The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Q & A with Peter Reinhart

  • Pin It

Q & A with Peter Reinhart

Photo: Ron Manville

Renowned baking instructor and cookbook author Peter Reinhart was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to me about his new book, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread.

Looking at the new book, I'm struck by how similar it is to The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The structure and layout are very similar, your methodology is similar, even a decent number of the recipes are modified versions of the same recipes. Would you agree with that characterization?

Definitely. The Bread Baker's Apprentice set the stage for this new book and gave me a template for how to put this one together.

Yeah. This strikes me as the natural follow up though, something like "The Bread Baker's Apprentice's Second Semester: Whole Grain Baking Class."

I like that, Second Semester. I should pass that on to the publisher. You're right, what I did was take many of the concepts, techniques, and bread science presented in the earlier book and really push the envelope as to how they can be applied in new ways to make a whole grain bread that people will actually want to eat, rather than eat out of obligation because it's "better for me."

Sure. I have to admit, having grown up in Sonoma County in the 70's and 80's, I don't have fond memories of health food and whole grain breads. I recall going over to friends' houses and eating terrible almond butter sandwiches on whole grain breads that tasted like cardboard and were as heavy as fruitcake. "Mmmmm... it's bran-tastic!" is the best I can say about them.

That was part of what I found so striking about your breads at Brother Juniper's when I first discovered them: they were locally made and relatively healthy AND they tasted really good. It seems that has always been a hallmark of your style, at least since I've known you.

Well, in culinary schools we teach the students that the single most important thing they will learn is that flavor always wins. I call it the flavor rule--that is, when push comes to shove, flavor rules. I think my real talent as a chef and baker is as a flavorist; I think my palate recognizes universally appealing flavors and so that's what I go after.

So now that you are taking on whole grain baking, I have to ask: do you think whole grain baking can escape that stigma, the belief (rightly or wrongly) that you can bake healthy and whole grain or you can bake for good taste but not for both? Because, I have to admit, while some of the recipes in this book at first glance are highly appealing, there are some that... well, I can't imagine wanting to make them unless a doctor ordered me off refined flour. Like whole wheat pizza dough. I've had reasonable approximations of pizza made whole wheat flour and, while they are good in their own strange way, that isn't really pizza, is it (he asks the guy who wrote a book about pizza)? And would anyone really want to try whole wheat brioche unless they had to?

Brioche definitely was a stretch and it's really in there to show that the method can work on any kind of bread. But when it comes to something as wonderful as buttery brioche, yeah, what's the point of doing it with whole wheat? But the goal, as I said, was to win people over based on flavor, not just health claims.

It's intuitively obvious that whole grains are the way to go when it comes to carbs, but it's hard to beat white flour breads for taste. If we had to choose one thing to change about our diets it would probably be, for most people, to add more fiber (it wouldn't hurt to cut back on sugar and refined foods and empty calories, but adding fiber sort of addresses all of those in one fell swoop). So I really am hoping that people will choose the healthier option not out of obligation but because it tastes good to do so. Time will tell.

Hey, try the whole wheat pizza before you knock it--it might win you over!

Ha ha. OK, I promise I'll give it a try.

A number of us on the site have shared our initial reaction to the book and many of us mention feeling slightly intimidated by it. It seems like there are a number of new techniques and concepts in here, things like mashes, the epoxy method, seed cultures, enzymes, and so forth. Personally, I know I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what was involved in making a decent loaf of bread, but after reading this I'm feeling on fairly shaky ground, at least when it comes to whole grains. What's going on?

Actually, the techniques are much easier to do than they are to write about. The method is really quite simple: a couple of pre-doughs made on Day One, combine them on Day Two, and pretty soon you have a loaf of bread. The hard part was figuring out how much of each pre-dough to use, and to explain to the readers the theory of why I think it improves the bread. But as you read the instructions you can see how easy it is to actually do it--certainly no more difficult than any other bread recipes.

I didn't invent these pre-dough. Mashes, sponges, bigas, starters made from seed cultures have all been around and written about for a number of years. What's unique in this book is the way they all come together (what I called, in a rather unappetizing term called "the epoxy method") to create, in a sense, a new method of bread making. That is, an original technique using traditional methods.

Speaking of original techniques: I definitely got the impression that the Pain A L'Ancienne was your breakthough recipe in the Bread Baker's Apprentice. Any similar epiphanies for you while creating this book? Any one technique or recipe in the book that you'd recommend people absolutely must try even if they don't think they have any interest in whole grain breads?

Pain a l'Ancienne was definitely the inspiration for this book--the idea of cold, delayed fermentation to improve flavor is the basis for all the recipes in this new book. Then, Monica Spiller introduced me to the ancient concept of scalded grain mashes and another light went off. It wasn't easy to apply this new piece of the puzzle, so only a few formulas in the book use it, but I have had some testers tell me that the mash bread was the best bread they ever tasted.

I tested the mash bread recipe. It was incredibly good, but a ton of work.

The final method for making the mash that is in the book is about 100 times easier than the one we started with.

Good to hear. I'll have to try it again then.

