February 10, 2008
today, i held the battle of the wholewheat breads – man a mano – bread machine vs. bread by hand. the timing was right this morning for a bakeoff. It was a closely contested match.
Recipe #1 was from the cuisinart cookbook for the bread machine:
Whole Grain Whole Wheat Bread
For a 2lb loaf, choose settings for a 2lb loaf, medium crust and rapid wholewheat cycle, then add the following ingredients in order:
1 1/2 cups tepid water
1 1/4 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
3 cups + 6 Tbsp whole wheat flour
2/3 cup barley flour
2 1/2 Tbsp oats (i used quick oats)
1/3 cup flax seed
3 tsp rapid rise yeast
3 tsp vital wheat gluten (to help with rising wholegrain flours)
2 hours and 44 minutes (well, really it was closer to 2 hours and 54 minutes, because i had to add another 10 minutes to get the crust properly browned) later, i had a lovely, tall, bread-machine-shaped loaf (below on the left)
Recipe #2 was from my current favourite bread cookbook -richard bertinet’s dough.
multiseed brown bread
Place an upside down cookie sheet in the oven (or use a baking stone if you have one) and preheat oven to 475°F.
Add the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl (note – he strongly recommends measuring ingredients by weight but i don’t have a kitchen scale, so these are the amounts i used):
1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup multigrain flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (he prefers fresh yeast, but i can’t find it for sale anywhere)
2 tsp sea salt (fine)
mix the dry ingredients together by hand before adding:
13 oz water
(i cheated and added some vital wheat gluten here as well, to help with the rising)
mix lightly by hand in the bowl until you have a sticky blob. using his lift, stretch and fold method, knead until you have a nice lump of dough. i have found that his “incorporating a lot of air gently” works really well with white doughs, but the density of the multigrain makes it a lot more difficult. after awhile, i gave up and kneaded the traditional way.
Shape into a ball and put it back into your mixing bowl (throw a bit of flour in the bottom first to prevent stickage) – cover with a lint-free dish towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – a hour or so.
At this point in the recipe, you are supposed to divide into two loaves, but i decided to just leave it as one. Knead the dough gently and shape it into a loaf. Wet the top of the loaf with water and press on flax seed or multigrain mix. Put it in a greased loaf pan and leave to rise for another hour or so – until doubled in size again.Open the oven door and mist with water – 15 or so squirts with a water sprayer. This is to give your crust a nice texture.
Bake the loaf for 20 minutes or until done (hollow sound when you knock on the side), remove from pan and cool on a rack. I found that I needed to take the loaf out of the pan and bake it for another 5 minutes to get a nice browning all the way around.
3 hours and 35 minutes later, i had the lovely loaf you see above on the right.
to state the obvious, there is a massive size differential. i don’t know if this is true across all bread machines, but mine does produce very tall, short loaves. i could have gotten around this by taking the dough out of the machine after the second rise and baking it in the oven, but i felt that would be cheating for the sake of this experiment. i also have no idea when the transition between rising and baking occurs on this machine – there isn’t an audible beep or signal to let you know of the momentous occasion.
this bread machine recipe successfully navigated the combination of rapid-rise yeast and wheat gluten without exploding out of the machine, which i felt was a significant improvement on some of my previous efforts. the ease and convenience of the bread machine comes in very handy when you choose to make all of your family’s bread.
the bread machine bread was nicely whole-wheaty, without being too heavy, and satisfied my nutritional desires with the oats and flaxseed. it does have butter and honey in it, but in fairly negligible amounts to my way of thinking, and i think the added ingredients give the bread some added depth of taste and compensate for the shorter rising time.
conclusion: this is a great bread for everyday sandwiches and breakfast toast in the morning.
the multiseed bread is very tasty as well. i love the texture of the crust on this bread. i have to confess that i never eat the crusts of store-bought bread – i can’t stand it, even though i have heard that it is the most nutritious part.
but this crust!
i could eat the crust by itself.
the bread is a little denser than the other recipe, and delicious. i found that the rising time needed was about double what was suggested in the recipe – then again, i frequently have this problem. i’ve tried different yeasts, and preheating the kitchen with the oven, but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.
obviously, this method of making bread is more intensive, but it is also more satisfying – i love that tangible pleasure of immersing your hands in sticky glop and transforming it into lovely springy living dough. Because the bread is denser, you can slice it more thinly, and i actually think it tastes better that way. i like the simplicity of the ingredients and the preparation is quite straightforward. this is also an everyday loaf – it’s not a fantabulous loaf of bread that you would unveil with sparklers at a soirée. it’s more of a proletarian loaf, humbly served with slices of cheese and olives and hummous at lunchtime.
overall, i like this bread more, but not because of a huge differential in taste – they’re both quite good. i just have a much greater sense of satisfaction from having made the loaf by hand. keep the baker happy…