Peter Reinhart’s 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread - Second Attempt

For my second attempt of the Reinhart whole-wheat sandwich bread, I used buttermilk instead of yogurt in the soaker (and was more careful with the addition of water in the final mix). With the extra practice of making whole-wheat pizza dough, I was able to get the soaker, biga, and final mix together in about as much time as it would take me to mix a dough utilizing a more conventional method. Though it still took two days due to the long periods of allowing the dough to rest. This time, everything behaved exactly as I expected from the description in the text, even with the biga rising slightly in the fridge over night.

Aside from using just two tablespoons of water to hydrate the yeast (and as a result keeping the proportionality of all of the elements correct), I also used an instant read thermometer to double check that the center of the bread had reached the appropriate temperature inside. Previously I had been relying on the sound of the loaf when thumped, but I realized that, having never heard freshly baked bread tapped on the bottom, I didn’t truly know what I was supposed to be hearing. I knew it should sound “hollow” but that is a rather vague description with a lot of room for error. I also limited the amount of time I opened the oven (previously I kept trying to open it to take the steam pan out, this time, I just left the steam pan in).

The end result was a thicker darker crust, which I happen to prefer. The loaf itself was airy and moist, and it tasted exactly how a slice of sandwich bread should taste. Flavorful enough to enhance everything that goes between two slices, yet not overpowering or overwhelming. Honestly, I was amazed. Had I been given slices of it without knowing they were home-baked, I wouldn’t believe they were, and especially not by a novice like me (after all it is just my fourth loaf of bread – not including the focaccia, pizza or tortillas).

Difficulty: average.

from: Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.

1) Use an instant read thermometer to check the final temperature of the inside of the loaf, it is important to make sure the bread reaches the right temperature before you pull it out of the oven.
2) I found that buttermilk seemed to work better than yogurt. Though I can not be certain if the taste difference was due to the yogurt or the myriad of mistakes I had previously made, the consistency of the yogurt made it more difficult to work with when preparing soaker. Buttermilk is also easier to measure since you can rely on the volume measurements instead of having to switch to weighing out the volume. Because of this (and the fact that buttermilk is the same price as yogurt) I would suggest using buttermilk first.
3) Every time you open the oven, it cools off a little, which, obviously, you want to avoid, so don’t open the oven to peak on your bread. Only open it to turn the loaf pan for an even bake about 20 minutes into it, and again to check the progress 40 minutes in. It took me an additional 10 minutes (50 total) to completely bake my loaf of bread.