Airy Whole Wheat Bread

A beautiful, yet very involved recipe, for airy whole wheat bread compliments of Cooks Illustrated. This is not the dense loaf you have come to expect from this much whole wheat flour! 

Airy Whole Wheat Bread

Yield: 2 9x5 inch loaves.

Biga

  • 2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1/2 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast

Soaker

  • 3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) whole-wheat flour plus extra kneading
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 cups (16 ounces ) whole milk

Dough

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 tsps. table salt
  • 2 tablespoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

1. Mix together the ingredients for the biga, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temp for 8-24 hours. Mix together the soaker ingredients, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

2. 8-24 hours later in a stand mixer, combine soaker (torn into one inch pieces), biga and bread ingredients in stand mixer with dough hook. Mix on low for 1-2 minutes until mixture is combined, then knead on medium for 8-10 minutes until dough is elastic and smooth.

3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Cover in an oiled bowl for 45 minutes at room temperature.

4. Fold partially risen dough  over itself by gently lifting and folding  edge of dough toward middle.  Turn  bowl and fold dough 6 more times  (total of 8 turns.) Cover with plastic  wrap and let rise for 45 more minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, one oven rack should be at lowest level, and one in the middle of your oven. Cut the dough in half. On a floured work surface, gently  press the first piece of dough into an 8-inch square that measures 1 inch thick.  Starting with the side farthest away from you, roll the dough firmly  into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough  sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place  the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it  gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover with plastic  wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 60-90 minutes.

6. Uncover with plastic wrap and with a serrated knife or razor blade make a 1/4 inch slit running the length of the loaf. This will ensure no tears form during baking. Place 2 cups of boiling water in an oven-safe pot or pan in the bottom rack of your oven. Drop the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes until internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. Loaves should be very dark brown.