I'm also totally in love with the spent grain bread formula (I get my spent grain from a local micro-brewery and can make as many variations as there are types of beer). And I also developed a new found love for old world, dense rye breads, especially volkornbrot and Bavarian pumpernickel. The complexity of flavor is quite addictive. I think we're on the verge of a rye bread renaissance in America.

I was going to ask: the buzz around rye breads and German breads on the site seems to be picking up noticably. Every time I log in it seems someone is posting about having tried to bake Dinkelbrot or Vollkornbrot (which you have a recipe for in the book) for the first time. Could that be the "next big thing?"

Absolutely!

Let me just end the conversation with a few words of gratitude. Your writings and classes have inspired numerous bakers, but I am indebted to you on a more personal level. As you recall, by happenstance I landed a job at your bakery when it was still quite small and unknown. At that time I was a typical sixteen year old male, rather angry at the world and directionless. The patience, kindness, piety, and trust you and the other brothers and sisters at the bakery modeled for me were decisively positive influences in my life at a time when I easily could have been influenced in other directions. I'm 100% certain The Fresh Loaf would not exist without the passion for baking you shared with me and quite certain that I would not be as personally fulfilled were it not for the years I was able to mentor with you. So thank you.

Wow! I'm speechless--but thank you for your kind words. Susan and I felt that all of our high school employees were like our own kids and loved having you in our little Brother Juniper's world. I'm honored to know that we were able to make a difference. Thank you, Floyd!

Thank you, Peter.

Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread is now available in the US and Canada from Ten Speed Press. It will be available in the UK from Publishers Group UK soon.

Update: Peter has offered to respond to community questions for the next few days. If you have any questions about whole grain baking or his new book, fire away!

Update: This thread is now closed. Thank you, Peter and everyone else who participated.

Comments

caryn's picture
caryn

Floydm- Thank you for this interview.  I was really moved by your comments at the end. How wonderful that Peter Reinhart was such an inspiration to you.  I look forward to meeting him (again) at his whole grain bread class in Chapel Hill NC in a few weeks (October 20)!

leemid's picture
leemid

What a wonderful thing to have this connection to a great bread man. I am thrilled for you Floyd.

Is it too much to wonder if your friendship could influence Peter to come to the northwest, or at least warn us when he plans to do so, so we can entertain the idea of a TFL sponsored class?

Lee

PS If this makes it directly to Peter, I suspect you are busy, as we all are, but I believe you travel quite a bit, as shown in your pizza book... are there plans for you to visit the Portland area?

Best.

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi,

   I'd love to come to Portland and the great Northwest again--it's been awhile and I miss seeing all my friends. I hope to be there by next summer. I'm still working out travel teaching dates with schools like Sur la Table, Central Market, and others but the only dates currently on the books are for Vermont (Nov.), Texas (late January/early Feb.), California and Scottsdale (late Feb/early March). All of this is posted on my blog at http://peterreinhart.typepad.com  As I get more dates confirmed, I'll post them there.  Thanks!

Peter Reinhart

Chef on Assignment,

Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, NC

http://peterreinhart.typepad.com (blog)

Drifty Baker's picture
Drifty Baker

Mr. Reinhart,

I have been experimenting with making breads with malted grains for a couple of months.  I will definately purchase your book so I can read how you are doing the mash.  The home brewers in my area tell me that I need to control the temperature when cooking the grain to around 185 deg. F.  I find that hard to do on my stove top.  What temperature do you use to cook the mash?

Thanks,

The Drifty Baker

Go biking while it's rising! 

 

 

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Dear Drifty,

   The key to the mash is to keep the temperature at around 150 degrees for as close to an hour as possible. This encourages the work of alpha amaylase but not beta amylase enzymes (much more detail and rationale is given in the book). For my version (and it's certainly not the only way to make it) I heat the water to 165 and then add the flour, which brings the mash down to 150 (beer makers prefer 185 degrees but for this bread I don't want to denature all the enzymes). Then I put the sauce pan in a warm oven for an hour. It's actually a lot easier than it sounds and after you've made it once it will be easy to set up a system. Then, it's just a matter of trying out different dough variations. Let me know how your experiments turn out.

buckeyebaker's picture
buckeyebaker

a question to peter.

first, i just love your books; they are piled on my nightstand, and i reread them regularly for inspiration. i wish i could drive out to chapel hill for the october class, but it's the same day as columbus marathon (which i'm running) and so bread-baking loses to running. 

but the question is why you wrote your newest book recipes (to use old-fashioned term) for only single loaves?  your BBA book was written for 2 loaves, and for many of us, that's so much more time efficient. if we go ahead and 'double' the recipes, should we double the starter refreshment as well, and use twice the amount of starter?

i tried that the other day, and results were ok, but not superlative, so will have to tinker.  but for me, to make two loaves at a time is so much easier, esp since my spouse will make 4 sandwiches a day to bring to work, so a loaf disappears fairly quickly.

thanks, and if you're ever in central ohio (nobody ever is!!), please offer a class for those of us who don't live on the exalted east or west coasts. 

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Dear Buckeye,

     I sometimes come to Columbus to teach at Sur la Table, so keep an eye out for that, hopefully in late spring or early summer.

