Hybrid loaf – America’s Test Kitchen version of Jim Lahey & Peter Reinhart whole wheat sourdough

Yes, this loaf really is a hybrid of all these different ideas:


I’ve used Jim Lahey’s No-Knead (really just long ferment) approach many times and have been happy with the results. But America’s Test Kitchen declared his process to produce bland taste, so they pushed up the taste using lager (must be lager) as part of the liquid, a little less hydration overall (to retain shape better), all-purpose instead of bread flour (and a brief knead after ferment), and some vinegar. The result was good but mostly in retaining shape in the round Dutch oven version and probably a small boost in taste.

So I figured if they could try to bump up taste so could I, so I threw in a little Peter Reinhart technique as well.

I used my sourdough culture and whole wheat to make a biga (a true biga, low hydration). I had trouble with this since my desired ratio (2:1 flour:culture) was too dry and I had to add considerably more (unknown) culture to get the biga (this implicitly bumped the yeast a lot, should have just used water). I let that rise two hours on the counter. Since I expected little yeast activity based on past use of my culture I added one teaspoon of dough enhancer to boast yeast blooming.

Then I tore apart the biga (little rise), mixed in all the water and beer, then the salt, new yeast (I think 1/4 tsp, but I might have blown it and done 1/2 tsp) and used stand mixer to eventually create a slurry. I then added that to the flour which was 4:1 all purpose to bread flour blend (due to the whole wheat I wanted to bump gluten a little) and hand mixed. This also turned out to be too dry so I added some more of the lager (maybe 2-3 tablespoons) until the hydration seemed about right, so I had to do a little kneading to work in the extra liquid.

I then set this on room temperature (~68F) counter but was surprised to see how fast it was rising. After 7 hours it was more than usual so now I really did the Reinhart approach of now finishing the overnight ferment in the fridge. When I removed the dough for warmup this morning there had been a bit more rise (bulging out of my container) so I did, after an hour, the brief knead (stretch-and-fold approach) that America’s Test Kitchen added to the Lahey formula. Then I also allowed another hour for final rise/rest in the formed loaf and did the standard preheat (475F) of my clay baker. Then baked at 19 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered and then tested and did 4 more minutes (these are the typical adjustments my oven needs compared to Lahey times).

It’s clear looking at the loaf it has some whole wheat, even though a relatively low ratio. Since I’m still waiting on the cooling I haven’t checked the crumb or taste yet. But my hope is that the whole wheat will push this a little more “rustic” (like using the first milled wheat of French style (some bran)) and a little more sourdough (all my culture, plus the lager and the vinegar).

But all these changes may be too much, plus I worry that the dough may have over-fermented (I planned 16 hour room temp ferment, not the Reinhart retarded ferment for half the time approach). But this should have really push flavor and certainly the appearance is nice, so I’m hopeful this is an improvement. Maybe I need a little more fine-tuning when I get to see crumb and do the tasting.


About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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2 Responses to Hybrid loaf – America’s Test Kitchen version of Jim Lahey & Peter Reinhart whole wheat sourdough

  1. dmill96 says:

    The taste was definitely better but I’m not sure whether that was additional of whole wheat or sourdough or both. Overall I think the whole wheat reduces the desirability of the loaf since it made it more coarse and the crust wasn’t as good. Also I under-baked it with my standard times, probably due to more volume (the added biga) but possibly due to the way the whole wheat hydrates. Overall a successful experiment but still not quite there for optimal loaf.

    Additionally most of the loaf was consumed as garlic bread. I used mixture of butter and EVOO, plus fresh diced garlic, a little garlic powder, some “Italian seasoning” and a little paprika and baked again in aluminum foil at 350F for about half an hour. The crust actually crisped up a bit but I used too much fat so the crumb was too soggy, but the taste was great.

  2. Pingback: What is the point of blogging? | dailydouq

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