Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, first shared w/ me by Andrew Sherwood

Soaker

  • 1¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon (4 grams) salt
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (198 grams) milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk

1.) Combine flour, salt, and milk in a bowl and mix for 1 minute until all flour in incorporated and dough forms a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. If it will be longer than 24 hours, refrigerate up to 3 days, removing from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

Biga:

  • 1¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) filtered or spring water, at room temperature (about 70F)

1.) Mix together flour and yeast. Add water, stirring to combine. With wet hands, knead the dough to ensure all the flour is hydrated and dough feels tacky, about 2 minutes. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 more minute. Dough will still be tacky, but it will get smoother.

2.) Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (up to 3 days). Remove from fridge 2 hours prior to mixing final dough. It will have risen slightly.

Final dough:

  • Soaker
  • Biga
  • 7 tablespoons (56.5 grams) whole wheat flour, plus extra for adjustments
  • 5/8 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
  • 2¼ teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
  • 2¼ tablespoons (42.5 grams) honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil

Instructions

1.) Chop the biga and soaker into 12 pieces of approximately the same size using a metal pastry scraper. Sprinkle the pieces with a little flour to prevent sticking if needed.

2.) Combine soaker and biga pieces in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt, yeast, honey, and butter or oil. Mix using the paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute until dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the biga and the soaker are evenly combined. Add more flour or water as needed; dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be soft and slightly sticky.

3.) Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, turning the dough to coat. Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, incorporating just enough flour so the dough feels tacky, not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

4.) After the 5 minute rest, knead for 1 final minute, ensuring that the dough is soft and tacky, but strong and able to pass the windowpane test. Make any final flour or water adjustments as needed. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl, rolling to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes until dough is about 1½ times its original size.

5.) Once risen, turn dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Place dough in a well-greased 8½ by 4 inch bread pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes until dough is about 1½ times its original size (it will have crowned over the top of the pan).

6.) Preheat the oven to 425F. When the dough has finished rising, place in 425 degree oven then turn down the oven temperature to 350F. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F, then rotate the pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning and bake 20-30 minutes more. Bread is done when the loaf is a rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, and registers at least 195F in the center.

7.) Let cool on a wire rack at least 1 hour before slicing.