     As for your question, you can make any size you want and, yes, do keep it in the same proportions. The reason I went for the single loaf this time (and it's a no win situation, whichever way we do it), is because it fits nicely in a Kitchen Aid and also in a food processor, which a lot of home bakers use (and also in most bread machines which are also still quite popular). Of course, I prefer to do it by hand and I agree that it's nice to make two loaves instead of one, but the other side is that these breads are so filling that I figured the second loaf would get old before the first one was consumed (one loaf lasts Susan and me about 4 days), which means freezing it. That's okay, but they're so much better when eaten fresh. Which dough did you make that wasn't superlative? Maybe we could tweak it a bit. Give me some details about how the dough felt and how well it rose in both the first and second fermentations and such, and I'll see if there are some suggestions I could make.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Mr Reinhart:

Just a humble thanks for BBA. I'm sure all that can be said in praise of it has already been said. So, just thanks.

A slightly off-the-wall question: Given that you teach at a high-falutin' culinary institute and all, have you ever gotten together with a good sommelier to noodle on bread/wine pairings?

I'm a devotee of the old trope "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou." Good prescription for any weekend afternoon. In my case, the "thou" part couldn't be any better. My loaves are on their way to getting better (thanks to you and TFL). But my ideas about which wines go best with different breads could definitely be better! Of course, it has much to do with how one's dressing the bread -- olive oil, butter, balsamic, peanut butter (!), etc -- but I just thought I'd ask if you have views on great bread/wine pairings that you think bring out good bread flavours and complexity, or show particular breads in their best light.

All the best.

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

I own your BBA and am saving up money to buy your Whole Grains Bread bk.  In the meantime I visit my local book store and speed read the book whenever I can.  One of the things I noticed is that there seems to be an emphasis on biga as opposed to poolish.  Is that an accurate observation and if so is there a reason?

Also, is it possible to say if more taste is developed during bulk fermentation of the dough versus the proofing stage when I would put it in the fridge over night?

Since I am a novice, please don't hesitate to point out basics that I might not think of. 

Thank you for your time and guidance. 

Country Boy

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I hope to catch your class at Central Market in Dallas.

Yesterday I refreshed a piece of mother starter that had been in the fridge for 17 days. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it turned out. I didn't do this to bake anything new, just because I knew my mother starter was getting old. (The starter in the fridge may have lost a bit of volume, but is no where near the consistency of potato soup. It still has plenty of bubbles and I can see the gluten strands when I scoop some out.) If my mother starter is older than 2 weeks, but still seems in good shape, can I go ahead and use it?

Second question - many of your formulas call for refreshing the mother starter at 2.25/6.75/5, yielding a wild yeast starter in the same proportions as the mother starter. Is there any reason one couldn't use 14 ounces of fresh mother starter instead? How about one that's a week or two old?

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi KipperCat,

   Those are great questions and I will definitely answer them tomorrow. I just got home from a wonderful day spent with Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse, who's here in Charlotte to talk about edible schoolyard gardens and lunch programs for schools. It was enriching beyond measure but I've gotta crash so I can teach my Food and Culture class at 7:30 tomorrow morning (it's nearly midnight here). But give me another day and I'll give you my thoughts on this. Thanks!

   By the way, I made the spent grain bread, from the new book, for her and 65 others tonight at the big dinner in her honor and it went over big time. It's definitely my new current favorite.

Peter

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Again,

  Usually, the acid in a starter, as well as enzymes, will eat away at the gluten and cause the "potato soup" effect. This could take anywhere from a week to two or even three weeks, but usually the strength of the starter is compromsed after about 3 to 5 days. That's why I always suggest refreshing even a small piece of "old" starter into a new piece of fresh starter. If your mother starter is still fairly young and the proteins seem strong and bonded (that is, not broken down into "soup"), by all means weigh off the necessary amount (such as the 14 ounces often called for in these recipes) and use it. I'd be wary of using a 17 day or even 14 day starter in the final dough, however, even it still feels strong. However, a good way to find out is to make two batches, one with the old starter and one with a newly refreshed piece of starter as described in the instructons. See if you get a qualitative difference. My guess would be that the older, 17 or 14 day starter will produce a dough that spreads more and sort of flattens out, but yours may be the exception--you never really know till you try it. A week old mother starter might still work, but that's about as far as I usually go before I feel it necessary to refresh it for a new batch. Let me know how it goes.

   P.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Thank you Peter,

I thought that might be the case. I read your opening chapters, but it will take a few more readings before I remember it all!

I won't try the experimental bake though. I can mess up a loaf all on my own, without starting out wrong. :~)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Peter - 
I hope you are well rested!
I first want to add my thanks to those expressed by others. I have your "Crust and Crumb" and "BBA" and greatly admire how accessible you have made the technical information. These books have truly inspired me.

