It is almost near the end of January of 2014, last year passed by really quick. I changed my career, did many birthday and wedding cake projects. I hope this year will be just as exciting as the last if not more.
New year resolutions, anyone? I thought I would post a healthy bread recipe to kick off the new year. If you have never baked bread in a cast iron pot, also known as the Dutch or French oven, you are missing out. Baking a rustic loaf such as this recipe in a preheated cast iron pot with tight fitted lid somewhat mimics a professional steam-injected bread oven. It produces a very good “crackling” crust and flavour with a chewy center. If you don’t have a cast iron pot, you can also bake it on a pizza stone and spray the bread with water as it enters the oven. I love the wheat flavour of this bread, not to mention that is also quite wholesome, as the recipe only calls for flour, water, yeast and salt. It tastes best fresh with butter, and I love having it toasted and slathering it with butter and honey for breakfast.
This recipe requires preparing a soaker and biga starter. This method takes longer 1–2 days long to make the bread, but the it is well worth the time and effort because it develops better texture and flavour. A soaker is usually a mixture of whole grains and water soaked overnight so the grains can absorb the water and soften up. A biga starter is type of preferment, by making a preferment, it will create a nice yeast-y flavour in the final bread.
- 227 g Whole Wheat Flour
- 4 g Salt
- 170 g Water
- 227 g Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1 g Instant Yeast
- 142 g Filtered or Spring Water (21 C / 70 F)
- All of the Soaker
- All of the Biga Starter
- 28.5 g Whole Wheat Flour
- 5 g Salt
- 7 g Instant Yeast
- 60 g Water
- Extra Whole Wheat Flour for adjustments
- Mix for 1 minute and form a ball of dough.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12–24 hours or up to 3 days in the fridge.
- Mix to form dough, let it sit for 5 minutes, knead again for 1 minute with wet hands.
- Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.
- About two hours before mixing the dough, remove from the fridge to de-chill.
- Chop soaker and biga starter into 12 smaller pieces each, dust with flour to prevent them from sticking together.
- Combine soaker, biga starter, and final dough ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon vigorously or knead with hands for about 2 minutes.
- Knead for 3–4 minutes, let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Resume to kneading for 1 minute, let the dough rise for 45–60 minutes in a oiled bowl until about 2 times bigger in volume.
- Shape into a boule (ball), let it rise in a floured proofing basket (or a medium bowl lined with a floured cloth) for 45–60 minutes (1.5–2 times bigger).
- At least 45 minutes before the dough is proofed to the desired size, preheat oven with cast iron pot to 475 F / 245 C.
- When the dough is ready to bake, take out preheated cast iron pot from oven, remove lid.
- Carefully invert proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface, place the dough (using your palms) into the pot. BE VERY CAREFUL not to burn yourself as the pot is extremely hot. Use oven mitts to place lid back onto the pot.
- Bake the bread for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove lid after 30 minutes and bake for another 20–30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes, in case your oven is too hot.
- Remove pot from the oven and carefully turn loaf out and cool on a rack.Let the loaf sit at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.