I recently acquired a copy of The Breads of France which I’d long ago added to my wishlist, but never received. Cut forward a few years I’ve completely forgotten about this book and one day my coworker Mimi brings in some books that she was getting rid of and this was one of them, it was only later when purging my wishlist that I realized the book I had chosen from her was the one I’d so long ago drooled over and forgotten.
A few nights ago I started craving some whole wheat bread and I pulled this book off my shelf to see what it had to offer me. I loved the idea of a whole wheat braided loaf so I decided that was to be the one, and set about getting what I was missing, powdered milk isn’t something I normally keep on hand and I was low on honey, so after a trip to the store (or two). I got the starter started. I made one change to the recipe in the book, instead of using 3/4 cup of non-fat dry milk I used 1/2 cup of that plus 1/4 cup of dry cultured buttermilk (Saco brand).
The starter can be made a minimum of 12 hours in advance up to 72 hours, I went about 18 hours and then started on the bread dough, it was at this point in making the dough that I realized the recipe makes 3 loaves and not one… That’s a lot of bread and it was too late to turn back. In the recipe it calls for splitting the dough into three balls, which I expected in order to make a braid, what I missed was the repeat to break the three balls into three each for the three loaves… Rather than make three braided loaves I decided to make three different whole wheat breads with the dough. I made one braid, one pan loaf and one boule.
For the pan loaf I sprayed the pan with oil (Mazola Pure) and then coated it lightly with wheat germ, after the final rise I split the top and laid in a few strips of unsalted French butter, (about a tablespoon cut lengthwise into 3 strips and frozen during the final rise). For the boule I split the top into a cross and baked it inside a dutch oven, like in the no-knead bread recipe with the top removed for the last 15 minutes (it wasn’t browning enough). The boule also took 5 minutes longer than the others to reach an internal temp between 202 & 210F (Do not allow your bread to hit 212F or higher the moisture will leave the bread and you’ll have a very dry loaf).
2 cups of warm water (105-115F)
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
1/4 cup dry buttermilk
Dry yeast (1/3 packet) (Do not use rapid rise and such. Dry Yeast or Dry Active only)
3 cups whole wheat flour (I used organic stone ground)
All of the starter
1/2 cup warm water
remainder of the package of yeast
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
1 Tablespoon of salt
1/4 cup of honey (preferably local or organic – or both)
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (approximately)
Egg wash to brush on the braid:
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Wheat germ to coat pan for the loaf
Cooking spray (I use Mazola Pure)
tablespoon of butter cut into strips and frozen
Makes 3 loaves, boules or braids.
Starter: At least 12hours in advance (up to 72) mix the starter ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm location (70-75F), stir once or twice during the 12 hour fermentation.
Dough: Stir down starter, add the water, yeast, milk and salt, stir well add honey & stir again, add all purpose flour and stir until blended. If using a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) this should only take a couple of minutes total on low speed. Add the whole wheat flour 1/2 cup at a time allowing each addition to fully incorporate. When the dough comes together move to a well floured counter and knead for 6 minutes. If using a stand mixer, switch to kneading hook and knead on medium until dough is smooth and elastic.
Spray a bowl with cooking spray, add dough, give a light spray and cover with plastic wrap, allow to rise for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Split the dough into three equal sized balls (about 1lb each), if making a braid split the ball again into three and roll by hand into ropes 14-18 inches long, lay them side by side on parchment paper and braid. For a sandwich loaf spray loaf pan with cooking spray coat with wheat germ and set aside, roll a ball of dough by hand stretching and folding under as you go and slowing work into a rectangle to fit in the pan, for a boule do the same but leave round. Cover loaves with parchment paper or plastic wrap and allow to raise for 40 minutes.
15 minutes into the 2nd rise set your oven to 350F and allow to pre-heat, if making the boule according to the no-knead recipe put your dutch oven on the lowest shelf at this time.
Just prior to baking: Brush the braid with egg wash, for a boule cut a cross into the top of the bread using a straight edge razor or a bread knife, make your cuts very quickly as not to catch the dough and deflate it. For the loaf make a slice down the length of the top and add the frozen butter.
Bake for 40 minutes or until internal temp of bread is between 202-210F and no hotter.