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Monday, January 3, 2011

Power Bread

For Christmas this year we gifted my father-in-law 'A Loaf Every Month'. We gave him 12 notes with a different bread that I will bake each month for him. 'Power Bread' from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads was first on that list and I made it this Sunday. The bread is called so because it is power packed with different kinds of seeds.

Pre-soaker, soaker and biga
This bread is a little different because it has a 3 day process. The first day involves soaking raisins and flaxseeds in water. These form the liquid for the soaker.

Pre-soaker: raisins and flaxseeds soaked overnight in water

The soaker,  made on day 2, contains whole wheat flour, oat bran, salt and the pureed pre-soaker.

Making the soaker

The biga uses whole wheat (fine grind), a tiny amount of yeast and milk. Buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk or rice milk are the other suggested liquids.

Making the biga

Soaker and biga are ready for their overnight rest

The soaker sits on the counter at room temperature and the biga is refrigerated.

Final dough
The final dough contains ground sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole wheat flour, yeast, salt and honey along with the soaker and biga.

Final dough ingredients

Dough is ready for its first rise

First rise
I let the dough rise for the suggested 60 mins, but I wasn't quite certain it was 1.5 times its starting volume. This judgment of rise has been a somewhat anxiously made decision in my baking so far, for many breads, but not all. I tried the wet finger poke method and the holes filled in just very little. So I used Laurel Robertson's suggested method of a quick reshape-and-rest before final shaping of the dough. This is supposed to invigorate the yeast.

Quick rounding-and-rest, using LR's method.

Shaping and proofing
This has been the another tricky stage of bread making. The dough is supposed to be handled gently to keep in the accumulated gas. I am always afraid of over-working the dough in the shaping process. PR's method for a loaf shape is to stretch the dough in a 5 x 8 rectangle and then roll it like a jelly roll. This particular dough seemed dense/heavy and resisted stretching. Also, all the seeds were causing the gluten to rip.

Ready for proofing

I let the dough proof for 75 minutes, more than the prescribed 60 minutes. It barely rose to the level of the loaf pan. I was afraid of over proofing, which can cause the loaf to collapse in the oven, so I stuck it in the oven at the 75 minute mark. In hindsight, I should have let it rise some more. It would only collapse if it had risen a lot in the first place!

Proofed, but barely over the top of the loaf pan

Oven spring is the phenomenon where the dough gets a considerable rise in the first 5-10 minutes in the oven due to a burst of fermentation. This bread got very little oven-spring.

Out of the oven

Out of the pan


Bread is best sliced with a serrated knife when it has cooled well. That is the reason for the recommended minimum one hour wait, I have found it takes longer for the bread to cool completely.


The crumb had a very nice texture with traces of seeds

We tasted the heel (the end piece) of the bread, so I could report it here, and it was pretty good. Denser than I would have liked, but slightly moist and chewy.

Date: Jan 2, 2011
Recipe: PR's Power Bread

Flours: Whole wheat (some fine grind), oat bran
Bread specific ingredients: Raisins, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid for soaker: Milk

First rise time: 60 mins (and a 10 min reshape and rest)
Proofing time: 75 mins
Comments:  Followed the recipe all the way, except I didn't brush with egg wash before baking. Dough didn't rise a whole lot, possibly the cold weather, possibly my impatience. (I was making a Rye Sandwich Meteil bread at the same time and trying to coordinate the two simultaneously may have also caused me to rush with this one.) Taste was good, moist and chewy. This bread tastes very good toasted.

I have since been informed that Dad liked the first installment of his Christmas gift.


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