New bread/baking books inevitably lead me to new loaves. Michel Suas’ Advanced Bread and Pastry and Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques are weighty and dense, but easily digested (like a good loaf of whole-wheat levain bread, no?) and inspirational. Both books are aimed at entry-level professional/culinary student audiences, containing recipes scaled for test batches or home production, expanding on up to multi-dozen commercial quantities.
Hamelman is King Arthur Flour’s head baker, and his book overflows with tips and techniques, as well as wonderfully detailed scientific information addressing the chemistry of baking. After reading and re-reading over several weeks, I decided to tackle his “Rustic Loaf” (p115), a multi-grain version of the preceeding recipe, “Country Bread”.
The loaf begins with a 50% hydration bread flour pre-ferment (rested overnight, pictured at left) which is mixed into a rye/whole wheat/bread flour final dough. The final dough is springy, yet retains a touch of rye’s sticky nature and dappled color.
Thanks to the preferment, the dough is supple and needs only a few minutes’ mixing and two stretch-and-folds, performed right in the rising bucket. Two and a half hours bulk fermentation, a short rest, then final shaping and rising for an hour and a half….sounds lengthy, but very little activity happens while the yeast does its work.
The baked loaves are generously sized (about a pound and a half), with a creamy, bran-flecked crumb and dark bronze crust. According to Hamelman, the loaf is a good keeper; guess I’ll find out this week.