In food circles, Peter Reinhart is considered one of the masters of bread-baking. He is the author of ten bread cookbooks — two of which won James Beard awards — and baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
So when his newest cookbook, Bread Revolution, featuring new flours and new techniques, was published this past fall, we decided to check it out.
Bread Revolution has 50 recipes featuring sprouted flour, ancient flours like amaranth and quinoa, new alternative flours made from grape skins and seeds, gluten-free breads and a few quick breads. Many are made with a sourdough or similar starter. The book also promotes Reinhart’s no-knead method of bread-making.
The star of Bread Revolution is sprouted flour — wheat, rye or other grain that is sprouted, dried, and milled into flour.
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The aim of artisan baking, Reinhart says, is bread with a soft, moist and creamy feel using only flour, water, salt and quick yeast — no sweetener, fat, milk or egg. With sprouted wheat, he said, he could achieve that desired custard-like “mouthfeel” with only the basic four ingredients.
Sprouted wheat represents “a new frontier for bread bakers,” Reinhart said on his blog.
Following Reinhart’s recipes feels more like performing science experiments than creating something to eat for people you love. To get a sense of that, check out his talk on TED.com where he compares making bread to working with epoxy. In Bread Revolution, it’s clear he’s carefully guiding us through experiments in which he made discoveries that he now wants to share with us.
I bought sprouted wheat and sprouted rye flours at Whole Foods. I could not find grape-skin flour unless I ordered it online.
I started with his Sprouted Whole-Wheat Bread made in a stand mixer, a very basic four-ingredient recipe that he suggests we master before we move on to more complicated ones.
My first two tries failed.
The recipe calls for almost as much water as flour and cautions that the dough will be soft and sticky but will thicken as we work with it. Mine was like cake batter. The book instructed me to use a rubber spatula to transfer the dough to a work surface. Wouldn’t it just be easier to pour it out? I thought, and in fact it was. The dough will thicken, I reminded myself.
The next step was to lightly stretch and fold the dough, but I couldn’t keep it from oozing off the counter. This wasn’t right.
I started over, thinking I had lost count the first time as I measured ingredients into the bowl, but I got the same result. What was wrong?
I found the answer on Reinhart’s blog.
“Yikes!” he wrote. There was a typo in his new cookbook.
The recipe on page 63 — the recipe I was attempting to duplicate — called for too much water, he said, and he gave the correct amount (13/4 cup water, if you’ve got the book).
On my third try, the dough behaved the way Reinhart described, and I progressed to the kneading — or in Reinhart’s book, no-kneading — part of the recipe. Lightly stretch the dough, then fold over each of the four sides toward the center, the recipe said. Wait five to 20 minutes and do it again — a total of four times. Then let it rise, punch down and shape it, let it rise again and bake.
Everything went the way it was supposed to and produced a dense but leavened loaf, the flavor of wheat more pronounced than bread made with regular whole-wheat flour, with just a hint of nutty sweetness.
If you hate kneading, this is the process for you. But I was annoyed by having to interrupt what I was doing to stretch and fold the dough every five to 20 minutes and will resort to old-fashioned kneading by hand next time.
I decided to back off and try something less complicated. I settled on a master recipe for Quick Breads and Muffins and made Reinhart’s variation using blueberries. Again, the wheat had a slightly more intense flavor, and the texture was appealingly soft.
I had sprouted rye flour, but most rye recipes in Bread Revolution require a starter, which adds acidic flavor to rye. I didn’t have a starter and couldn’t wait for days while the starter slowly developed, so my only option was one called Sprouted Vollkornbrot, a dark German bread that uses about two parts of sprouted rye flour to one part sprouted wheat flour, plus flax seeds and toasted sunflower seeds. I left out the seeds and added caraway seeds for a more traditional rye.
This dough required a little more mixing time but not kneading or the repeated stretch-and-fold process.
This loaf also turned out well, dense but flavorful.
After three successes, I wondered if I could make the bread in a bread machine? Would sprouted wheat be too delicate for that unrelenting paddle? I decided to perform my own scientific experiment.
I followed a bread machine recipe for a 1-pound loaf of Cinnamon-Raisin Bread, using 11/2 cups sprouted wheat flour and 1/2 cup white bread flour for a less dense loaf, the cinnamon and raisins, plus ingredients not in Reinhart’s Sprouted Whole-Wheat Bread: sugar, milk and butter.
Then I watched as the machine kneaded the dough. Reinhart had said that sprouted wheat flour might absorb more liquid, and this dough did. I added water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough was soft and smooth instead of ragged and stiff. It took ¼ cup on top of the usual ¾ cup liquid (a mix of water and milk for softness). In hindsight, I should have added one more tablespoon.
But the loaf was good, with that same pronounced wheat flavor and a soft texture. If you’re a fan of bread machines, I can recommend it for sprouted flour, as long as you monitor the dough and add extra liquid as needed.
Meantime, I may have gotten hooked on Bread Revolution. I’ve ordered grape-skin flour from amazon.com, and a sourdough starter made with Reinhart’s suggested pineapple juice is fermenting on my kitchen counter.
By the Book is an occasional feature that checks out recipes from new cookbooks.
About the book
“Bread Revolution: World-Class Baking with Sprouted & Whole Grains, Heirloom Flours & Fresh Techniques” by Peter Reinhart; Ten Speed Press; $30.
Sprouted Whole-Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
3 3/4 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cups water at room temperature
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast (on low speed if using a stand mixer). Add the water and mix or stir until the flour is hydrated and a coarse, wet dough forms, about 1 minute. Don’t add more flour as the dough will thicken as it rests.
Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Then switch to the dough hook or use a wet spoon or wet hands and mix for 1 minute, on medium-low speed if using a stand mixer. The dough should be smooth but still very soft and sticky. Add flour or water only if necessary to achieve that texture; the dough will firm up as you continue to work with it.
Spread about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or olive oil on a work surface. Using a wet or oiled bowl scraper or rubber spatula, transfer the dough to the oiled area. Lightly oil your hands, then stretch and fold the dough, folding it over itself four times: once each from the top, bottom and sides. The dough will firm up slightly but still be very soft and somewhat sticky. Cover the dough with the mixing bowl and then, at intervals of 5 minutes or up to 20 minutes, perform three additional sequences of stretching and folding. For each stretch and fold sequence, lightly oil your hands to prevent sticking. The dough will firm up a bit more with each stretch and fold. After the final fold it should be soft, supple and tacky and have a springy or bouncy quality when patted.
Oil a large bowl and put the dough in the bowl. Mist the top of the dough with vegetable oil spray and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, stretch it tightly over the bowl rather than laying it directly on the dough. Ferment the dough at room temperature for 11/2 to 2 hours, until double in size.
Oil the work surface again and use an oiled bowl scraper or rubber spatula to transfer the dough to the oiled area. Mist two 41/2 by 8-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf shape, then put the dough in the prepared pans.
Mist the top of the dough with vegetable oil spray, then cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Proof for 1 to 11/2 hours at room temperature until the dough increases in size by 11/2 times. When poked with a finger it should spring back within a few seconds. If it holds the dimple, it's risen for too long.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate and bake 25 to 40 minutes longer, until the bread is golden brown all around, the side walls are firm and not squishy, and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. The internal temperature should be at least 190 degrees. Let cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 to 30 minutes longer before slicing and serving.
Source: Adapted from “Bread Revolution” by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed; $30).