Be aware, there’s quite a process involved in making this bread, but it’s worth it, and it gets easier each time you do it.
The soaker and biga pre-doughs need to be made the night before. This allows for better digestion of the grains and also a softer taste. You can really taste the difference, too; yes, this bread is heavy, but it doesn’t have a rough or chewy texture like many whole grain breads do.
If you haven’t already, you may want to read about why using freshly ground wheat is your best bet. I like to use organic hard white wheat.
Crusty Oat & Flax Bread
Here’s what you do:
7 tbsp whole wheat flour (we use freshly ground hard organic white)
1 c rolled oats
1/3 c flax seeds
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
Combine all and mix until hydrated. It will look like a thick porridge. Cover loosely at leave out on the counter overnight.
3/4 c room temperature water
Mix together. Using wet hands, knead dough in a bowl for two minutes. Dough should still feel tacky. Let dough rest for about five minutes, then knead again with wet hands for one minute.
Transfer to a clean bowl. cover, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, about two hours prior to mixing the final dough, set out the biga so that it can return to room temperature.
All of soaker
All of biga
Approx 7 tbsp whole wheat flour
5/8 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
Chop or tear the soaker and biga into 12 smaller pieces, and dust with flour so that they don’t stick back to each other.
Combine soaker and biga pieces in a bowl with the reamining ingredients. Knead with wet hands for about two minutes. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky; use more flour or water for adjustments if necessary. Different flours absorb different amounts of moisture.
Knead for 3 more minutes. Form dough into a ball and let it rest for five minutes while you prepare a lightly oiled bowl. Here’s what my dough looks like at this point:
Resume kneading the dough for one minute. Form the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl. Cover loosely and let rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.
When the dough is ready, sprinkle a work area with flour and gently form it into a loaf (you can also place it into a standard bread pan if you prefer). Place it onto a baking sheet dusted with flour.
Cover loosely, and let rise for 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425. Place the bread pan on a middle shelf, and lower the temperature to 350. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake another 20-30 minutes, until bread is a rich brown color.
Place bread onto a cooling rack and let cool for an hour before serving.
We use the bread (sliced horizontally) for sandwiches… isn’t it pretty?