I started baking bread again after a 25 year lapse, mostly because there are breads I love but cannot get locally, especially sourdough rye. The 100% sourdough rye in "Crust and Crumb," modified by using first clear flour rather than "bread flour," is a favorite, as is the Poilane style miche, which I make with 100% first clear flour.
But I do have some questions. Thanks, agian, for your coming here and making yourself available like this to answer them.
I'm new to this site and have remarked on the popularity of folding the dough once or more during bulk fermentation. That doesn't seem to be a technique you push, and I am curious about your views on it.
Also, I have never been able to get a really nice open crumb in my sourdoughs using the hydration levels in your formula for "basic sourdough." Maybe I'm too rough in shaping or I'm under-fermenting. I do use overnight cold retardation of both the firm starter and the shaped, unrisen loaves, as you recommend, and, while I like the loaves' color, the birdseye crust and the flavor, I wonder what cold retardation does to the crumb texture.
I suppose my question is basically the variables to attend to for achieving an open crumb - which matter the most, where tyros like me most often err, etc.
David

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Dear David,

   The overnight, cold fermentation method shouldn't negatively affect hole structure--usually it enhances it. Can you describe the feel of the dough--is it sticky, soft but tacky, firm with just a little tackiness, satiny, or what? The key to the big holes is always in the first rise, not the final rise. You want to get a good doubling of the dough and then divide and do final shaping gently in order to preserve some of the gas pockets from the first rise (I've seen others on this site refer to this same principle, especially the part about gentle handling). The idea is that the small gas pockets that you retain will build in size during the final rise and oven spring. The other rule of thumb is that the more hydration in the dough, the better chance for big oven spring and large, irregular holes. But, if during the shaping stage you squeeze out all those pockets ("old school" methodology where you really punch down the dough and flatten it before rolling it up), the more even and middle sized the final holes will be even with a wet dough.

   As for the stretch and fold technique, it really is great for strengthening a wet dough without extra mixing. There are some doughs in which I do recommend this method. The thing to remember is that after you've done this once or twice you still need to get that dough back up to double in size. Sometimes, people cut the rising time because they want to stay on a schedule and the dough doesn't have a chance to properly gas up after the last fold. With the overnight method, if you do have a really soft, sticky dough, I recommend that after mixing the dough give it about a half hour fermentation at room temperature, then stretch and fold it (you'll feel the dough firm up quite a bit--use either wet or oiled hands to keep it from sticking to you). If it still seems too soft to hold any shape, give it another half hour of fermentation and repeat the stretch and fold. Then, refrigerate it overnight. It will continue to firm up while it chills down in the fridge. The thing is, there are many ways to mix, ferment, and shape dough to get good results. The more tricks in your repertoire, the better, but you need to find the combination of techniques that works best in the system you end up following. The stretch and fold method tends to be used more often for same day doughs but it can also be used for an overnighter if it needs it.

   I hope this helps. We'll know more when you send me the description of your sourdough.

    P.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

Peter:

That is one of the best concise summaries of early-fermentation technique I've ever read.  You have such a gift for clarifying.   I've been having problems with wet doughs for a long time, and you've just cleared the clouds on a few things.  I've no doubt you just tossed off that response thinking it was basic stuff -- and it may be -- but you really have the teacher's art.

Thanks. 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Your BBA was the first book I actually bought for myself after I took a serious interest in baking. I was so taken by the style and word descriptions you use that I started to study your methods and have become a moderately good home baker. Thank you! One of the first things I did upon realizing I have it in my power to create great bread was to do a tribute of the BBA cover using my daughter Gabrielle. We had fun with it and now she is helping me in the bread making.  She reads the directions for me and prepares the ingredients ahead so I don't forget anything.

There are many things I would like to ask but I think I will continue to follow your latest teachings and continue to enjoy your work through the printed pages. Thanks for all the hard work.

You must be pleased that a young man who interned with you so many years ago is now helping bring the gift of quality bread making to so many. Floyd is a good man and now we know where he got his start.

Safe travels,

Eric Hanner
Wisconsin

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Eric,

   That's such a great picture. Didn't you send it to me once before, I seem to recall that angelic look--it's really priceless! Your daughter would make a great baker's apprentice--remind me to use her as the cover girl for the next book!

   As for Floyd, well, I can't take any credit for what a good guy he is. I think his mom, dad, family, wife, and kids all contributed far more than me, plus he brings a lot to the table in his own right. My best contribution, for which I'm greatly relieved, is that I didn't screw him up while participating for a short time in his self discovery process. To not screw someone up in their process of "becoming"--I think that's one of the best things any of us can aspire to. Okay, enough of embarrassing Floyd--now back to bread....

  P.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

 Dear Peter, Thanks for your response to my queries. I appreciate your detailed advice.I have made your Basic Sourdough maybe 20-30 times with a lot of variation in flours. I have mostly ended up with a slightly tacky but not sticky dough. I have allowed the dough to double before dividing ... Well, usually. <blush> Mixing and kneading in a KA, the dough typically clears the walls but sticks a little to the bottom of the bowl. Using your procedure - mix, knead 4 min., rest 5 min., knead 4 minutes - the dough requires a couple more minutes of hand kneading to get smooth. I've never gotten it to the window pane stage, I know. I'm pretty sure I have manipulated the dough way too much while shaping the loaves. (Iron hand in an iron glove?) The crumb has had lots of small holes but none over about 0.5 ". The last time I made this bread, I mixed just the flour (20.25 oz) and water (1.75 cups) and let it rest 20 minutes before adding the salt and firm starter. I then kneaded it at a setting of 2 with some brief bursts of setting 4 for an unmeasured time, but probably about 8 minutes. The dough was still not smooth and quite sticky. I hand kneaded a couple of minutes and fermented, divided, shaped (with much less futzing) and retarded over night. I baked as instructed. This resulted in better pvem s[romg and a much more open crumb with lovely tender chewiness (if that makes sense).Hydration by percent was not much different, but I used the autolyse, and the dough acted much wetter. Does that compute, or do you think I must have added more water than I thought?Based on your advice, I'm going to be more careful about letting the bulk fermentation go long enough. I have to confess that your remark about cutting corners to keep to a schedule hits home. I take it that letting fermentation go a little too long is preferable to cutting it a little short.I've only achieved a smooth dough in the KA when it was dry (barely tacky). I'm wondering if I need to knead a lot longer with wetter doughs and go for the window pane stage regardless of how long it takes. I've focused too much on time and not enough on what the dough is doing, I think. From your comments regarding stretching and folding, I don't think I've yet worked with a dough that is wet enough to require it. But I will, eventually.I'm clearly missing having never observed a trained and/or more experienced bread baker work. I'm going to have to retire so I have time to take a class. There's no other answer. ;-)
David

