In its purest form, baking bread embraces time-honored traits such as simplicity, consistency, attention to detail, commitment. Thoughts of revolution are far away as you get your hands in the dough, patiently wait as it rises in a bowl and then again as it’s proofed, let alone as it bakes.
Yet, the world of home baking has changed in recent years, reflecting the artisan bread renaissance at small bakeries, which home cooks want to re-create but without the aid of a $60,000 steam-injected oven. To that end, Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread was a sensation five years ago because when baked in a lidded cast iron pot, steam is created in the wet dough, resulting in a terrific crust. Chad Robertson’s “Tartine Bread” and Nancy Silverton’s “Breads From La Brea Bakery” helped make the mysterious world of sourdough bread accessible.
Peter Reinhart, for decades a leading voice for technique and tradition, also has been on the lookout for ways to make things better in sourdough, pizza dough and classic baguettes, among other things. His “Breadbakers Apprentice” bagel recipe can result in top-notch New York-style bagels made in a home oven.
A few years ago, Reinhart innovated a technique that employed a “soaker” and a “pre-ferment,” which in its own way revolutionized the traditional methods that urged a full 20 minutes of hand-kneading to get the right whole-wheat flavor and texture. Reinhart summarized his groundbreaking findings in a popular TED talk that now has over 650,000 views. But that was then.
Enter Reinhart’s new book, “Bread Revolution” ($30, Ten Speed Press, 256 pages), which renders nearly all of his efforts and whole grain innovations obsolete, or at least more trouble than they are worth – all because of sprouted wheat flour.
“You don’t need all of these artisan tricks and techniques that we worked so hard to develop,” Reinhart said, “because the sprouted wheat already makes the flavor for you.”
Is the book’s title hyperbole? If by revolutionary we mean something no one had tried before using a new product that, on paper, is not really supposed to work, then yes, the revolution is underway.
Reinhart introduces bakers to this new kind of whole wheat flour called sprouted wheat. He first learned about it in 2009 when a boutique flour miller, Joe Lindley of Lindley Mills, called to tell him about it and promptly shipped him 25 pounds of the flour to test. This new flour is made by sprouting the wheat grains, drying them out and milling the kernels into flour. It’s vastly different than sprouted grain health food breads such as Ezekiel, which grind the sprouts into a wet pulp and, with the addition of other ingredients like millet and barley, it never becomes flour.
Reinhart immediately knew he was onto something, once he adjusted his standard dough formulas to account for this new flour’s greater water absorption. “About three hours later,” Reinhart writes in his new book, “I tasted quite possibly the best 100 percent whole wheat bread I’d ever had. No sugar or honey, no oil, no pre-ferment, and no long, extended fermentation – just flour, water, salt and yeast. Suddenly, the artisan playbook no longer applied, and this was just my first attempt.”
After plenty more tinkering, Reinhart knew he was breaking new ground.
“I was having a lot of fun with this flour, and I began to realize that I was standing on the threshold of the next frontier in bread,” he writes.
“All those things I spent so much time developing,” he said in a recent phone interview, “I don’t have to do any more.”
This reporter, whose experience is mostly with traditional sourdough bread and white flour, was eager to be part of the revolution and see what sprouted wheat could do for whole wheat, which often requires the addition of honey or oil to make the dough more palatable.
First up was Reinhart’s pancake recipe baked into waffles, which had a gentle wheat flavor, natural sweetness and overall tenderness. Reinhart’s pancake/waffles may not have the magical texture and depth of flavor of sourdough waffles, but the latter take 12 hours to make. For quick waffles or pancakes, Reinhart’s are wonderful.
The same goes for the standard whole wheat bread recipe, as well as the pizza dough.
For now, sprouted wheat flour is hard to come by at mainstream grocery stores. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store carry 5-pound bags for a few dollars more than regular flour.
Reinhart said availability is sure to grow. “The stage is set for it to tip over into mainstream stores,” he said.
With Reinhart as guide, the world of sprouted wheat flour is upon us. The bread is nutritious, delicious and far less time-consuming and complex to make. In other words, a bread revolution.
Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter
Sprouted wheat pizza dough
Makes 5 individual pizza crusts
This dough elevates 100 percent whole grain pizza to the next level. Unlike most pizza doughs, it can be mixed and baked on the same day and still achieve its maximum flavor potential, thanks to the sprouted flour. However, you can also hold the dough in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for three months. Feel free to top this dough with any of your favorite cheeses and sauces, but for the best results, be sure to bake it at a high temperature. Recipe from “Bread Revolution.”
52/3 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
15/8 teaspoons instant yeast
21/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
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 olive oil and mix or stir until the flour is hydrated and a coarse, wet dough forms, about 1 minute. 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 smooth out and thicken slightly.
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 as shown on page 20, 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 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 become firmer and less sticky with each stretch and fold. After the final fold it should be very tacky and supple and have a springy or bouncy quality when patted. (Note: If holding the dough overnight, put the dough in the refrigerator immediately after the final stretch and fold cycle instead of letting it rise.)
Oil a large bowl and put the dough in the bowl. Mist the top of the dough with vegetable spray oil and cover 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.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Mist the surface with vegetable spray oil or lightly coat it with olive oil. Oil the work surface again, and transfer the dough to the work surface with an oiled bowl scraper or rubber spatula. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces, each weighing about 9 ounces with an oiled metal pastry blade or plastic bowl scraper.
With lightly oiled hands, form each piece into a boule. Put the dough balls on the prepared pan, spacing them evenly. Mist with vegetable spray oil, then loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap or put it in a large plastic bag.
Proof for 1 to 2 hours; the dough won’t double in size, but it should show signs of swelling and expansion. If you won’t be making pizzas immediately, refrigerate the dough, then remove it from the refrigerator about 11/2 hours before you plan to make the pizzas.
Preheat the oven to the highest it will go.
When the crust is ready to be topped, place it on a floured peel. Be sure to use flour rather than cornmeal or semolina, as it doesn’t burn as quickly in the oven. Top the pizza as desired, then slide it onto the baking stone. If you aren’t using a baking stone, just put the panned pizza in the oven. While the pizza is baking, shape your next pizza.
Bake for about 4 minutes, then use the peel or a spatula to rotate the pizza. It will take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes for the pizza to fully bake, depending on the oven. The edge should puff up and be a deep golden brown, perhaps even slightly charred.
Remove the pizza, garnish as desired, then let it cool for 1 minute before slicing and serving. Continue baking as many pizzas as you’d like (the dough will hold up to an hour out of the refrigerator.)
Shaping pizza dough
To shape pizza dough, press the ball of dough into a flat disk using your fingertips. Slide the backs of your hands under the dough, then lift it and begin to rotate it, using your thumbs to coax the edges of the dough into a larger circle. Don’t stretch the dough with the backs of your hands or your knuckles; let your thumbs and gravity do all of the work. Your hands and knuckles merely provide a platform to support the dough. (If the dough starts to shrink back, set it on the floured work surface and let it rest for a minute or two. You can move on to another dough ball, repeating the same gentle stretching.) Work from the edges only, not from the center of the dough, and continue stretching until you have a 9- to 12-inch disk. Place the shaped dough on a floured or parchment-lined peel or back of a sheet pan. Patch any holes in the dough so the sauce and other toppings don’t go through the dough, then add toppings.
Sprouted wheat pancakes
Makes 5 large pancakes or 16 silver dollar–size pancakes
Peter Reinhart writes: “I thought it best to start off with a recipe that’s very simple and quickly demonstrates the attributes of sprouted flour. If I’m not mistaken, once you try it, you’ll immediately seek out a bulk supplier for your sprouted flour pantry. These are the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten, period. They’re so naturally sweet and creamy that you really don’t need butter or maple syrup on top. But since that might be tampering with sacred ritual, I’ll leave it up to you. This same batter can be used in a waffle iron to make fabulous waffles.”
