Since the breads I made most recently were both sourdough ryes, I was looking for something different this time around that would work well for sandwiches. My first inclination was to haul out an old favorite, a honey whole wheat bread. While flipping through Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, I happened across a buttermilk whole wheat recipe that I had not tried previously. Since I had all of the necessary materials on hand, I thought that I would give it a try. The recipe follows [with my notes]. I'll also include additional comments at the end
Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread
from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads
makes 1 9"x5" or 2 8.5"x4.5" loaves
2 packages dry yeast [I used 2 teaspoons instant yeast]
3/4 cup warm water (105-115F)
1-1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1-1/4 cups water and 4 tablespoons buttermilk powder)
1-1/2 cups bread flour, approximately
3 cups whole wheat flour, stone-ground preferred
1/4 cup shortening, room temperature
2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses [I used molasses]
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
Step 1 - In a large mixing bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir briefly to dissolve. Set aside while allowing the buttermilk to reach room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Step 2 - When at room temperature, pour the buttermilk, bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, shortening, brown sugar or molasses, baking powder, and salt into the yeast mixture. Blend with 50 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or at low speed in a mixer until the flour and the dry ingredients are absorbed. With a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater stir in the remaining whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and, when it becomes thick, work with the fingers. Allow 4 to 5 minutes for the whole wheat flour to fully absorb the liquid before adding more flour. The dough will be slightly sticky and soft. You may wish to add more bread flour to help control the stickiness.
Step 3 - Sprinkle flour on the work surface and turn out the soft dough. In the early stages of kneading, a metal spatula or dough blade will help turn and fold the dough. It will also scrape up the film of dough from the work surface. Knead with a strong push-turn-fold action, occasionally lifting the dough above the counter and banging it down hard. Knead for 8 minutes, buy hand or with a dough hook.
Step 4 - There is no "first" rising--the dough is put in the pans and set aside to rise. Divide the 2 pieces, if desired, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Shape into balls; press the balls into ovals the length of the pans. Fold in half lengthwise, pinch the seam, and place in the pans with the seam under. Push the dough into the corners of the pans. Cover the pans with with wax paper and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes. (Rising times will be reduced if using instant yeast.)
Step 5 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.
Step 6 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.
Step 7 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.
My variation went like this:
Step 1 - Mix the warm water, the buttermilk, the whole wheat flour, the brown sugar or molasses, and the baking powder. Autolyse 60 minutes. (I actually had to run some errands and it was closer to 90 minutes before I got back to the autolysed dough.)
Step 2 - Stir in the instant yeast.
Step 3 - Stir in the salt.
Step 4 - Stir in the shortening.
Step 5 - Stir in bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time. (I wound up stirring in 1 cup, total. The balance was used for flouring the counter during kneading.)
Step 6 - Since the gluten was so thoroughly developed during the autolyse, I stopped kneading after 5 minutes, which was enough to ensure that everything was completely blended and distributed.
Step 7 - Clean and grease the mixing bowl. Place kneaded dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to ferment at room temperature until doubled in volume.
Step 8 - Degas the dough slightly, shape into loaf or loaves, place in pan(s). Cover the pans loosely with with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes.
Step 9 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.
Step 10 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.
Step 11 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.
The effects of the autolyse were phenomenal. The dough texture looked as though it had been worked for 8-10 minutes, even though it had been stirred just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. After stirring in the bread flour, it was almost the the silky smooth texture that I usually associate with a well-kneaded white bread. The other thing that I should mention was that I was using Wheat Montana's Bronze Chief flour, a finely milled high-protein whole wheat containing 4 grams of protein in a 30-gram sample. For all practical purposes, it's bread flour that still has the bran in it. One of these days I'll have to try a 100% whole wheat bread with this flour.
Overall, I'm very happy with the results of this bread, using this approach and this flour. The loaves were some of the prettiest that I've ever pulled out of the oven, equalling the loftiness of a typical white bread. Here's a picture of the finished loaves:
The crumb was close-textured and even; not at all crumbly or dry. No bricks this time:
Oh, and it tastes really good, too!
And, while I was baking bread, my wife was attending a book signing by Giada De Laurentiis, as evidenced by the photo below: