The Food Matters Project: Real Whole Wheat Bread

This post is part of the Food Matters Project, a cooking collaboration among participating bloggers. Each week, we will cook a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, which places an emphasis on mindful and sustainable eating. Follow along with us!

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe, selected by Melissa of The Faux Martha (awesome blog name), is for REAL whole wheat bread—not to be confused with the spongy, soft supermarket “whole wheat” bread. Bittman asserts that this is the real stuff. Given that my bread-baking hobby was ignited about three years ago when I stumbled upon Bittman’s No-Knead Bread recipe, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate and experiment! (Plus I needed an excuse to test out my new proofing basket!)

The recipe found in the Food Matters Cookbook follows the same revolutionary formula featured in The Minimalist column in 2006. (This means no kneading!) The twist here is the flour: whole wheat flour, to be exact. My own experiments with whole wheat flour have been quite successful, as this hearty alternative to all-purpose flour lends a nutty depth to baked goods. But I’ve found using only whole wheat flour can result in a denser bread. So based on my own experience and instinct, as well as last week’s FMP recipe, I opted for a mostly whole-wheat bread with two parts whole wheat, one part all-purpose/bread flour.

Then I just felt guilty for cutting out 1 cup of healthiness (whole wheat is synonymous with healthiness in my head), so I turned to my pantry to relieve some guilt. There I found grains. Many, many grains. Quinoa, brown rice, cornmeal, bran, and oats. Unable to pare down the options in front of me, I went all in for an extra multi-grain bread. After digging for clues in other bread books, I made a “soaker” by letting the cornmeal, oats, and bran steep in a bit of water overnight while the bread had its long rise. Then I folded this mixture, along with some cooked brown rice and quinoa, into the dough before the final rise. No more guilt here—I pulled a beautifully textured loaf of bread out of the oven.

What better way to use my first loaf of multi-grain bread than in a good old fashioned sandwich? That’s what bread is for, right? (And Bittman’s original recipe does give instructions for making a traditional sandwich loaf, though I prefer boules.) I slathered two slices with goat cheese, fresh pesto (yay for basil season), and roasted asparagus. With a sprinkle of salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper, I had the perfect spring sandwich in my hands—with my REAL mostly whole wheat multi-grain bread as a hearty foundation.

See below for my variation. For the original recipe, see page 339 of the Food Matters Cookbook, or check out The Faux Martha and take a look at other FMP twists on this kitchen staple!

Juliana Barton is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, who avoided the dining hall by playing lunch lady in her own kitchen. She’s elated that Mark Bittman has made a triumphant return to the NYT Dining Section to show her “How to Cook Everything.” Read more…


Real Whole Wheat Multi-Grain Bread
Makes 1 Loaf

For the soaker:
2 tablespoons cornmeal (or millet or amaranth)
3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons wheat bran
1/4-1/3 cup water

For the dough:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose or bread flour
½ teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons cooked quinoa

For the soaker, combine the cornmeal, oats and bran with water in a small bowl. The water should just cover the grain. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight, or until your dough is ready.

Then whisk together the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and honey, and stir until well blended. The dough will be sticky and shaggy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel, and let rest in the warmest corner of your kitchen for 12-18 hours. You’ll know the dough is ready when it has about doubled in size and the surface is dotted with little air bubbles.

Drain any excess water from the soaker, and combine with cooked rice and quinoa.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and stretch out to 12” disc. Place soaker, rice, and quinoa in the center, then fold the dough over on itself a few times until the ingredients are incorporated into the dough. Once everything is well distributed, gently shape dough into a loose ball.

Coat a large bowl with oil (or flour a proofing basket with flour or cornmeal) and place the dough into the container. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1-2 hours, or until it has about doubled in size and is pliable.

While dough is resting, pre-heat over to 450°. Put your cooking vessel, a 6-8-quart heavy container with lid (enamel, cast iron, pyrex or ceramic), in the oven to heat up for about 30 minutes.

When dough is ready, carefully transfer to pot. Be careful not to burn yourself! Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid, and bake uncovered for 15 minutes until loaf is nice and golden brown. Let cool thoroughly on wire rack.

Originally posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012

9 Responses to “The Food Matters Project: Real Whole Wheat Bread”

  1. Lena

    April 23rd, 2012

    What a beautiful bread, yours turned out great. And I really love the idea of adding whole grains to the dough.

  2. Jess @ Cheese Please

    April 23rd, 2012

    This recipe is packed full of “healthiness”, great idea!

  3. Lexi

    April 23rd, 2012

    I’m very impressed with all of your additions to your dough!

  4. Gracie

    April 23rd, 2012

    very healthy. I’ll have to try this recipe out!!!

  5. Margarita

    April 23rd, 2012

    Your bread looks very beautiful… like it came from a French bakery! Nice job!

  6. Evi

    April 23rd, 2012

    Your bread looks beautiful! It’s the kind I see at our Farmer’s Market or in the bread section of the grocery store! Yum, can I try some? Also, how did you do the flour circles on the bread? That looks gorgeous!

  7. Jen

    April 23rd, 2012

    Your bread looks wonderful. i love the round shape!

  8. Juliana

    April 24th, 2012

    Evi I used my newly purchased proofing basket (! I’m a perfectionist so I love how consistently shaped each loaf comes out. Definitely work the investment!

  9. Leila

    April 24th, 2012

    Mmm This looks great! I can’t wait to try it :)

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