Whole Wheat, Rye, & Oat Bran Bread

One dough, three results.

This is a variation on Edward Espe Brown’s The Tassajara Bread Book whole wheat bread. That was my first ever bread book; I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn bread basics. It has easy to follow step-by-step instructions for the beginning baker, and lots of ideas on modifications for the more advanced baker as well. I’ve tried most of bread recipes in this book and have never been disappointed. See:  http://www.shambhala.com/the-tassajara-bread-book-1.html.

I used my KitchenAid stand mixer; it’s the large capacity Professional model. If you’ve got a standard KitchenAid, you’ll want to cut this recipe in half; it is probably too much for a standard home mixer to handle.

For the sponge:
½ cup buttermilk
2 ½ cups water (use filtered or bottled)
1 ½ tablespoons yeast
¼ cup honey
1 cup dry milk
½ cup rye flour
½ cup oat bran
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

For the dough:
4 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
1/3 cup oil or butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 to 1 cup unbleached bread flour

For kneading:
up to 1 cup all-purpose flour (“bench” flour)

Mise en place.
Assemble all of your ingredients.

Prepare the sponge:
Measure the buttermilk and water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let dissolve. In a separate bowl, stir together the flours and oat bran. When the yeast has dissolved, stir in the honey and dry milk. Then stir in the flour and mix until a thick batter forms. You don’t want to over mix at this point. Proof the sponge 45 minutes.

Just out of the mixer. It was quite sticky!

Mix the dough:
Fold in the salt and oil. I usually use unsalted butter in this recipe, but I used sunflower oil in this batch because that’s what I had. For the salt, whenever possible I use kosher or sea salt. Always use a fine grain salt, never coarse. Fold in the oil and salt for a moment, then begin adding the remaining 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1/2 to 1 cup unbleached bread flour.

If you’re using a stand mixer, mix on low until the ingredients are well incorporated, then turn on high and knead on high for about 2 minutes. This is a sticky dough, so you’ll need to stop the mixer a few times and scrape the dough off the hook. If you’re mixing by hand, you’ll knead this dough about 10 minutes. One thing to remember is that even though the dough feels sticky at this point, you don’t want to add too much more flour because the whole grain flour and oat bran will absorb moisture as the dough rises.

After kneading, before the first rise.

When you’re done kneading, gently shape the dough into a ball and let it rest a moment while you oil a large bowl. Place the dough in smooth side down to lightly coat with the oil, then gently turn the dough over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then cover with a damp towel. Set aside to rise for 50-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

After the first "punch down" ... notice how the dough is folded over itself.

When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down. With loose fists, gently press into the center of the dough, then gently press all the way around the dough ball to deflate it. Pick up the dough, and gently fold the sides under. Turn the bowl ¼ turn, then fold the remaining sides under. Recover the bowl with plastic, cover with the damp towel, and set aside for the second rise. The dough will again double in size in about 40-50 minutes.

When the dough has doubled in size again, it’s time to shape it.

Shape the dough:
This recipe makes 2 large loaves, but you can also make other shapes. I made 4-5 ounce buns (for turkey burgers), 1 rustic loaf (about 1 pound), and 1 large loaf (about 1 ½ pounds).

The buns, proofed, egg washed, scored, and ready to go in the oven.

For the buns, I shaped them into rounds then gently pressed them down a bit, put them on an aluminum foil lined sheet pan, sprayed them with a little non-stick spray, covered with plastic, and placed a second sheet pan on top to weight them down. That’s how you get a nice bun shape, rather than a high puffy round. I set these to rise about 30 minutes, then brushed them with a little egg wash, scored them with a sharp knife, and baked them at 350° for about 30 minutes.* They’re done when they turn a nice, golden brown color, and sound hollow when given a gentle thump on the bottom crust.

The miche on the couche, after proofing.

The rustic loaf ready to go into the oven.

For the rustic loaf, I shaped into a “miche” (see below) and proofed in a make-shift couche (say, “coosh”). A couche is the special canvas cloth used by artisan bakers; it’s in part what gives their breads that amazing chewy crust.  I generously sprinkled a flour sack kitchen towel with all-purpose flour and a little whole wheat, and placed the loaf seam up in the center of the towel, then loosely wrapped the cloth around the dough. I set this aside to proof about 45 minutes. Then, baked it at 350° for about 40-45 minutes.*

You want to support the sides of the dough, especially if you have a more delicate dough and normally you’d make more than one loaf this way, but I’ll go more into that another time. I’ve not made this dough using a couche before, so this was an experiment. I was quite pleased with the result, so I’ll certainly be doing this again. The crust was near perfect!

Rustic Loaf ... beautiful crust can be yours at home!

The rustic loaf had a nice, even crumb, and a chewy crust. The couche is worth the little extra effort!

If you’d like some more information on using a couche, here is a pretty good basic video on couching technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZAwSV1VakA.

In the loaf pan, before the final rise.

For the large loaf, I also shaped this into a “miche” and then placed it to rise in a large loaf pan. You’ll probably want to spray the loaf pan with a little non-stick spray first. This took about an hour to rise. I scored the loaf with a razor, then brushed the top with egg wash before baking.   I baked it at 350° for about 45-50 minutes.*  I turned the oven off, left the door open, and allowed the loaf to sit in the oven for about 15-20 while it cooled down. It browned more quickly than I expected, so I wanted to make sure it was cooked thoroughly.

The knife I used to score the rustic loaf wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be, so you can see that the scores are not as nice and even as they really should be. The best tool to do this with is a razor – just be very careful! If you look at the picture at the top of this post, you can see how clean the cuts are in the large loaf. These cuts were made with a razor rather than a knife.

*I’m pretty sure the oven I’m working with right now runs hot, so these cooking times and temps may need to be adjusted. I’ll have to buy an oven thermometer.

Shaping a “Miche”

The miche, just after shaping, before placing in the loaf pan. Notice the seam on the bottom. This one is pretty well sealed, but you can smooth it a little more by gently rolling the loaf, seam side down, on your board.

Gently shape the dough into a rectangle. For this dough, you want to gently press most of the gas out of the dough, but not all of it. Begin rolling towards you, tucking the ends gently with your thumbs when necessary, and pressing along the seam with your thumbs while you roll the dough. When you reach the end, gently push one end in with your thumb, and then press gently with the heel of your hand to seal it. Gently press with the heel of your hand along the seam, while tucking the dough in with the thumb of your other hand. Then, gently roll the dough to smooth out the seam. If you are going to proof this on a couche, then place it seam side up on the couche. If you are proofing this in a loaf pan, place it seam side down in the pan. Proof. Bake. Cool. Enjoy!


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