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Hilly Sennebec Bread a la Hensperger

cranbo's picture

Hilly Sennebec Bread a la Hensperger

So in response to a recent post, I decided to try Beth Hensperger's Sennebec Hill bread for myself, to see if the original recipe was problematic as I initially suspected. This is an enriched multigrain bread with 3 different flours, as well as rolled oats and yellow cornmeal. 

Some adaptation was necessary, because as I have no bread machine. Fortunately guidance is easy to come by: in Hensperger's book, she notes that her recipe originates from Bernard Clayton, and his version can be found in New Complete Book of Breads, Soups & Stews. Clayton's version appears to use slightly more whole wheat flour and slightly less water than Hensperger's. He also uses very hot water (120-130F), which I suspects help rehydrate the ingredients more quickly, and promote some level of gelatinization. 

So in the bowl of my trusty KA mixer, I combined all the dry ingredients, including dry milk powder, salt and yeast. 

After whisking these together, I added the egg yolks, oil, molasses and water. In deference to the previous recipe, I only added 1 cup of water, and reserved the remaining 1/4c., as it was reported that the dough was very sticky and unmanageable. I mixed to combine on the KA's lowest speed for 1 minute with the dough hook. 

Here's the result after 1 minute of slow mix; still rough, all not quite incorporated. 

I don't know how long a bread kneading cycle typically is, I'm sure it varies from machine to machine, so I'm eyeballing this. Clayton specifies 8min of knead time by hand or mixer. 

So after this rough mix, I cranked up the mixer for 2 min at KA speed #4.

As you can see from the photo below, it was still very shaggy, loose and goopy after those 2 min of mixing, as you can see from the picture below. 

Seeing how shaggy it was, I let the barely-mixed dough rest for 5 minutes, to help the flour, oats, and cornmeal absorb some moisture. 

I then unleashed the KA again, for 5 more minutes at speed #4. About 1 minute before mix was completed, I scraped the bowl down again, as the mixer was starting to bog (!) from the horizontal structural "blanket" that had formed. Mixer wasn't even hot, but it's the first time I've heard the mixer bog mixing any dough, including some of the high % ryes that I do. 

Here's how it looked right after 7 min of mixing was completed:

Looks slightly sticky, but really it was just "post-it note tacky". Shaped easily into a smooth dough ball with no additional flour on the board. 

I let it rise for 1 hour in my microwave alongside 4c. of boiling water (which creates a nice humid fermentation, at temps between 80-85F). It had almost exactly doubled during that time. 


Again, a very soft and supple dough, not sticky at all, and very little elasticity. Notice the finger prints that remain.

Weighed this dough ball after rising, weight was 842g.

Flattened it into a rectangle, rolled it up, and into a bread pan dusted with a bit of flour to help release. 

Then I set the oven to preheat to 375F.

Back into the microwave with the hot water for final proof; here's what it looked like at 30 minutes elapsed:

Not quite 1" above top of pan, so I let it rise another 10 minutes, at which point it was fully risen (total rise time 40 min). Passed poke test, so it was ready to go. 

Gave it a light slash, sprayed the top down generously with water. I always tend to slash the tops of my loaves, in this case, perhaps I don't need to. 

Set it to bake on middle rack at 375F for 2 min, then turned it down to 350F for 18min; rotated in the oven after 20min elapsed, here's what it looked like as I rotated it:

Total bake time of 40min. When removed, internal temp of bread was 206F, and this is what it looked like:

Baked weight was 782g, which is closer to a 1.75lb loaf. 

And the crumb?

I found the crumb a bit too tight and dry for my tastes. It does have some shreddability, but not enough moistness. Could be because of slightly reduced hydration, or long bake, or both. 

Flavor? Nothing specific jumps out. You get a little bit of crunch from the corn meal (either you like that or you don't, I'm impartial to it), and a faint muskiness from the combination of rye and molasses. A decent sandwich loaf with whole grains, not mind-blowing. Overall found it to be slightly dull & flat-tasting, compared to other breads I've baked; this may be a combination of short warm rise, high yeast, and intensive knead conspiring to reduce flavor. 

For next time?  I revise my initial assumption and say that it will probably work with the original amount of water (1.25c), but I suspect that it will be pretty sticky and shaggy, and require more careful handling, or similar knead and regular bowl scraping to get it to come together. Or perhaps a slightly shorter bake. Maybe a touch more salt, or some more sweetening (I think honey in lieu of molasses would be nice). Ars Pistorica's prior suggestion of an overnight rest in the fridge, maybe with a bit less yeast, would help boost the flavor. 

So here's my adaptation:

Cranbo's Hilly Sennebec Bread

(I'll come back and provide weight measurements later)

1 1/2 cups KA all purpose white flour
3/4 cup KA whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill dark rye flour
3 tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 tablespoons KA vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons molasses
2 large egg yolks
1 cup cool tap water + 1/4 cup cool tap water (reserved if necessary)


  1. In mixer bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together.
  2. In small bowl, whisk oil, molasses, egg yolks, and 1c. of water.
  3. Mix until all ingredients combined, rest 5 min (or up to 20min)
  4. Knead for 7 min at medium speed with dough hook (KA speed #4); scrape down bowl during this process as necessary (or every 2 minutes). 
  5. Shape into ball, place in oiled clear container, let rise in warm humid place until doubled, about 1hr.
  6. Now preheat oven to 375F
  7. Take risen dough, flatten into rectangle, roll like log.
  8. Place in 5x9 bread pan, let rise in warm humid place until about 1-1.5" above pan edge, about 40min.
  9. (Optional: slash and mist loaf with water)
  10. Place on middle rack in oven, reduce heat to 350F and bake for 30-40 min, until desired browning is achieved and internal temp is at least 190F. 
  11. Remove from oven. If desired, brush top crust with melted butter. 
  12. Let cool on rack for at least 30 min. 


