Did you know that soaking your grains and flours prior to using them helps make them more digestible and soft? This is especially wonderful for my family, as we’ve found that our freshly ground grain can sometimes taste a little chewy if it has not been soaked before being made into dough. There’s quite an improved taste when your wheat flour has been soaked first!
This recipe is adapted from one in the Whole Grain Breads book by Peter Reinhart. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit to make it more friendly for my own kitchen and our tastes. I also used hard white wheat.
If you are grinding your own wheat, you will want at least 4 cups of flour ready; 3 1/2 for soaking, and another 1/2 cup or so for adding to the final dough the next day.
Finally, once you’ve gotten familiar with making this bread, you might want to consider doubling or tripling the recipe so that you can keep some sliced and stored in your freezer for future use. Lightly toast however many slices you need as you need them. They’re great for sandwiches, snacks, or with a bowl of hearty soup.
Here’s what to do:
The night before you plan to bake…
First, mix 1 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup milk, and 2 tbsp whey if you have it (otherwise milk or yogurt is sufficient) in a bowl. Stir for a minute or so and cover. Set aside; you’ll be letting this sit out overnight (do not refrigerate).
Second, mix 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, 1/4 tsp instant yeast, and 3/4 cup of filtered water. Form a ball of dough, and, using wet hands, knead it in the bowl for about two minutes. It should feel a little “tacky” but not necessarily sticky. Let the dough rest for five minutes, then knead it for one more minute. Move it into a clean bowl and cover. Refrigerate this one overnight.
The next morning, remove this pre-dough from the refrigerator and let it sit out for about two hours.
Now you are ready to begin making the final dough.
Chop both pre-doughs into 10 or 12 smaller pieces. Sprinkle flour on them to keep them from sticking too much. Combine them in a large bowl with:
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp melted butter
Knead in the bowl with wet hands until all the ingredients are evenly integrated into the dough. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. You may also use a large stand mixer with a dough hook rather than your hands.
Dust a work area or large cutting board with flour, and knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes, adding a little more flour if needed. The dough should feel soft and a little tacky, but not sticky. Make a ball with the dough and let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Knead the dough for one more minute, then form it into a ball again and place it into the oiled bowl. Cover loosely and let rise for about one hour.
Transfer the dough back to your work area and form it into the shape of your 4×8 loaf pan. Put it into the pan, cover loosely, and let sit for another hour. It should rise above the pan.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F. When the dough is ready to bake, brush just a little bit of olive oil over the top and put it into the oven.
Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the loaf 180 degrees and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until golden.
Place bread on a cooling rack and let rest for an hour before devouring!