Sunday, November 7, 2010


Now and then I need some toasted bread. The supermarket varieties are, of course, off limits. A loaf that cowardly yields, without putting up any resistance to my probing finger, is not worthy of a Black Forrest ham or Fontina cheese topping. I want my toast to delicately soften a bit when I spread it with butter - not disintegrating into mash!

Even biting in a sandwich bread it's nice to find a little bit to chew on. A mix of flours and grains, like rolled oats, cornmeal and bran, also gives it a more complex flavor. And sesame seeds makes a topping that doesn't only look attractive, but, also,  adds a delicious crunchiness.

This is my take on Peter Reinhart's "Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire" from The Bread Baker's Apprentice), with some alterations and, I hope, improvements - a very tasty, "un-squishy" bread that really deserves the goodies I put on top - even if it's not toasted.

MULTIGRAIN SANDWICH BREAD  (adapted from Peter Reinhart: The Bread Baker's Apprentice)

100 g/3.5 oz whole wheat flour
28 g/1 oz corn meal, coarse grind (Polenta)
28 g/1 oz bread flour
28 g/1 oz cooked brown rice
21 g/0.75 oz rolled oats
7 g/0.25 oz wheat or oat bran
4 g salt (1/2 tsp.)
113 g/4 oz buttermilk
28 g/1 oz water

227 g/8 oz bread flour
1 g instant yeast (1/4 tsp.)
142 g/5 oz water

Final Dough
all soaker and biga
28 g/1 oz bread flour
19 g/0.7 oz honey or brown sugar
7 g/0.25 oz salt
5 g/0.2 instant yeast

lightly beaten egg or egg white, for brushing
2 tsp. sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Stir together all soaker ingredients, until all flour is hydrated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature.

In mixer bowl, stir together all biga ingredients at low speed (or with hand), until a coarse ball forms (1-2 minutes). Knead at medium-low speed (or with hand) for 2 minutes. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for 1 more minute.

Transfer biga to a lightly oiled bowl, and roll it around to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place into fridge (remove 2 hours before using, to warm up).

Mix all ingredients for final dough at low speed for 1-2 minutes, until a coarse ball forms (if mixing by hand, cut starter and biga into 12 smaller pieces for easier distribution). Switch to medium-low speed and knead 4 minutes, adjusting with a little more flour, if needed (dough should be very tacky). Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Resume kneading for 1 more minute (dough should be soft, supple and tacky, but not sticky). Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using, to warm up.

Preheat oven to 425ºF/220ºC, including a steam pan. Transfer dough to a lightly floured counter, pat into a square and roll up to shape a sandwich loaf. Place in lightly oiled loaf pan, seam side down. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and score lengthwise.

Mist loaf with oil, cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel, and proof for about 45 - 60 minutes at room temperature, or until it has grown to 1 1/2 times its original size, and a dimple, made with your finger, comes back a little bit, but stays visible (finger poke test).

Place bread in oven, pour 1 cup of boiling water into steam pan, and reduce heat to 350ºF/175ºC. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate loaf 180 degrees, and continue baking for about 20 minutes more. Bread should register at least 195ºF/90ºC in center, and be golden brown.

Remove pan (loaf should sound hollow when thumped on bottom), and let cool on wire rack.

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