In seeking a tasty and healthy bread for my 6 year old son's lunch box I've been looking to create a sandwich loaf that is in large part whole wheat flour and other grains, yet has a somewhat soft crust (you know children: they don't appreciate the best part of good bread), and fine and soft texture. It should hold up well for PB&J as well as cheese, turkey etc.
Multigrain Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
Today was baking day for me and I made up a new recipe. It started with a variation on Peter Reinhart's Struan from his "Whole Grain Breads," but ended up with substantial modifications. What remains is the "epoxy" method which has always worked well for me since I learned about it. As you can see from the picture most (if not all) of my goals were reached. The whole loaf is airy, and the crust is mild in flavor and "crustiness." The color is lighter than you might expect because a substantial portion of the whole wheat flour used was white whole wheat flour. This is another one of those "fool the kids" tricks. If the bread doesn't look too brown it tastes better! (The white whole wheat does have a milder taste too).
The overall composition of the bread (not counting the oats on the outside) is 37% bread flour (I used Giusto's Ultimate Performer, organic unbleached), 35% white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur), and 13% whole wheat flour (Giusto's), 14% rolled oats, 3.4% wheat germ (yes, that's a little over 100%, I rounded the amounts for this summary). Salt comes in at 1.85% overall, and hydration is at 75.6%. The bread flour comes in handy to provide enough gluten for a good rise (needed for good air and fluffy bread) and also helps create a milder (less WW) taste. I am not saying you need this much for the gluten reason, it is just what I ended up with and I am happy with bread that is only 1/3 refined flour. You can experiment with less if you want.
The end result was exactly what I was looking for. Within this goal, it was certainly my best ever. I know that some of you frown upon this kind of bread because it is not 100% whole wheat, it is too much like Wonderbread (not really, except texture may be somewhat), etc. I make plenty of "real" bread, but this outcome was the goal. Others have looked for this in the past (although mostly in a "white" bread), so I thought it worth sharing.
Here is the recipe (from my Dough Calculator Spreadsheet):
Multigrain Oatmeal Sandwich Bread Formula
The recipe, as given here, makes 3% extra of the soaker and the biga to compensate for what might stick to your container and utensils and doesn't (easily) make it into the dough. I bake by weight (highly recommended), but approximate volumes are given for almost all ingredients. The wheat germ, if I remember correctly, was about 5 tablespoons. Not mentioned in the formula, but I also used about 1/16 of a teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder (vitamin C) as a dough enhancer. It promotes dough strength and allows for a "lighter" product. It gets destroyed during baking, so no health benefits!
Also note, for those of you that like to judge a formula by looking at the percentages, that soaker and biga are huge percentages in the final dough. This is normal for doughs made with the "epoxy" method as virtually all flour is part of biga, starter or soaker. In fact, if there was no flour whatsoever in the final step, you wouldn't be able to use percentages, because 0 flour would result in infinite percentages for the other components. The dough calculator has a convenient "Analysis" worksheet that collects all ingredients into an "Overall dough", which is how I got the percentages mentioned above.
- Soaker: Mix all ingredients until everything is mixed well and hydrated completely. Leave out at room temperature for 12 hours (overnight is what I do).
- Biga: Mix all ingredients until everything is mixed well and hydrated completely, and then knead briefly. For a ball and place in refrigerator for 12 hours (overnight).
- Final Dough: Cut up soaker and biga each into some 10 pieces and mix them in a bowl with all other ingredients. Mix well (dough whisk, stand mixer, whatever you like) on low speed until you have achieved a good blend. This will happen easier than for doughs not made with the "epoxy" method. Continue to knead until full gluten development has been achieved. With this dough you should be able to achieve a wonderful gluten window (window pane test). Your ideal dough temperature at this point should be 78F (if you don't know why or how, don't worry about it).
- Bulk Ferment: Shape dough into a ball with tight skin and place, good side up in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until approximately 2.5 times original size. (This happened for me in about 75 minutes in a 70F) kitchen. The dough will feel very airy! In my case no folds were necessary, but if you feel your dough s not as strong as you want (possible since the dough is fairly wet), give it a folder after 30 minutes and perhaps another after one hour.
- Divide & Pre-Shape: The recipe makes two 1.5 pound loaves, so divide the dough into two equal pieces and quickly shape each piece into a tight ball. Deflate the dough some, but not completely while doing this. Let the pre-shaped balls rest (covered) for about 15 minutes. The dough might be just a tad sticky to your hands (it should have cleared the mixer bowl). If necessary use a tiny amount of flour, or wet your hands.
- Shape & Proof: Pre-heat oven at 400F (I used a stone and cast iron pan for steam, but you can do without). Grease your loaf pans (I used spray with flour in it, you can use some butter, oil, or use parchment paper). Shape each ball into a roll/loaf, make sure seam is pinched shut, and roll the top side (seam will go down in loaf pan) in some oats that you have spread out. Place in loaf pan, seam down, oats up, and cover and let proof until a dome forms above the edge of the loaf pan (this took about 1 hour for me).
- Slash & Bake: Optionally slash the loaves (I used a curved slash through the middle). If you don't slash and you get too much oven spring you may get tearing. I happen to think the slash looks good anyway. Place on the baking stone (i you use one, otherwise straight on rack in lower third of oven) and bake approximately 25 minutes until internal temperature is 205F (or use the "thump" test if you do not have a thermometer). Make sure you rotate pans sometime in the middle to get even heating and browning. I also remove the loaves from their pans when the internal temperature is about 190F so that the sides of the bread get some more browning. Careful with that, the loaves are very fragile at this point!
- Cool & Eat: As always, let cool fully before slicing and eating. This bread freezes well. I slice the whole loaf and freeze two slices in a sandwich ziploc for easy "on demand" retrieval.
See my My Bread Adventures in pictures