Back to the Basics

Today was the first time I've baked bread at home in probably two months. This is mostly because it has been so hot this summer I didn't want to heat up the kitchen. My kitchen at work is already hot so I've been baking it there (making the dough at home and carrying it to-and-fro on my bike); a pretty good situation. Anyhow, today the high temp outside was only about 70F/21C so I made some at home.

The loaves you see pictured are about as basic as you can get. Truly delicious, but basic. All whole wheat flour and a few other ingredients. If you learn to make this recipe you'll be able to make a seemingly endless amount of variations. Most of my whole wheat bread recipes are based on this one. Here it is in pictures; a recipe follows.

Place two bowls side-by-side, one larger than the other. The smaller bowl will hold your pre-ferment and the larger your autolyse (the recipe tells you how to do this).

Next you'll combine all the ingredients and mix the dough until it passes the windowpane test.

Place the dough in a bowl or rising bucket and allow it to ferment and rise until twice it's original size.

Next, portion and shape the dough; allowing it to rise and ferment again.


Lastly--and this is the best part--bake the bread until dark-golden brown (wait 10 minutes before slicing).

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups water

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons instant yeast
3 teaspoons kosher salt

In one bowl make a preferment by combining 2 cups of whole wheat flour with 2/3 cups water and 2 teaspoons of instant yeast. Begin the autolyse in another bowl by combining 4 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 ½ cups water. Stir each bowl just enough to combine the ingredients, taking care not to get yeast into the bowl with the autolyse. If the contents in either of the bowls need more water, add a small amount. Cover both bowls and allow to rest and ferment for 30-90 minutes, during which time the preferment will begin it's job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak the grain, swelling the gluten.

After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.