Wheat Bread Revelation

Sometimes it just hits you.  And by ‘it’ I mean that brick a mason just nudged off a ledge with his boot forty feet above you.  Other times, inspiration hits you.  For me, inspiration comes from applying things I already know work but haven chosen to ignore.

For example, I read in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads that making a soaker is good for your whole wheat breads.  Basically you soak half the grains and flour in liquid for up to a full day before you mix the dough.  This helps bring out the flavors of the wheat.  With my wheat sandwich recipe, I manage to get pretty good flavor in a straight mix without any long-term fermentation.  But it’s never held up to the butter test.  You know, you make a slice of toast and then stare at it with a murder weapon in hand:  a pat of butter on a knife.  If the butter isn’t soft enough you end up buttering the table through a hole in your toast.  I even switched to high-gluten flour in my recipe to try to strengthen up the final loaf but it still ended up crumbly. Until I remembered back to Reinhart and his soaker method.

With me so far?  [crickets]  Good!  The last batch of wheat bread I made, I soaked all the whole wheat flour in the recipe with all the milk, and threw in some cracked wheat for texture.  It formed a pretty dense dough, and I covered it and let it sit on the counter for about eight hours before I made the final dough.  It mixed up and baked as normal then I sliced it open. Strength!  Structure!  In that extra time the whole wheat flour managed to really bulk up and form strong gluten strands.  I knew it was the weak link.  Whole wheat, why can’t you be like your older brother high-gluten?  You’re not pulling your weight!  But now with the soaker method, he is!  Yikes, I need to get out of the kitchen more.

So I leave you with the advice to try soaking your whole wheat flour up to a day before you make the final dough.  No longer will your bread whimper when you hold up butter and a knife!


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