Nataliya's picture
Nataliya

Dear Peter,

I would like to express my gratitude for all your books and your pursuit to develop new methods. Your book on the whole breads is great! I was struggling with the whole wheat breads for quite a while, and your book came out just in time.

I was wondering whether you have any suggestions on how to handle home-milled flour. The breads that I make from store-bought flour look great and have a nice texture. Unfortunately, they lack in flavor compared to the breads made from the home-milled flour. On the other hand, the latter ones would not win any beauty contest.

For the home-milled flour, I have to mix the dough much longer to pass a windowpane test. The dough seems nice at the beginning and rises fine during initial fermentation, but tears during the shaping, and would not hold its shape. It also has a very modest oven spring.

I should also say that I do not add commercial yeast to the dough, and usually convert your recipes to use wild yeast, if it calls for instant yeast only. I tried shortening the proofing time, but then the dough would not increase 50% in volume during initial fermentation, as you suggest in your book. I also tried buying grains from different vendors. It helped to the point that now I do have some oven spring – before the dough would actually lose in volume in the oven.

Thank you for your help!

Nataliya

P.S. I love your mash bread! What surprised me is that my husband, who is generally very indifferent to whole breads, likes it as well. He said that it is the best whole wheat bread he ate in his life (Notwithstanding the appearance of the bread. :) )

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Dear Nataliya,

   For those who can do home milling, I highly advise it--you can't beat the fresh flavor. However, I also suggest using that flour as soon as possible, no longer than 8 to 12 hours after milling it. If it sits longer, you can run into performance problems like shrinking in the oven and bucky tops. If you do have extra flour from your milling, let it sit in a paper bag at room temperature for at least two weeks before using it again (it's an enzyme thing, explained in more detail in the new book). The amount of water is going to vary, depending on the type and age of the wheat berries, but let the dough guide this--feel your way into a soft, supple, very tacky but not sticky dough (except for the rustic breads).

    Also, these recipes were designed for the use of commercial yeast even if you use an active starter. If you choose to leave it out, which is your right, you'll have to play with the dough to get predictable results--but I can't really advise you since I chose not to go in that direction. The commercial yeast, in conjunction with the starter, should give you a complex flavor but also a nice rise.

    Keep me posted.

    P.

leemid's picture
leemid

I got home early last night from my class, to an empty house; the wife and two daughters were somewhere... I started a batch of bread and in just a few minutes I heard the garage door opening. In walked the girls and declare that they have brought my book from the library. "What book?" I ask. My youngest holds up Peter's new book, which I had completely forgotten I had reserved. Sorry, Peter, but I have to review each book before I buy. This one looks really, really good. Harry Potter will have to wait while I explore whole grains until the library wants their book back.

That's my story,

Lee

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Lee,

   Great story!  I hope the book impresses you enough to take the next step, so let me know. I'm waiting for the paperback edition of Harry Potter before I buy the final installment.

   All the Best,

   Peter

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Hi again Peter,

Could you give a brief description of your upcoming classes? Or a longer one if you can do a quick cut and paste. Will you be doing breads from your new book?  Are the classes hands-on?  I'm particularly interested in your Dallas area classes.  Do you present the same info and breads at all of them?

Thank you for all the information you've added here at TFL.  We've all learned a lot from you and your books.

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Dear KipperCat,

   I'll be doing the same classes at each Central Market and Sur la Table and other locations, featuring four of the breads from the new book. They will be demo classes at Central Market and partial hands on at Sur and also at Ramekins and King Arthur (smaller group, more room to interact).Every once in a while, when I'm scheduled o do two classes, like at Let's Get Cookin' in Westlake Village, CA, or Ramekins in Sonoma, I'll be adding a panini class. Anyway, the whole grain classes are designed to show all of the new techniques developed for the book--soakers, mashes, "epoxy method," etc. I hope you can make it to the Dallas class--make sure you identify yourself as KipperCat. Thanks!!

     P.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I'll look into the Sur la Table locations. Either way, I'll be sure to say hello. 

