Tuesday, March 25, 2014

multi-grain bread

I don’t know about you, but, whenever I hear someone talking about multi-grain bread, I think of the Dead Duck scene in the movie About a Boy. Young Marcus (the boy) has been given a home made multigrain loaf so dense and stale that he gives up trying to tare it up in order to feed the birds, that he heaves the whole loaf into the pond, accidentally killing a duck. Whether this resonates with you or not, we’ve all encountered those leaden offerings so dry and gritty that even a thick slathering with butter can’t lubricate it enough to swallow.

While still being a lean dough, this bread is predominantly made from bread flour with the additions of a multigrain soaker and a proportion of whole wheat flour. Unlike many loaves of its ilk, it is a pleasure to eat toasted or in the right sandwich.

Whether your mixing by hand or by machine, it will take additional time to develop a good gluten structure in the dough. Bran, no matter how finely ground, tends to cut through gluten strands, and the soaked grains compound the issue. It is, absolutely possible, but will require a little more effort than a standard “patent” flour dough. If you haven’t built up much endurance for kneading by hand I recommend making the dough in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. It will still take 8 – 10 minutes to sufficiently work to the dough to develop the gluten.

I did not pursue this step in this recipe, but an autolysis stage may help to reduce the kneading time. My recommendation, and what I am planning to attempt the next time I make this recipe, is to mix the final dough roughly, and then allowing it to sit to fully hydrate and begin forming a gluten structure. About 30 minutes should do the trick, before you begin to work the dough.  

*A traditional autolyse method would have you withhold the yeast and salt until after the resting and hydration stage. This dough already has a soaker component and a pâte fermentée so both yeast and salt are already present, and the small additional amounts applied before the autolysis stage won’t harm gluten development.

Recipe following cut:

2 – 21.5cm x 11.5cm [8.5” x 4.5”] loaf pans, extra-large 7.5L – 11L [8qt – 12qt] capacity mixing bowl, 6.5L [7qt]  mixing bowl, 2 - 6.5L [7qt] capacity heat proof bowl, medium ~3.3L [ 3.5 qt.] mixing bowl, 500ml [2 cup] capacity measuring cup with spout, 250ml [1 cup] capacity measuring cup with spout, flexible bowl scraper, rigid bench scraper, plastic wrap, silicone pastry brush, plastic spray bottle with clean water, 30cm x 46cm x 5cm [12” x 18” x 2”] pan for water, 46cm x 30cm [18”x12“] half sheet pan, metric/imperial scale


110g 7-grain cereal, such as Bob’s Red Mill
25g sunflower seeds
15g flax seeds*
150g water [150ml]

Pâte Fermentée
215g unbleached bread flour
2g instant yeast
155g water
4g fine grade sea salt

300g unbleached bread flour
225g whole wheat flour
5g instant yeast
325g water [325ml]
16g fine grade sea salt
365g pâte fermentée
280g soaker

- softened butter for pans
-vegetable oil for bowls and plastic wrap
* From maximum absorption of the nutrients in the flax seed, crack the seeds in a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a sauce pan before using.

Mise en place:
Weigh the ingredients for the soaker in the medium sized mixing bowl. Stir to combine and cover. Let stand at room temperature 8 – 10 hours of overnight.

Weigh flour for Pâte Fermentée into the xl capacity bowl, place salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl until ready to mix.

Mix the dough by hand, using an orbital motion with one hand while turning the bowl with your clean hand. Switch to a kneading action to pick up all the available flour in the bowl. Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes, and place in oiled heatproof bowl. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 10 – 12 hours or overnight. Clean up.

The day you intend to bake the loaves, weigh the flours, salt and yeast into the xl capacity mixing bowl keeping the salt and yeast separate as before. Use the bench scraper to cut the pâte fermentée into small pieces [about 12 – 14] and toss in the flour, salt and yeast.

Add water, and mix using an orbital motion with one hand, while turning the bowl with your clean hand. Mix until you have incorporated the available water forming a stiff rough dough with some flour remaining in the bowl. Add the soaker and mix to combine.

Switch to a kneading motion inside the bowl to collect all available dry ingredients. Transfer to a floured surface and knead into a cohesive ball. Continue kneading for 15 – 18 minutes to ensure gluten development.

Move finished dough to an oiled heatproof bowl, cover and ferment for 2 full hours.
Tip dough onto a floured work surface and divide in two. Shape each half into a ball and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Allow balls to rest 20 minutes.

Grease the loaf pans with butter and place them together on the sheet pan

Flatten the balls into rectangles and shape to fit the loaf pans by rolling the dough away from you and pinching the bottom seam and ends closed.

Transfer to prepared pans and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Proof 2 hours or more until dough has crested the upper lip of the pans.
Preheat oven 230ºC [450ºF] and adjust one oven rack to the center positions. Place the large deep water pan on the bottom rack.

Immediately before baking, slash loaves and place 500ml [2 cups] water into the pan. Place loaves along with the sheet pan on the center rack. Close the door.

After one minute, open the door and spray the side walls of the oven. Repeat this twice more.

Bake for a total of 35 – 40 minutes. Until crust is browned and the loaves sound hallow when gently thumped with the finger.

Transfer immediately to wire rack and cool 1 hour, minimum before slicing.

Note: I’ve give times for kneading this dough by hand, if using a dough hook and machine 10 to 12 minutes on medium speed should be sufficient. 

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