Between us, we have tried any number and find them, for the most part, too complicated and time consuming, or just plain lacking in the sweet nuttiness we want from whole wheat bread. Not to mention great texture.
One exception is Peter Reinhart’s Sprouted Whole Wheat that I found on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s site. I like to sprout wheat berries and add them to my no-knead bread but I’d never used sprouted wheat flour. The next time I went shopping at Rainbow, I found a bag of sprouted wheat flour from Arrowhead Mills. (Sprouted wheat flour can be found in specialty stores that carry good baking supplies and on the Internet.)
The first time I made the bread, I sprouted wheat berries and added them to the dough; the second time I just did the dough straight. Both times, the dough has astonished me. It turns into a perfect description of what you want your dough to be (according to Craig Ponsford in his great whole-wheat ciabatta video): “a gas bag”. Just a container of sorts for the gas the yeast creates.
If you are used to kneading for many minutes before your bread dough begins to develop its characteristic stretch, prepare to be amazed. Even in the first minute of mixing the dough with a paddle attachment on a stand mixer, it begins to form gluten. The dough gets a short rest and then undergoes another two minutes of kneading. And it’s done! Watching the process just blew me away. I need to find out what makes the flour respond this way.
I mixed the dough and gave it the required folds in the early morning, then went to yoga class. The dough was pushing against the top of the container when I returned. Yeeoww! So active! I gave it a light shaping and transferred it to the oiled bread pan. Soon, the dough rose over the top of that. I didn’t get much oven spring, though, so I may have let it over-rise.
If you look closely at the finished loaf (as well as the pictures to the right and left below) you will see the evidence I left behind on the way to over-risen dough. The dough on the left is what I found when I got back from the gym; the one on the right is the loaf ready for the oven. It seems that big bubble came back to haunt me and the finished loaf. The bubble resulted in the hole you can see slightly below the crust. My solution, eat it before the bread gets dry enough for the top crust to crumble off.
When I bake the bread, I follow the recipe as I found it on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s site with very few changes.
1. Since my ambient kitchen temperature is about 68°F, I use hot (90 to 100°F) water.
2. Also, I don’t use any oil on my work surfaces. Instead, I borrow a tip learned from Craig Ponsford’s 100 % whole-wheat ciabatta recipe. Moisten your countertop with water, pour the dough out on the moist surface, and perform your stretch and fold. You don’t need to oil your bowl either. Just leave it clean, no water, no oil, no flour. Makes for easier clean up, too. The only oil I do use is to oil the bread pan.