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sprouted whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar, honey or agave nectar
11/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking soda and sugar (if using honey or agave nectar, add it to the buttermilk in the next step). In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and melted butter, then pour into the flour mixture. Stir with a large spoon just until the flour is hydrated; don’t overmix. The result will be a fairly thin, pourable batter; it will thicken slightly as it sits, so don’t add more flour. Transfer the batter to a measuring cup with a pouring spout (or leave it in the bowl and portion it with a ladle).
Preheat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat.
Put about 1 teaspoon of butter or oil in the hot pan, just enough to thinly coat the surface. Lower the heat to just below medium. Pour in batter to make pancakes of the desired size. You may need to tilt the pan to spread the batter into an even circle. Cook until the bottom is rich golden brown and bubbles form on the top, 21/2 to 3 minutes for larger pancakes, and less for smaller pancakes. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 21/2 minutes.
Serve hot, or keep the pancakes in a warm oven at about 200 degrees while cooking the remaining pancakes.
▪ Sprouted wheat flour waffles: You can cook this batter in a waffle iron. If making waffles, I recommend doubling the recipe, since the waffle iron gobbles up a lot of batter. Also, separate the eggs. Add the yolks to the batter, and whip the whites until stiff, then fold them into the batter for additional aeration. To cook, follow the instructions for your waffle iron.
▪ Blueberry pancakes: Add 1 cup of blueberries (or other fresh berries) to the batter.
Sprouted whole wheat bread
Makes 1 large loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or up to 15 rolls
This master dough can be used to make bread in any shape or size. It showcases the natural sweetness and tenderness of sprouted whole wheat flour without any added oil, fat or other enrichments, such as milk, eggs or sweeteners. Sprouting the wheat changes it so much that many of the “rules” for artisan breads, such as using pre-ferments and long, slow rising times, are unnecessary. The aims of those techniques can be achieved in less time with sprouted flour because the sprouting phase has already accomplished what pre-ferments and long fermentation typically do.
Peter Reinhart notes: “I suggest that you make this bread before attempting any of the more elaborate recipes that follow. This will familiarize you with the flavors and performance of sprouted whole wheat flour. In fact, it may be the only recipe you need for everyday breads, as it works equally well as a loaf pan bread and a crusty hearth bread.”
3 3/4 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
11/2 teaspoons instant yeast
13/4 cups water, plus one tablespoon, 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 while 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 (similar to ciabatta dough). Add flour or water only if necessary to achieve that texture; the dough will firm up as you continue to work 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 spray oil 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. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a boule or bâtard, then put the shaped loaves in the prepared proofing vessels. For pan loaves, mist two 41/2-by-8-inch loaf pans with vegetable spray oil. Divide the dough in half and shape the pieces into sandwich loaves, then put the shaped loaves in the prepared pans. For rolls, line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mats. Divide the dough into the desired number of pieces and shape as desired. Put half of the rolls on each lined pan.
Mist the top of the dough with vegetable spray oil, 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. (Because the dough is so hydrated, it’s fragile and will fall if you proof it until double in size. It’s better to bake it while it’s still on the rise.)
To bake a hearth loaf, about 45 minutes before you plan to bake, prepare the oven for hearth baking with a baking stone and steam pan, then preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Transfer the shaped loaf to a floured peel (or keep it on the sheet pan for baking). Score the top as desired. Transfer the loaf onto the baking stone (or put the sheet pan on the baking stone). Pour about 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the loaf is golden brown on all sides and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. The internal temperature should be about 200 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
To bake pan loaves, preheat the oven to 375 degrees; steam is optional. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate and bake for 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.
To bake rolls, preheat the oven to 400 degrees; steam is optional. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom (they will soften as they cool). The internal temperature should be about 190 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Note: If it is more convenient for you to use an overnight method, put the covered bowl of dough in the refrigerator immediately after the final stretch and fold. The next day, remove it from the refrigerator 21/2 hours before you plan to bake. Shape the cold dough and proof it at room temperature until it increases in size by 11/2 times, then bake as directed.