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I would like to contribute my own thoughts/experiments with home-milled flour. I wasn't able to get nice crust browning with my freshly ground whole wheat sourdough that I got with my regular version.  I read in the new book that freshly milled flour is hypodiastatic, then I read in The Taste of Bread that a way to correct it is with a small percentage of soy flour; I multiply the total flour weight by .07 and that seems to work much better--the loaves seem larger and brown better.  I know I can also use malted barley syrup, but the soy flour is much more easily accessible and it's cheaper.

I'm actually having a problem with my sourdoughs sometimes that has me befuddled.  And I wonder if it's somewhat related to hypodiasticity.  On the first rise, my sourdoughs rise just fine, but for the final proof, it seems to take forever--about 2 or 3 times as long as the first rise, and when I'm finally able to get them into the oven, they have nearly no oven spring.  My theory, which is as yet untested, is that the yeast uses up all the easily available food during the first rise, and has nothing left for the final.  I can dimly see how this can be related to hypodiasticity, but I can't quite connect the dots fully.  This happens with both my whole wheat and my white sourdoughs.  Or maybe my sourdough culture is to blame.  Any thoughts?  Would malted barley syrup help fix this problem by ensuring there's still something for the yeast to digest toward the end?

SOL

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi SOL,

   That's a big word there, hypodiasticity, which means, among other things, that there are not enough active enzymes to release the natural sugars in the flour to create nice browning. Soy, and also fava bean flour have been used at times to boost enzymes but I think the best addition is a small amount of diastatic barley malt powder or flour (if it's in syrup form then it's probably non-diastatic because the enzymes are denatured during the heating process to make the syrup). By small, I mean like about 0.25-0.5% malt to flour. This is added to almost all commercial white flour, but I hadn't thought it necessary in whole wheat flour because there are more, sometimes even too many, enzymes present. However, if your freshly milled flour isn't browning up (caramelizing) it could be because the starches were not damaged as much as in commercial milling (damaged starch is where the first enzyme reactions occur, since they offer points of vulnerability), and thus the flour needs the enzyme jolt provided by malt, soy, or fava. My standard response to all of this is: whatever works. My hunch, though, is that with the "epoxy method" you won't have this hypodiastatic problem because of the overnight method, which should provide plenty of time for enzyme development and starch/sugar conversion even if the starch isn't damaged. Let me know if the results are different using this new method.

   As for sourdough, can you tell me what percentage of starter to fresh flour you are using in your final dough formula? The answer might be found there and, yes, you may be right that the wild yeast have gobbled up all the available sugar, leaving nothing for the final rise but, if this is so, I'm not sure if adding malt is the bet answer (though it may help, and the only way to really know is to try it--sometimes theory and reality don't line up). Another option might be to, instead, cut back on the amount of starter. But I can't say until I know what your formula looks like. Can you send it to me? Maybe we could play it out here on the site and let others chime in too--maybe others have run into the same problem and have come up with solutions to it. What do you think?

    P.

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Peter:

I just want to thank you and tell you the Bread Baker's Apprentice relit the bread baking spark in me last year (I hadn't baked in about 20 years!).  I followed your instructions for building my first sourdough culture -- it felt like you walked me through each step.   Your books have been in as close as I have gotten to a "hands on" bread baking class, and I just wanted to say thank you.

I see that you will be giving in class at Sur La Table in Newport Beach in late February.  I am very much looking forward to attending and meeting you in person.

Thank you!

Liz

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Liz,

   Thanks for your kind words. I look forward to meeting you in Newport Beach in February. I always love coming to the OC. See you then.

   P.

leemid's picture
leemid

I'm not really interested in whole grains right now, or so I thought. I have too much to do to branch out into more breads. But you can't not read a Peter Reinhart book, so there I sit totally engrossed in the text. I don't know if I am just farther along than I used to be or if this one is written really, really well, but I can't get enough of it. So, of course, I am going to have to give something up to make time to try some recipes...

Peter, who's gonna finish my boat, and my wife's car? Huh?

That's my story,

Lee

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Lee,

   Well that's one of the most creative notes I've received in a while. Thanks for liking the book and please do let me know when you try making something from it. If anyone complains about the unfinished boat or car, give them a loaf of bread and shrug your shoulders with one of those "Whaddya gonna do?" expressions. That's what I do....

  P.

cheechako's picture
cheechako

Cheechako  I have spent many happy hours reading your books.  Thank You!!!

Three years ago I gave up white bread and as much sugar as possible.  I hated whole wheat bread so much I gave up bread altogether.  Eventually I tried some of your recipes; I have become whole grain lover and a fan of yours.

I have tried the master formula in "Whole Grain Breads" over and over.  I am delighted with the sweetness and flavor. I am tempted to reduce the sweetener (Aguave) as it is almost too sweet. It is great to make as I like the two day method immensely.   BUT I am surely doing something wrong as the loaf does not rise very well.  The first rise is o.k. but there is no oven-spring.  The loaf is quite heavy and not rounder on top.  Color and taste are great, we just slice very thin.

I have followed the recipe on page 79 very closely.  Recently started to add diastatic malt flour (1 tsp).  I am using hard white wheat 100% whole wheat flour.  I mill the flour in Nutrimill home mill.  Whatever flour I do not use immediatly, I keep in deepfreeze. I use the Bosch Comfort Plus (700 watt) to mix and knead because of arthritic hands.

