Posted by Grayce on March 8, 2010
I have been conducting a series of bread baking experiments in order to find a go-to bread recipe that I really like. I want this bread to have good flavor, a chewy and attractive crust, moist texture, and to be healthy.
I have tried several different recipes and techniques over the span of three years and as many homebakers have most likely discovered before me, the more I learn the more there is to learn.
I started baking bread in college and between me an a fellow housemate we developed a recipe that used no oil, no refined sugar, and nearly all whole wheat flour. Unfortunately it tasted about as good as it sounds.
As my interest in bread baking grew I tried different recipes and finally settled on a recipe of my mother’s that uses cooked oats in it. It wasn’t too dense or too light and it had a nice sweet flavor from the oats.
As I read more about bread baking I found a baking stone was always recommended if you wanted artisan style breads. So I looked into it and found that the sort of baking stone I wanted was about $50. Instead I found a tile store that carried unfinished terricotta tiles and I was able to by six of them for $2 and they have been working well. By placing my loaves directly on the tiles, heating my oven to a higher temperature, 450 degrees instead of 350, and tossing a cup of cold water into the oven before I closed the door I was able to create a wonderful artisan crust with a chewy texture and a carmelized flavor.
However, even with all of these new discoveries I was still unsatisfied with the texture of the bread itself. It was really only at its best when it came right out of the oven, once it was a day old it was dry and crumbly and wasn’t very good for anything except toast.
I was just beginning to think that if I wanted a homemade, hearty bread that was what I would have to expect when another breakthough was made. The weekend before last I attended a wedding and happened to sit next to a baker from Great Harvest Bread Company in Duluth. He gave me two tips for baking whole wheat breads in a standard oven that have made all the difference.
First, make half of your dough ahead of time, knead it as usual and let it rise till double two times, and then punch it down and refrigerate it for at least one day. Then when it is time to make your bread cut the refrigerated dough into small pieces and stir it into the dry ingredients of your recipe. Add the rest of the ingredients to finish making the dough and then knead, rise and bake as usual. Secondly when you bake white bread it is done when it has reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees, but whole wheat bread is done at 180 degrees so by baking it for a shorter time it will not be so dry.
So far I have only used these two tips for my mother’s recipe, but I have found them to make a huge difference and hope to experiment with other recipes.