Inspired by the ease in which Francine seems to make bread, I’m venturing into the world of bread baking, guided by Peter Reinhart and his Bread Baker’s Apprentice book. I originally made these loaves in late July for a relative’s visit from Europe and they languished in the queue until we had our little attack in August. I’m just now getting this posted. I won’t pay grocery store prices for artisan loaves, but I will get a sandwich loaf from there in a heartbeat – I haven’t made it to where I am comfortable trying that, and I find honey wheat is a better tasting sandwich loaf than whole wheat. I once was accosted by the TSA for having a baguette from Francine in my carry-on luggage when returning from Pistachio House West. “We’ve detected a possible weapon, sir, we need you to step aside for additional screening.”
This is recipe I found on King Arthur Flour’s website and modified a bit to suit my preferences. I’ll post it here in its modified form with a link to the original, but I won’t be posting any of the recipes I make from the Bread Baker’s apprentice book–you’ll have to buy the book to make those loaves. At $11, it’s a steal. This bread is no knead, which makes people happy and they jump around and squee a lot, but really, if you have a stand mixer, who cares if you have to knead it or not? The longer you let this bread rest in the refrigerator, the tangier it gets. Leave it in a for a whole 7 days and you’ll have a knockoff sourdough. A digital scale is an important kitchen tool – you’ll need one here. They’re cheap.
No-Knead Crusty Whole Wheat Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour
yield 3-4 loaves, depending on size
24 ounces lukewarm water (105-ish, not OW! hot)
32 ounces unbleached whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
1.5 tbsp instant yeast.
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or the work bowl of your favorite stand mixer. Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. That’s medium speed with the paddle for about a minute. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it out at room temperature to rise for 2 hours. Then, refrigerate it for another 2 hours. This is the point where you can leave it in for up to 7 days if needed.
When you’re ready to bake, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and grab to divide into 3-4 pieces depending on the size you like and round it into a boule on a floured work surface. Place the dough atop a cornmeal dusted piece of parchment on a baking sheet and sift a light coat of flour on top to keep the dough moist while it rises again.
Let the dough rise for 45-60 minutes–it won’t rise very much. Preheat your oven to 450F with a metal pan on the bottom rack and when you’re ready to begin, as Peter says, prepare the oven for hearth baking by spraying the walls with water and closing the door for 30 seconds. Do that twice. Slash the bread 2-3 times with a knife and place the pan into the oven. Quickly pour one cup of hot tap water into the pan to create a puff of steam and close the door quickly.
Bake for 25-35 minutes. If you skip the steam, you’ll have a loaf with a crust you need a chainsaw to tear into. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack. Store in a plastic bag if there’s any left. There won’t be.