Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whole Wheat Italian Bread (Sourdough)

A delicious and soft whole wheat sourdough loaf with a chewy crust.

My favorite bread to make is Italian bread.  It is one of the first breads I ever made back when I was a broke college student and just became interested in bread baking.  I still use the same bread book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which is the first bread cook/baking book I ever bought (also from my college days).  The poor book lost it's slip cover along time ago, is ripping at the seams, and has flour and oil stains on every page.  It has been well used.  I used the Italian Bread recipe (p. 172) with some slight modifications.  This bread uses a preferment (Biga) which I made with sourdough instead of commercial yeast and I used whole wheat flour instead of white flour.  I also used kefir instead of water in the Biga to help tenderize the bread further since I planned on using half for sandwich rolls.  This made a great soft whole wheat loaf with a slight tang of sourdough.  Here is my recipe (as usual all of my measurements are by weight).

Night before (Biga):


3 oz sourdough starter (100% hydration, equal parts flour and water)
11 oz whole wheat flour
6-7 oz kefir (or milk or water)

Final dough (next morning)

Biga (about 18 oz)
11.25 oz bread flour

.41 oz salt
.5 oz honey
.5 oz olive oil
7-8 oz water

The night before you plan to make the bread mix together all of the Biga ingredients.  Stir well until all of the flour is hydrated.  Cover and let sit out at room temperature over night (up to 12 hrs).

The next morning the Biga should be airy and bubbly.  Add all of the final dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir on low speed with the paddle attachment until all of the flour is hydrated and ingredients are thoroughly mixed creating a ball of dough (you may need to dribble in a little water until all of the flour is incorporated).

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes.  The dough should be supple and elastic and tacky not sticky (you may need to add more flour while kneading to reach this consistency).

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl rolling to coat it all over with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for 4 hours until doubled in size.

Remove the risen dough from the bowl.  Cut in half.  You can make two 1-pound loaves, or I sometimes make 3 smaller loaves so they fit more easily on my baking stone.  This time I made 4 torpedo rolls and 1 loaf.  Place loaves and/or rolls on parchment or lightly floured sheet pans.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 2 hours and is 1 1/2 times original size.

Preheat oven and baking stone, on the lowest rack, to 500F for at least 45 minutes (if you are using sheet pans you can bake the loaves and rolls directly on the pan, no need to use the baking stone in this case).  Transfer the loaves or rolls to a peel or rimless baking sheet.  Score loaves with diagonal slits and rolls with one long slit (lengthwise).  Slide loves/rolls onto the baking stone (if you have trouble transferring loaves/rolls into oven, like I do, you can slide them in directly on the parchment paper but you have to pull the parchment out from under the bread after about 5 minutes because it will start to blacken and burn at such a high temperature) and spray the sides of the oven with water a few times to create steam, close the oven and then spray again after 30 seconds.  Do this 3 times then lower the temperature to 450F.  Bake loaves for 20 minutes and rolls for 15 turning 180 degrees half way through for even baking if necessary.

Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.  Enjoy.



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