would be possible to knead by hand, but it would take a lot longer and you must develop the gluten fully to get the right texture – go for the Kitchen Aid, is my advice. It is fun to make, the photos below show the sipping of the fermenting sponge after 1.5 hours, the addition of cracked-wheat, and the amazing first rise, probably due to the temperature in our home these days.
If you make this bread during warm weather, as soon as you shape the dough start heating your oven, because mine took only 35 minutes to fully rise. You don’t want to risk overproofing, so that the bread will still rise during baking. Catch it around this stage, brush it with butter, slash the top and place it in the oven.
I’m submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event… Nice to be able to join that party after what seemed like too long a break!
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