Monday, June 8, 2009

Peter Reinhart's Power Bread

**This is not a gluten-free recipe and was posted before I eliminated gluten from my diet. **

peter reinhart's power bread, adapted from his Whole Grain BreadsI love homemade bread, and haven't bought a loaf since I started making my own last August. There's nothing that compares to the smell of baking bread and the taste of quality ingredients. Plus, making my own bread means that I control what goes in it (which means it's always 100% whole wheat and often includes nuts/seeds/dried fruits depending on my mood). Usually I'm short on time and end up using my bread machine, which has resulted in a number of good loaves, but there's nothing like making bread by hand. As long as I can relax and take my time, kneading bread puts me in an almost meditative state, which is surprising given that I really have limited experience with the process.

Making 100% whole wheat bread isn't quite as simple as making white bread. Enter Peter Reinhart. This man has written quite a bit on bread baking, and has come up with a fabulous method for delaying fermentation and allowing great flavors to develop. I thoroughly enjoyed his Oat Bran Broom Bread, but I've had my eye on his Power Bread for a long time. It has a great mix of seeds, and also uses a raisin puree for a hint of sweetness. The only problem is that I rarely remember to get the process started in time because it takes 2-3 days. All of his breads require two days because two parts of the dough (the soaker and biga) have to sit overnight, but the Power Bread has a pre-soaker, which must be made at least 8 hours before you can make the soaker. Yes, I know this sounds complicated, but it's totally worth it. Trust me.

This is the first time that I've measured all of my ingredients by weight. I know, I know, that's the better way to do it when baking, but for some reason I was resistant. But, Michael Ruhlman (in his latest book, "Ratio") has recently convinced me that this is the way to go. How did he do it? He emphasized that weighing your ingredients results in fewer dirty measuring cups/spoons because you can add everything directly to your bowl on your scale, zeroing it in between ingredients. I've included the volume measurements, too, but I have to admit that I've been converted, and I suggest you give it a shot.

Power bread (adapted from Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads")

71 g (or 2.5 oz or 6.5 Tbsp) raisins
14 g (or 0.5 oz or 1.5 Tbsp) flaxseeds
170 g (or 6 oz or 3/4 cup) water

Mix all pre-soaker ingredients together in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temp for 8-24 hours.

All of pre-soaker
170 g (or 6 oz or 1 1/3 cups) whole white wheat flour
14 g (or 0.5 oz or 2 Tbsp) apple fiber (or oat bran)
4 g (or 0.14 oz or 1/2 tsp) salt

Puree the pre-soaker in a blender, and mix with the remaining soaker ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir for about a minute, until everything is thoroughly combined and it forms a ball. Cover the bowl and leave at room temp for 12-24 hours (or, refrigerate it for up to 3 days, but let sit at room temp for 2 hours before mixing the final dough). Go ahead and make the biga now.

170 g (or 6 oz or 1 1/3 cups) whole white wheat flour
1 g (or 0.03 oz or 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
142 g (or 5 oz or 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp) milk (or buttermilk or yogurt) at room temp

Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a large bowl. Wet your hands, and knead for 2 min. Then let it rest for 5 min and knead again for 1 min. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours to 3 days. Two hours before you're ready to mix the final dough, let the biga sit at room temp for 2 hours.

Final dough
All of soaker (at room temp)
All of biga (at room temp)
56.5 g (or 2 oz or 6 Tbsp) sunflower seeds
56.5 g (or 2 oz or 7 Tbsp) whole white wheat flour
28.5 g (or 1 oz or 3 Tbsp) sesame seeds
4 g (or 0.14 oz or 1/2 tsp) salt
7 g (or 0.25 oz or 2.25 tsp) instant yeast
21 g (or 0.75 oz or 1.5 Tbsp) honey (or agave nectar)

Cut the soaker and the biga into 12 pieces each. Grind the sunflower seeds into flour in a blender, food processor, or spice grinder (gently pulse or it will turn into sunflower seed butter, not flour). Mix ground seeds with remaining ingredients, including the soaker and biga pieces. Knead the mixture with wet hands for 2 min, or until everything is thoroughly mixed. Dough should be slightly sticky; if it's very tacky, add more flour; if it's very dry and not sticky, add more water.

Dust your counter (or whatever you're using) with flour, and roll the dough around in it. Knead it for 3 min with wet hands, and adjust flour and water if needed (I ended up adding at least 1/2 cup more whole white wheat flour because mine was extremely tacky). Let the dough rest for 5 min, and then knead for another minute. At this point your dough should pass the windowpane test (basically, you should be able to stretch a small piece of it into a very thin membrane without it breaking). If not, knead more until it can pass the test (I kneaded for about 5 more min). Then form your dough into a ball, place it into a lightly oiled bowl, roll it around in the oil, and let it sit covered at room temp for 45-60 min (until it's about 1.5 times its original size).

Lightly flour your counter again, and form your dough into a 9" square. Then fold one side over and roll your dough lengthwise to smooth the seam and form a loaf-shaped object. Put the dough into a lightly oiled loaf pan, cover, and let it sit at room temp for 45-60 min (until it's 1.5 times its original size).

Preheat the oven and a steam pan (an empty metal pan on the bottom oven rack) to 425. Put bread in the oven, pour 1 cup hot water into steam pan, and reduce oven temp to 350. Bake for 20 min. Then remove steam pan, rotate bread 180 degrees, and bake for another 30 min (or until loaf is brown, has an internal temp of at least 195, and has a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely before slicing.

This is the best bread I've ever made. Hands down. The dough has a lot of great texture from the seeds, and a great hint of sweetness from the raisins. It's not so sweet that it would be a problem using it for a sandwich, though (which is apparently never a problem for Paula Deen, who puts her hamburgers between two doughnuts). I am in love with this bread, and it was totally worth the time.

I stored this bread in the freezer, as I always do. I slice it and put it in a freezer bag, then I toast it when I'm ready to eat it (or let it thaw for a couple of hours if I pack it for lunch). This method works fabulously, and it tastes fresh for weeks. I highly doubt that this bread will last for weeks, though.


Julia said...

Your bread looks beautiful! My uncle makes bread with whole wheat flour, and usually has a funky texture (though always tastes great). I'll have to get him this book!

Katie said...

I definitely recommend this book. He does a great job describing the science behind the method (and in bread baking in general), which makes it less intimidating to me. I also made roti the other day from a recipe out of this book, and I'll get around to posting that soon.

Mia said...

this bread sounds amazing! I'll have to make it when I have a few days off :)

LazySumo said...

I have Peter's Bread Maker's Apprentice book and HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who wants to know how to make bread. Sure, there are quick bread recipes out there and shortcuts galore, but take the time to do it right. Totally worth it.

I'll bookmark this recipe and come back to it. Looks amazing!

Katie said...

Mia - you should definitely give it a shot when you have the time

LazySumo - I don't have a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, but I intend to get one. His descriptions are so interesting that it's fun to read even if you don't have the time to make his breads. But, I agree that if you have the time, it's definitely worth doing it right.