I would greatly appreciate any advice or comments.  As my name indicates I am quite new to bread baking especially whole grain bread baking.  TIA 

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Dear Cheechako,

   Thanks for all your efforts on these new breads. Oven spring has been an issue for some folks and here are a few suggestions: increase the final mixing time by a few minutes. In some instances, this seems to help though I'm not totally sure why (Laurel, of "Laurel' Kitchen's Bread Book" swears by long mixing). You didn't mention if the malt helped, but I'm guessing no. However, some testers reported improved oven spring by adding a small amount of ascorbic acid or vitamin C during the final mixing stage (about 250 mg, or 1/2 of a 500 mg tablet, ground into powder). It has been known to act as an oxidizing agent in the oven, boosting oven spring. Try these two suggestions: first, increase the mixing by about 3 or 4 minutes and, if that doesn't improve things, the next time do it again and also add the ascorbic acid. Let me know how these work and if the problem is still there, we'll look at other possibilities, including aging your freshly milled flour for two weeks in a paper bag at room temperature (but I'm hoping we can make your freshly milled flour work before resorting to that). One step at a time. I'll look forward to hearing back from you.

   P. 

cheechako's picture
cheechako

 I will definitly try these suggestions.  I am so eager to master the master formula as I want to try more of formulas in your book. The diastolic malt did not help nor did it hurt.

I have been using soy milk as liquid.  I noticed an entry in the forums advising soy milk be scalded, then cooled. Advice from "Laurel Kitchen" book.  Is is thought the enzmes in soy milk cause a heave loaf. I will also try that small change.

Would the addition of slightly more yeast be helpfull.  I will try each modifcation singly. The formula for one loaf at a time is one of my favorite features in the book. It makes it so easy to learn the procedure. When I get the results I like I will only need to multiply the recipe x the number of loaves desired??

Today I purchased the "Bakers Apprentice" as it precedes "Whole Wheat Bread". I thought I was starting at the beginning.  Should I have studied the "Baker Apprentice" before trying this book, or are they totaly different methods?  In any case I intend to master the master formula.

So gratefull for your time and attention!

newsmann's picture
newsmann

Peter: Thanks for all the kind comments about Floyd and our family. You'll always be Brother Peter to us, or, as Floyd used to call you, "Frere Pierre." You have certainly attracted quite a crowd to The Fresh Loaf!

I can still taste that exquisite barbeque sauce you and Susan used to make at a Small Town Cafe. I'd kill for some of that stuff. --Bill M.

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Bill,

   Susan and I still make that sauce in home size batches just to get us through the year--Holy Smoke we called it back in the Brother Juniper's days. One of these days we hope to get it back out on the market. Living here in "barbecue country" is great (very specific barbecue here, though--pulled pork in a vinegar sauce, this is not ribs or brisket country, much to my chagrin, though I've found a few local places willing to risk the ire of the Carolina purists to offer the full array of barbecue styles). I put Holy Smoke even on the local Carolina pork barbecue, which could get me in a lot of trouble with the local barbecue "police" if they find out, but I think it improves everything I put it on. Barbecue--now that's a whole world unto itself and I know there are some serious websites devoted to the subject, just as this one is to bread. Better not get started on that subject....

     Great to hear from you again--and our best to Jean!

     P.  

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Thanks for your comments.  When I read in your book about using a soaker helping with hypodiasticity, I made a mental note to try it, but I just forgot.  I'll try it next time around.

Here's my recipe using freshly ground flour:

10 oz ripe whole wheat starter

11.2 oz whole wheat flour

1 lb bread flour

1 T salt

2 T malt or .07% TFW of soy flour (I might be able to decrease the soy a bit, I'm still experimenting)

2 1/4 c water

Ferment for 3-4 hours, divide into 24 oz boules, proof for hopefully 1 1/2 hours, bake at 425 for 40 mins. 

I have started using cooler water (50-60 degrees, approx) when I make this, as my house is very warm.  I don't pour the water directly on the levain; I have killed it before that way.  I try to blend the flour with the water before I add the levain.  I don't know if it's still getting at least partially killed that way--I would assume not, as it wouldn't have a reliably good fermentation.  I wonder if the sourdough is occasionally overripe and the yeast binges and then gets lazy?  I feed my sourdough twice a day, using about 1 T of starter to 6 oz ea of water and flour (I keep a liquid white starter, and then convert to whatever when necessary).  I mark the container so I can tell when the whole wheat has doubled as I find it more difficult to tell when it is ripe.  I do know when a white sourdough is ready just by looking though.  Here's my recipe for a white sourdough:

9 oz wet starter

1 1/2 c water

18 oz bread flour

1 1/2 t salt

This is Dan Lepard's recipe for a potato sourdough, minus his potato and T of honey--I'll bet he had them in there for a reason, and I'm messing up the formula!  That might account for at least in part my problem with slow proofing.

Sorry this post is so long, but thanks in advance for your answer!  How wonderful it is to have you answer our questions!

SOL 

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Folks,

   I'll be away till Monday, so will reply to any final questions or letters, including this one, then. Let's wrap up this formal Q & A by Wednesday. October 10. After that, any questions can be directed to me at recipetesters@yahoo.com . Check my blog from time to time for travel teaching updates and other news and such also.

