I've been baking slight variations on this 2 kg miche weekly for a month or so and it's time to share. It's very good. So good that it's keeping me from moving on to my endless backlog of must-try formulae from books and TFL blogs.
The objective here has been to bring the Maillard flavors normally confined to the crust (or the surface of a toasted slice), into and throughout the crumb of untoasted bread. Nothing new or earthshaking about the concept: David Snyder turned me on to it in his mention of adding toasted wheat germ to a miche at an SFBI class. And of course the Red Malt about which Mr. Brownman has been schooling us recently is a close cousin. Other significant influences here are Jeffrey Hamelman's Pain au Levain (process) and Phil's Tarlee Miche (levain building).
The arc of my journey with this formula over the past month has been toward more sieving & milling silliness, higher hydration and bolder baking. The crumb is cakey-soft at 70%, with very pronounced Maillard flavors and pleasingly mild levain tang. The crust in the bolder bakes has sung loudly (this past weekend, I thought it was hail on the skylight in the adjacent room) and has that delectably chewy je ne sais quois that boldly baked natural levain crusts provide.
Sieving & Milling Silliness. The formula contains 3.5% each of 300-325˚F toasted>KA-milled*>50# sieved (pass-through) store-bought wheat germ and wheat bran. The rationale for 3.5% is that wheat seeds are reportedly 83% endosperm. So adding a total of 7% germ/bran results in a "90% extraction" flour. Of course, it isn't "extracted", but synthesized, a la Rev. Sylvester Graham. Purpose here is not improved nutrition, as was Rev. Graham's noble intent, but indulgent: more flavor and, from milling and 50# sieving, finer texture. Crumb close-up above right shows barely detectable bits. Which is good. We don't care for bits in our table bread :-)
Click on the table below for a working (once downloaded as .xls) BBGA format spreadsheet with process.
Levain building. My stiff levain thrives on its Gerard Rubaud feed so well that I tend to use it in the first build (which means the bread has fractional %-ages of spelt, rye + whole wheat -- although I confess I've taken to 50# sieving my Rubaud Mix -- somebody stop me!). In addition, I cold-retard the freshly mixed levain at each stage, straight to the fridge after kneading, for 12 to as much as 60 hrs before retrieving it to mature for 4-8 hrs @ 70-75˚F. My levain loves it when I do that for weekly refreshment, so I've indulged its preference for a chilly prelude at each stage. This stretches the process over more of the week, letting me feel like I'm doing some baking between weekends, even though it's just levain building. Toasting wheat germ and bran at least gives me a chance to turn on the oven M-F :-). I have not observed this early cold retard to sour the levain or final product the way retardation of levains or doughs that have partially or fully matured does.
More sieving & milling nonsense experiments are in the works, but none except dab-inspired malt ideas start with whole grains. Plenty fun to be had with sieves & mill, and just store-bought flours, germ & bran.
*slightly hacked KA grain mill for finer milling (and warranty voiding no doubt) than possible with stock unit.