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Monday, September 26, 2011

Whole Wheat Basil Bread

Or Herb-Cheese Bread

This bread was inspired from Beth Hensperger's 'The Bread Bible' book, hence I'm using the name of her recipe. I must have missed it the first time I skimmed through the recipes because it is one of the few 100% whole grain recipes in the book. I also might have ignored it because it requires fresh basil leaves and I don't always have them on hand. But this time I had just got some from the farmer's market, so I was eager to try the recipe. However we were having friends over for dinner, so I decided to use some bread flour to make the bread lighter. Turns out I changed the recipe so much that I need to write it down here so I can reproduce it again. This was the first time that substantial changes I made worked well.

For one rounded loaf (or a 8½ x 4½ loaf pan)

½ C warm buttermilk (105 -115° F)
¾ C warm water
1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp olive oil (slightly warmed)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp instant yeast
255 g whole wheat flour (about 2 cups)
130 g bread flour (about 1 C)
1 tsp salt
¼ C chopped fresh basil
4 oz grated parmesan cheese


Mix the first three ingredients. Mix the dried herbs in the warm oil to flavor the oil. Make sure the two wet mixtures are cool enough before adding them to the bowl containing the remaining ingredients. After the ingredients come together, let rest for 5 minutes and then knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and supple (to use Laurel Robertson's terminology). Cover the dough and let rise about an hour to hour-and-half (until a hole made with a wet finger doesn't fill in). Do not let the dough rise more than double in volume.

1:54 pm: Ready for first rise

3:00 pm: Nicely risen

Gently deflate the dough and round it. Cover and let rise again. The second rise usually takes half the time of the first rise.

3:12 pm: Ready for second rise

3:44 pm: A quick decent second rise

Shape the dough into the desired shape (log shape for a loaf pan). Cover with an inverted bowl and let rise for the last time. I sometimes cover the dough with a damp paper towel to keep the surface from drying out.
When the dough is half-way risen (usually about 20 minutes), pre-heat the oven. If using a cast iron pan, pre-heat it too. When using a cast iron pan, I usually heat the oven to 400° F and lower the temperature to 350° F after putting the dough in.

3:46 pm: Shaped and ready for proofing

4:22: Slashed and ready for the oven

About half way through the baking, at the 25 minute mark, remove the lid covering the pan to allow the crust to brown. In case of a loaf pan, the pan should be rotated 180° to ensure even baking. To test for done-ness thump the bottom of the bread. It should sound hollow. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf should measure about 200-205° F

4:23 pm: Placed in the preheated cast-iron combo cooker

5:26pm: Nice oven spring

Sliced very well

Herb and cheese specks clearly visible.

The bread
Our guests at dinner loved the bread, so much so that my friend wanted to come by to watch me bake it again 5 days later (following post) and we baked a loaf for each of us. RH loved the bread too. It was really quite yummy. We had some of it warmed and just by itself, and some of it with soup. 

Date: Sept 11, 2011
Recipe: Adapted from Whole Wheat Basil Bread from Beth Hensperger's 'The Bread Bible' book.

Flours: Whole wheat, bread flour
Bread specific ingredients: Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, herbs (dried thyme, oregano)
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water, buttermilk

Comments: Will have to make this bread with all whole wheat (or maybe spelt?) flour although it will most likely not taste as good. Sigh. But I was quite pleased with myself for successfully modifying the recipe to make something that worked well together.


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