I’ve been really into whole grain bread making these days.
Whole Wheat Challah, Pizza Dough, now Baguettes!
Yes, bread making is exactly what you think. It is labor-intensive. You have to be patient because it takes so damn long. And yeah, your arms will definitely hurt from kneading the dough FOR-EV-ER (think of it as a workout).
But, I gotta tell you something. Having that pretty loaf come out of your oven, all hot and basically SCREAMING at you to eat it, is incredibly rewarding and makes the slow process totally worth it.
This recipe comes from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. If you poke around the internet, you will quickly realize that Mr. Reinhart is the guru of this type of bread making. Baking with whole wheat flour can be difficult because the dough is tougher than white flour dough and it can be a little more finicky.
But have no fear! Mr. Reinhart’s book has detailed pictures and descriptions to help show you what your dough should look like every step of the way. I highly recommend it!
Now, there are some food bloggers out there that will tell you “No carbs! Let’s eat only vegetables. Raw! And be insanely healthy (and hungry!)” and others who insist, “Let’s totally eat jelly doughnuts for breakfast, pumpkin pie as a snack, and double chocolate brownie banana splits for dinner and be sooo happy with life”……
I am somewhere in the middle. No need for extreme views people. You only get to live once.
Just, please….try to have a little more self control than me and don’t eat half the baguette as soon as it comes out of the oven. That is, after you’ve already had dinner…
If you have the patience (shocking, because I typically don’t…) and love of idea of a HOT, FRESH, CRUSTY-ON-THE-OUTSIDE-SOFT-AND-PERFECT-ON-THE-INSIDE baguette, I hope you take the time to make this. It goes well dipped in olive oil, paired with cheese, as sandwich bread, toasted, or simply on its own.
Whole Wheat Baguette
Notes: If you have a kitchen scale, I stress that you use it for this recipe. Also, plan a day ahead.
1 3/4 cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour (I love King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt
3/4 cup water
Mix all of the soaker ingredients in a bowl for 1 minute until the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The Soaker is good for up to 3 days, so if you are going to use it past 24 hours later, put it in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 2 hours before you plan on mixing the final dough.
1 ¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
3/4 cup (170 grams) filtered or spring water, at room temperature
Mix all of the Biga ingredients in a bowl to form a ball dough. Wet your hands and knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should feel very tacky at this point. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then knead it again with wet hands for another minute. By now the dough should become smoother, but still tacky.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours (Just like the Soaker, this can last in the fridge for up to 3 days). Remove the Biga from the fridge 2 hours before you plan on mixing the final dough.
All of the Soaker
All of the Biga
3 ½ (28.5 grams) whole wheat flour
5/8 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
2 ¼ teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
3 ¼ teaspoons (20 grams) agave nectar or honey
1 ½ Tablespoons (20 grams) olive oil or melted unsalted butter
Additional whole wheat flour
Clean a work surface and spread a thin layer of flour over the surface. Using a rubber spatula or a metal pastry scraper, chop the Soaker and the Biga into 12 smaller pieces each.
Combine the Soaker and Biga pieces in a bowl with all of the other Final Dough ingredients (besides the extra flour) and knead intensely with wet hands for 2 minutes, until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed into the dough. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky (if not, ad more flour or water as needed).
Add more flour to your work surface. Knead the dough by hands for 4 minutes (you can add as much flour as you need to here) until the dough feels soft and tacky (but not sticky). For the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes.
Clean a bowl and spread a thin layer of olive oil all over the inside of the bowl. Knead the dough again for 1 minute and then shape the dough into a ball and place it inside the oiled bowl. Roll it all over so that it is coated in the oil. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour. The dough should become 1 ½ times its original size.
Clean and flour your work surface again. Shape the dough into two baguettes, by rolling two even sized balls like a snake – be careful to not make the baguette too long and thin here. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the baguettes on the paper. Mist the tops with cooking spray. Let the baguettes rise at room temperature for an additional 45 minutes. They should become 1 ½ times their original size.
Place another empty baking sheet on the top rack of your oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
When the dough is ready to bake, place it in the oven on the middle rack. Place a kitchen towel on the oven’s glass window to protect it from any backsplash and very carefully pour ½ cup to 1 cup of hot water into the preheated baking sheet on the top rack. (This pan is going to be the steam pan). Lower the temperature to 450 degrees and bake the baguettes for 20 minutes. Rotate the bread 180 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes, until the bread is rich brown and sounds hollow when knocked on it. If you need to put the bread back in the oven to have keep baking, place aluminum foil on top to prevent it from burning.
Transfer the baguettes to a cooling rack and cool for a least one hour until serving (if you can wait that long…)