BBA Whole Wheat Bread — In a Word, Meh

I promised myself I wouldn’t let the weekend pass without writing my blog post for BBA Challenge bread #41, Whole Wheat Bread. I think I’ve been putting it off because I found this bread just so-so. It’s easier to write about a recipe when you have strong feelings about it — good or bad. This bread wasn’t bad; but it wasn’t great either.

The problem with most 100% whole grain breads for me is that they tend to be really heavy, and they don’t rise very well. This bread was no exception. The flavor was OK. But the bread was dense and too chewy.

Here are pictures of the baking process. You’ll note that I wasn’t inspired enough by the final product to take pictures of the finished loaves.

The recipe starts with an overnight soaker, for which I used whole wheat flour and wheat germ.

The dough begins with a whole wheat poolish.

The dough is placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to ferment for 2 hours.

After fermenting, the dough is divided and shaped.

The dough is shaped into loaves and placed in oiled loaf pans. After a 90-minute rise, the loaves are baked at 350 for about 45 minutes.

So, that’s whole wheat bread in a nutshell. Onto Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, which are getting rave reviews from those who have baked them: Paul at Yumarama; Oggi at I Can Do That.

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BBA Blitzkrieg – 12 Breads, 1 Post

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I made one resolution about 25 years ago that I’ve never broken:  that I’d never make another New Year’s resolution. There’s just something about starting the new year by setting yourself up to fail that doesn’t sit well with me.

That said, as I sit here on January 2nd with a loaf of Stollen in the oven, it seems like a good time to catch up on my Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge posts and start the new year up-to-date in at least one area. As far as the Challenge itself goes, I think I’m ahead of most other bakers. At least I don’t recall seeing any posts on Stollen yet. But as for blogging about my progress? Well, let’s just say it has been a while.

So, to catch up, I decided to hit 12 breads in one post, which will almost catch me up to where I am baking-wise. I’ll hit the highlights here of pane siciliano through pumpernickel, then I’ll start posting as I go again with sunflower seed rye. So, here goes nothing.

Pane Siciliano

My favorite thing about this bread was the cool “S” shape. The other distinguishing factor about pane siciliano is the fact that it uses about 40% semolina flour. I actually wasn’t crazy about the semolina. I found it hard to work with and I didn’t care for the gritty feel of the dough. Nonetheless, the shaped loaves looked nice and rose beautifully.

I was pleased with the finished loaves, both from the standpoint of appearance and flavor.

The crumb was flavorful (and not at all gritty). However, I doubt if I will make this bread again anytime soon. It wasn’t bad; just not one of my favorites so far.

Panettone

As I sit here waiting for my Stollen to bake, I am harkening back to Panettone, another fruit-studded celebration bread. I had never eaten, let alone baked, Panettone, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The dough was beautiful and surprisingly supple, even with all the fruit and flavorings it contained.

One issue I had with this bread had to do with the size. I ended up with approximately 4 pounds of dough, as the recipe indicated. The issue was with the Panettone moulds I bought from King Arthur Flour. The instructions that came with the moulds said each would hold up to 1 pound of dough, so I divided the dough between 4 moulds.

Unfortunately, the moulds seemed to be larger than reported, and the dough never came close to rising to the top. I ended up with small, boule-like loaves, rather than the tall, majestic Panettones I was expecting.

Even though the loaves were smaller than I was hoping for, the finished product was nevertheless wonderful. Some other posters noted that their loaves came out rather dry and tasteless. I didn’t have this issue: my Pannetone was moist and flavorful. The fruit was sweet and tangy without overpowering the bread.

I really enjoyed this bread and will definitely make it again, although next time I think I’ll fit it all into 2 Panettone moulds.

Pizza Napoletana

As I suspected it might, this dough quickly became one of my family’s favorites. In fact, we have instituted Homemade Pizza Night, usually on Sunday nights. We start with PR’s dough, which I often make ahead and freeze, and add whatever toppings tickle our fancy.

If you’ve never tried making your own pizza, or even if you have your own favorite crust recipe, you should definitely give this one a try. You won’t believe how easy and delicious homemade crust can be!

Poolish Baguettes

These baguettes were good. Not earth-shattering. Just good. Actually, I didn’t find them to be much different, or any better, than PR’s French Bread baguettes, which is my go-to French Bread recipe. And the one I’ll stick with for now.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

I love this bread! So much that I made it the November BOM ( bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group.

Although I do have a confession to make. PR’s recipe isn’t my favorite. I like it well enough. And if I’d never tried another recipe, I would be perfectly happy with it. But having made Mark Sinclair’s recipe, I don’t know that I’ll ever like another as much.

If you tried PR’s recipe and liked it, give Mark’s recipe a try. You won’t believe your taste buds!

Potato Rosemary Bread

This bread is as good as it sounds. Mashed potatoes and fresh rosemary in bread. As Ina Garten says, how bad could that be?

The potatoes give it a nice consistency and keep the bread quite moist. And the rosemary gives it an intoxicating aroma. Definitely one to put on the make again list.

Pugliese

This was another one of those take-it-or-leave-it breads for me. It looked nice and tasted fine; it just didn’t rock my world. I wasn’t crazy about working with durum wheat (too much like semolina, I guess). And despite the relatively high hydration level (85%), mine lacked the big holes shown in PR’s version.

Basic Sourdough Bread

I have made this bread more than just about any other kind. When I first started toying with sourdough and starters (over a year ago), I baked this bread every week for several months. It really helped me appreciate baking with sourdough and the intricacies of this recipe in particular.

