Sometime in the summer, I woke up thinking about this wheat grinder that my parents had when I was younger. In my morning haze, I was wrapped up in memories of the sound of wheat berries popping down into the grinding blades, warm flour piling up in the metal bread pan resting below. I told my mom about my musings and she informed me that they still had the grinder and I was welcome to use it.
I drove down to my parents' house and rescued the grinder from the basement (and a hand-crank wheat grinder that we used for cracked wheat--my favorite breakfast food). Because I had new wheat grinding tools, I had to get wheat so I purchased a 50-lb bag. I immediately cracked some wheat for breakfast and ground some beautiful fluffy, nutty flour. Then, I set about baking bread.
I rarely bake bread. Growing up, our whole wheat was mainly used for waffles and pancakes (which my be why I had such good memories of the wheat grinder). I am not a break baking expert. I made a couple of transitional loaves and they worked fine, but with 50 lbs of wheat in the house, I really want to work with whole wheat. I made a stab at an entirely whole wheat loaf. It tasted fine, but it was so dense. A brick of chewy, dark bread. Not really what I was looking for. I found recipe for pumpkin whole wheat bread and that worked beautifully--the pumpkin made the bread creamier, lighter. But, I don't want to be throwing pumpkin into every loaf of bread I make.
My search for whole wheat bread recipes online were unsatisfactory, so I went to the bookstore hoping to find something that would change my baking life. The first think I saw on the shelves was Peter Reinhart's new Whole Grain Breads
. The book was beautiful, the directions were detialed, and the quotes on the back seemed enthusiastic (unlike those negative book blurbs!). It was a little pricey, but it was
birthday month. I bought it and looked at it for a couple of weeks before actually giving it a try.
So far, I have made a basic sandwhich loaf and cinnamon rolls. OMG. This is bread perfection. Reinhart uses a delayed fermentation method which includes making a biga and a soaker the day before shaping and baking. You have to plan ahead with this bread, but it is perfect. Light, soft, flavorful. The steps are many and a first look at the book suggests a complicated process, but it's quite easy. Reinhart gives measurements, weights, and baker's proportions so you can approach the bread with simplicity or a little more finesse (I went for the easy measurements and things worked fine). I think my next attemps will be challah and bagels.
If you have any bread baking ambitions, I highly recommend checking out this book. If you don't want to use whole grains, you may want to get his Bread Baker's Apprentice
. I actually haven't looked at it, but I can only imagine it's fabulous.
I may just get through that 50 pounds of wheat.
Labels: baking, bread, happiness