     Thanks!

     Peter

 

http://peterreinhart.typepad.com (blog)

leemid's picture
leemid

It has been marvelous having you here as a sort of regular. We have a delightful little, or perhaps not so little, community, but you have added a great deal to it in my view. You will be missed, if you are not here on a regular basis. It's nice to know how to reach you directly, but it won't be quite the same. It is not my place to invite you to stay on permanently, but if it were, I would.

Thanks for all you have done, and continue to do. I expect yours is a larger picture than just helping us bakers feed our addictions, or even just helping strugglers become artisans. I am sure there are professional bakers who are equally grateful for your ongoing enlargement of the tree of knowledge, if that metaphor works for you, but for those of us who's contacts in the field are limited to books and perhaps a few equally amateur friends, sitting in the shade of that tree, with its increasing number of leaves casts more light than shadow on our work benches.

So thanks from the bottom of my heart, may your bread always rise, and may you always be there to bake it at the optimum time.

Lee

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Lee,

    Thanks for your kind words. I'll keep checking in from time to time to see what other interesting subjects come up, and maybe we could do another round in a few months if there's interest. Meanwhile, I'll be focusing on finishing my MFA thesis, due in January, which I hope will turn into another book in a year or so. But, I know what you mean about the value of discussing these things in community. In the meantime, I'm only an e-mail away at recipetesters@yahoo.com

   P.

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi SOL,

     I'm not sure if there's a question in there but it sounds like you have things well in hand and your formula looks solid. I'm amazed you can keep that starter going with such a small amount of sponge, but it shows how lively it is. I don't think you need worry about killing it by pouring water on it--that shouldn't affect it at all (unless you're using really hot water, which I know you're not). The main thing is that you have a system that works and then stick to it. The potato and honey in Dan Lepard's recipe is nice for tenderness and flavor, but certainly not required if you just want a good, simple sourdough bread. My only advice to anyone who feels their starter is sluggish is to aerate it twice a day by stirring (wet starter) or kneading (if using a stiff or firm starter). The aeration seems to promote yeast growth and also prevents invading spores and molds from settling on the surface of the starter. If hypodiasticity is still a problem, try soaking the whole wheat and bread flour overnight in the water and then mix it the next day witht he starter and remaining ingredients. See if that adds any color to the loaves.

   I hope this helps. Keep me posted.

   P.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I keep wondering about these. I presume the information is per slice of bread, but I don't see a reference to how many slices per loaf. Am I just missing something? If it's not included, is the information available elsewhere?

There is a slight possibility that some day I'll strive to watch my weight go down instead of up. This would be useful info in that case. ;~)

 

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi again, KipperCat,

   This is one of the less user friendly aspects of the book--trying to find the list of FAQ's so you know where to get the answer to questions like yours. The list of all FAQ's is on page 3, in the Introduction, and the question is actually answered on page 143. The nutrition profile is, with a few exceptions, for one serving/slice of bread weighing 1.5 oz (this is heavier than a serving/slice of commercial breads, but one slice of these breads, at least the way I slice a loaf, is typically 1.5 ounces, so why pretend it's only 1 oz.).

   P.

    

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Somewhere in your book, there is a rough rule of thumb on additional water for converting a white flour recipe to whole grains.  It was something like for every .xxcup of flour, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of water.  But now I can't find it!  It would be nice to have a good starting point for making such a conversion.

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Again,

   On page 99 is the info you mentioned: "For every ounce of white flour that you replace with whole wheat flour, increase the amount of water by about 1 or 2 teaspoons."

    Of course, this is just ball park and will vary depending on many factors, but at least it will give you a good starting point. It sounds like a small amount of water but if you were working in production size batches it adds up to a lot, and represents a jump from, say 65% hydration to 75%. But, as always, let the dough dictate what it needs, not the recipe.

    P.

 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Peter,

Thanks for all of your help.  I've now got the formula written out and the dry ingredients set up for one conversion.  Now that I realize there's a list of the FAQ's I'll do fine. I'm very glad I don't have to resort to typing up my own list!

Enjoy your thesis work. It will be great to see you if you drop in again sometime.

KipperCat

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I was trying to figure out what to say to you since I had the chance and couldn't come up with anything clever, so I thought that I'd let the picture do the talking.

My bread baking was pathetic when I began (loaf on the left), because all the recipes assumed you knew how to make bread. In March of 2003 my wife purchased Bread Baker's Apprentice, and it explained everything I needed to know. The simple explanation of how long to knead and why lead to my first decent loaf of bread (loaf on the right). I kept seeing information about "overkneading" and was afraid to work the dough too hard.

Now over four years later I'm known by my friends for my constant bread baking, and even better for making good bread. Thanks for everything.

- Harold in Kansas

loaf improvement

(Man, it's kind of embarassing to see the before loaf.)

 

Peter Reinhart's picture
Peter Reinhart

Hi Harold,

   Thanks for the great testimonial--I'm so glad the book was helpful. Your picture says it all, of course. Kind of like that old Charles Atlas ad of the skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face and then how he got all buff after doing the Atlas exercise regime. I love it!

   P.