After baking this bread for months, I started playing around with the recipe, making slight alterations here and there to compare it with the original recipe. My favorite variation was a struan-type bread, Five-Grain Seeded Sourdough Bread, which I bake fairly regularly.

In fact, I’m in the process of baking a few loaves of it right now. I started with Bob’s 10-Grain Cereal this time, and added some red, brown and black rice that I had left over from when I made straun, which, I guess, makes it 13-grain seeded sourdough this go ’round.

New York Deli Rye

I always enjoy a good rye bread, and I often substitute a bit of rye for the bread flour in bread recipes. This was a delicious deli rye, great for sandwiches or just eating slathered with butter.

100% Sourdough Rye Bread

Again, an enjoyable rye bread; although it didn’t rise as well as I had hoped. My starter was freshly fed and active, but my kitchen was fairly cool. And of course, I had to bake it in the evening, so I tried to rush it a bit.

Poilane-style Miche

This bread will make a baker out of you. It’s almost impossible to bake a 4+-pound loaf of bread without feeling like you’ve accomplished something incredible. And you have. How many people do you know who know what a miche is, let alone have ever baked one?

This is a bread for sharing. A show-stopper for a casual dinner. It is a dense, flavorful sourdough wheat bread that you’ll want to bake (and show off) again and again.

Pumpernickel Bread

This is another rye-based bread that I really like. Pumpernickel bagels are my favorite, especially schmeared with salmon cream cheese. This bread tasted just like a pumpernickel should – rich and hearty with a lingering finish.

However, it didn’t rise much. I baked it in my pain de mie pan, and it barely came halfway up the sides of the pan. And it was dense. Really, really dense. Texture and tastewise, it was more like a cocktail pumpernickel than a sandwich bread. Still quite tasty. But not what I was shooting for.

So, there you have it. A quick tour of the breads I’ve been baking lately for the BBA Challenge. Again, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But I am going to try to keep up on my blogging for the remaining breads in the Challenge.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

The following recipe is the November BOM (Bread of the Month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers Group — http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/event.php?eid=166811805757&index=1

Portuguese Sweet Bread (based on Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

Makes 2 1-pound loaves

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup water, at room temperature

Dough:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • About 6 tablespoons water, at room temperature

Directions

To make the sponge, stir together the flour, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, and shortening in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer). Cream together with a sturdy spoon (or the paddle attachment) until smooth, then mix in the eggs and the extracts. Knead by hand (or switch to the dough hook attachment) and mix in the sponge and the flour. Add the water, as needed, to make a very soft dough. The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky. It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. (Dough with high amounts of fat and sugar usually take longer to knead because the gluten requires more time to set up.) The finished dough should pass the windowpane test (see NOTE below) and register 77 to 88 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into two equal pieces. Form each of the pieces into a boule (ball shape – stretch opposite sides, tuck them under, turn the dough 180 degrees, and repeat). Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size and overlapping the edges slightly. (If you only want to bake one loaf, you may retard the second in the fridge for 1 day, although it will take 4 to 5 hours to proof after it comes out of the refrigerator.)

Very gently brush the loaves with egg wash. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they register 190 F in the center. After 30 minutes, check the loaves and rotate 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking. Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is done. It will get darker as the center gradually catches up with the outside, but it will not burn. The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.

Remove the bread from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool. The bread will soften as it cools, resulting in a very soft, squishy loaf. Allow the bread to cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing or serving.

Ciabatta – Add a Lotta Watta

This week’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread was Ciabatta, a wonderful, holey Italian bread. I was really looking forward to making this bread. It’s a simple artisan bread, made of flour, yeast, salt, water, and maybe a little oil. I had never baked Ciabatta, so I was excited about shaping the “slippers”. And, even though I love the enriched breads we have been making so far, to be honest, I was ready for a simple, straight dough.

In typical fashion, I decided to make two versions — the poolish and the biga. I actually made the poolish a week or so before baking them both together. My first try at poolish did not result in the big holes I was expecting, so I increased the water a bit on my second attempt. 

Poolish (left) and Biga (right) Ciabatta Dough

Biga (left) and Poolish (right) Ciabatta Dough

Even though I increased the water in the poolish a bit (by about an ounce or two), you can see that it is considerably firmer than the biga version. I think if I weren’t familiar with working with wet doughs, I would have been a bit freaked out by the biga dough. It was really wet.

 

The biga (on the right) is much wetter than the poolish.

The biga (on the right) is much wetter than the poolish.

 

After fermenting - biga in front

After fermenting - biga in front

 

The poolish dough (left) held its shape better

The poolish dough (left) held its shape better

 

Poolish Ciabatta - Ready for the Oven

Poolish Ciabatta - Ready for the Oven

 

Bake-a Da Biga

Bake-a Da Biga

 I had originally planned to bake all four loaves at the same time, but by the time they were done proofing, they were too big. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I had stretched the dough, and the biga loaves relaxed a bit too much, resulting in flat loaves.

 

The biga Ciabatta (right) is a bit flat,...

The biga Ciabatta (right) is a bit flat,...

 

But look at dem holes!!!

But look at dem holes!!!

 

 
Both breads were delicious. I think I liked the biga version a little better. The crumb was open, chewy and really held the herb-infused olive oil well.
 
Up next:  cinnamon rolls and sticky buns (of course I’m making them both!)