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My first impression of this recipe is that if the milk (water and milk powder) were left out, and honey added for sweetener, it resembles the basis of a roll out cookie I'm fond of.   (And I probably couldn't resist upping the rye.)

That's a good looking loaf.

cranbo's picture

Thanks Mini. With some tweaks, I would make it again. 

clazar123's picture

I had responded to the original post about this recipe and I believe this loaf could be even better (flavor and crumbwise) than the beautiful loaf you achieved here.Very nice! Great documentation!

I concur with Ars Pistorica's suggestion to do less yeast and an overnight ,cold retard/rise and I would add the original amount of water if I did this. It will help develop the flavor and help the grains absorb the moisture prior to the bake so the crumb is not crumbly afterwards. A preferment of some kind-perhaps with the whole wheat portion and a pinch of yeast, an autolyse with the bread flour and maybe even adding some of the water to the oats and wheat germ for 30 minutes would all contribute to the flavor and texture.

One thing I have learned about multigrain breads like this is that it is very important to develop a good gluten structure. It helps to develop a great shape to the loaf.Because of the presence of oats and rye, it will be plenty starchy but that has to be"contained" with the gluten. Your KA mixer did a great job of doing that.

I enjoyed this documentary very much!Lots of work to it and a great looking loaf.

cranbo's picture

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! 

I totally agree, next time overnight. Or cooking the whole grain (mash) to enhance sweetness. Or both. :) I like the pre-ferment idea too. 

mariana's picture


thank your for the article about your version of Sennebec Hill Bread. I believe yours is much closer to what should come out of the breadmaker than mine. I got Hensperger's book and with the help of Zojirushi bread maker's manual calculated what should be the weight of the ingredients in the recipe and the method and I will attempt to bake that loaf again, with regular whole wheat flour from grocery store (not my heirloom Red Fife wwf, which doesn't tolerate kneading) and with addition of gluten. Maybe tomorrow I will bake one a la Hensperger exactly, and one - with sourdough and rasins.  I will see wether my SHB would get any better. Hensperger loves that bread and so far none of her recipes failed me, so I hope I will bake a loaf worth being "a favorite bread of a great gourmand", as Hensperger puts it. Using Clayton's recipe I got a loaf that made great croutons : ), but not something that is a gread bread on its own, when freshly baked.

Hensperger's proportions for the 1.5lb loaf are as follows

1lb/452g multigrain flour mix (215g bread flour, 105g whole wheat bread flour, 60g whole rye, 24g yellow cornmeal, 21g toasted wheat germ, 15g rolled oats, 12g gluten), 34g dry milk, 8.4g salt, 7.5g SAF instant yeast, 40g molasses, 39g canola oil, 34g egg yolks, 300g water (66%)

Method: whole wheat BreadMachine cycle, i.e.

20min warming up time (instant yeast comes out of a freezer and in 20 min adapts to the humidity and temperature of the flour)

20 min kneading time, i.e. 3 min blending phase (util all flour is incorporated), then slow spead mixing to homogeneity phase, then fast speed kneading phase until gluten is fully developed and the dough looks like a ball with blisters all over its skin

65-70 min bulk fermentation @82F

punch down (kneading for 10 sec on slow speed)

20 min bench rest @82F

punch down/shape

30 min proof @ 86-95F for denser loaf, 45-50 min proof for lighter loaf

40-70 min bake (depending on the size of the loaf, 1, 1.5, 2lbs). BM bakes @300F.



cranbo's picture

my pleasure mariana! Happy you enjoyed it. 

Now that I've had the baked loaf for almost 24 hrs., I have to revise my perspective on the flavor somewhat from my original post. The muskiness and sweetness from the molasses has actually grown, so much so that I would even re-consider adding more sugar, unless you prefer a sweeter loaf in general. This one seems to be improving as it sits! 

Just made a nice sandwich with thick slabs of roast turkey, roasted garlic aioli, tomatoes and avocado, totally delicious. Still, if I nitpick, I would still say just slightly dry due to intensive knead/gluten development and holding back that extra water. I would try that same intensive knead next time with the original water, and I think the result would be moister while remaining a nice shreddable sandwich bread texture. But again, this is a nitpick.

Thanks for posting the metric conversions too!


dabrownman's picture

it tripled in volume which seems outstanding for this kind of bread.  Maybe baking it at a slightly higher temperature and only letting the inside get to 200 F would help the dry crumbly crumb some.  Glad it gets better with age.  Can't help but think what a SD and YW combo levain would do for this bread too.  No worries for a dry crumb then and retarding would be the thing to do to deveope the flavor

Nice baking and a fine looking loaf.

cranbo's picture


The tripling wasn't a huge surprise, I owe it to intensive (long duration and/or high speed) kneading, and given that there is still a good percentage of white flour in there. 

I agree about the higher bake temp and lower internal temp. Also agree that a SD culture would help :)