Archive for May, 2011

This week I am trying to stay away from overly processed/pre-packaged foods (or at least if I have to, that it’s real food not preservatives, artificial colors/flavors, no HFCS, nothing that I have no idea what it is or cannot pronounce).

So, as part of that I decided to bake my own whole grain bread.  I had been wanting to try out the recipe in the March-April 2011 Cooks Illustrated anyway.

My recipe is a little bit different from the published recipe but the procedure is basically the same.  The Cooks Illustrated recipe uses whole wheat flour and wheat germ.  I use two different kinds of whole wheat flour (both hard & soft) and whole oat flour.  I get my flour from The Grain Mill of Wake Forest who grinds it for me so I get freshly ground whole flours.  They’re some pretty spiffy folks, so I recommend them.

This bread has a lot more whole grain that I am normally able to put into a sandwich bread and it not be as dense as a hockey puck.  Now, don’t go expecting Wonder Bread consistency, but it had a much lighter texture considering it is over 60% whole grain.

I think a large part of this is because of the soaker, which soaks the whole grain overnight to help soften it.

And, unless you are a bread nerd like me, you might be wondering what the heck a biga is.  It is a type of pre-ferment used a lot in Italian baking.  But, it helps develop the yeast and the flavor.  So, now you know and can impress all your friends.  🙂

Whole Grain Bread


Biga –

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Soaker –

Dough –

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil


  1. The night before, prep the biga and the soaker.  Mix the biga ingredients together, cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.  In a separate bowl, mix the soaker ingredients, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day add the biga and the soaker to mixer with dough hook. Add the remaining dough ingredients. Mix on low for 2 minutes until combined. Increase to medium speed to knead the dough for 8 – 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from mixer and hand knead for 2 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Punch down and fold dough over itself 8 times. Let rise 45 minutes.
  5. Separate dough into 2 portions forming each into a rectangle and rolling into a loaf shape to fit into a lightly greased loaf pan.
  6. Let rise in pans 60 – 90 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 400. In the lower rack, place a pan and put a couple cups of boiling water to make a humid baking atmosphere. When oven comes up to temp, lower the heat to 350 and bake loaves for 40 – 50 minutes (internal temp of 200) rotating pans half way through.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove bread from pans and let come to room temp on a rack.

Notes: I make my oven into a proofer for the dough to rise, which is especially good during the winter or if you have drafts, etc.  With the oven OFF – place a pan (I use a cake pan) on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it with boiling water.  I then place the bowl with the dough in the oven.  Just make sure you don’t turn the oven on.  Bad things happen.  This creates a nice warm, moist atmosphere in the oven that bread dough likes to rise in.


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