Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain transitional loaf

Finally I did the recipe I wanted. Last time I turned to wrong page and did the similar transitional whole wheat but this time I got the right one with enough time to prepare the grain. This seems like a delicious combination which I’ll know in an hour or so.


‘transitional’ means that this is not 100% whole wheat (or grains, yes, the nutrition scolds will go crazy with anything “white” in the recipe) and this approach gets a better texture and density with all the flavor. The biga (truly a biga, not just generically) is made with white bread flour and kneaded quite a bit to develop the gluten (yes that evil stuff that is harmless to most people, including many being suckered into paying for “gluten-free” scams) before being left for fourteen hours of cold ferment (only a tiny bit of yeast is used so even when the biga is brought back to room temperature there is little rise). The purpose of the cold ferment is to let the enzymes work on the starches to convert to more sugar (oh horrors, another toxic food, Mark Bittman will attack me, but in this case the yeasties will get most of those and die in the process).

The soaker is the part that makes the Reinhart method work. The nutrition nuts want bad-tasting food because eating is sinful and punished by diabetes hell. Well, Peter and I want flavor from “healthy” ingredients. Whole grains aren’t just a nutritionists dogma, they actually taste good when you get the process right. So the soaker (overnight on the counter) lets the whole grains truly hydrate and again let the enzymes work. So when we bring the biga and soaker together, plus the fresh yeast and dough enrichments (fat and sweet, more awful stuff) we get the ideal combination of all the flavor tricks.

The soaker recipe calls for: 1) flaked oats (so-called steel cut oats are too coarse and should be cooked to use as the whole grain), 2) oat bran (mine is actually a cereal mix), 3) coarse-ground cornmeal, and, 4) flaxseed. Then while Peter’s recipe calls for cooked rice as the whole grain any grain can be used so I tried farro, which I really like. I cooked that separately per instructions so it went into the soaker already hydrated and softened. And to round it out I dumped in a lot of roasted sunflower seeds. The liquid for the soaker is a mixture of: a) buttermilk, b) 2% whole meat (another evil food), and, c) greek yogurt. Last time I used too much yogurt and didn’t get enough hydration, so I adjusted the formula. But still, when I got out the soaker this morning it was quite dry, so next time I made add a little water.

But the biga was extra wet (from the wet hands approach to kneading a very sticky dough). I combined the biga and soaker directly on my board (I found last time the KitchenAid had no chance of mixing these). After a lot of manual blending then I added the salt, yeast, melted butter (oh no, another evil) and honey (instead of the agave I used last time; want to try barley malt next time) and hand-merged all that. The result was way too sticky so I added more whole wheat flour, but nonetheless the only way I was going to get good kneading was mechanically with the dough hook.

Finally ready for the first rise, then did the forming and second rise in the loaf pan. Since a serviceperson was here fixing the network I was interrupted a lot, plus the battery in my timer died, so the baking time was both longer than called for and unknown so I’m depending on the thermometer to be sure the loaf is done, reaching about 193F (instead of 198F but the loaf looked really done to my eye, I’ll find out if I blew this). I hope after all the prep effort the baking didn’t blow that, esp. over-baking and getting dried product.

So not too long after writing this post I’ll get to find out if I’ve finally gotten close to the ideal loaf. I enjoyed eating the previous one (managed to restrain my consumption) with my otherwise blah weight loss diet, cheating, of course, with a little peanut butter and honey. So this bread is the main item I consume that tastes good.

If I hadn’t described all the ingredients in detail I could probably fool the nutrition freaks into thinking this was the perfect healthfood ingredients (of course, who knows if they are all organic and/or locally grown and we know that is so very very important for nutrition magical thinking). But I’m going for flavor. Good tasting food is not sinful to me. But some of the health nut ideas aren’t horrible either. So why can’t we have both, something that most would agree is “good” food and most would agree is tasty food. Then it’s up to us, consume the food, like any other food, in moderation. This loaf is fairly high calorie but probably achieves the low glycemic index that health nuts want (usually without any actual reason, although for some people that actually matters). But it’s still just calories and quantity matters, no matter what the ingredients or process. And the fiber on this loaf is through the roof. And obviously home-baked doesn’t have all the evil chemicals of factory food. So it’s healthy but not magic as it can make me fat just like Wonder Bread would.

But I just hope it tastes good and then I can restrain myself to eat an appropriate quantity.

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 Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain transitional loaf

  1. dmill96 says:

    This loaf is really delicious; it’s going to be hard to resist gobbling it all up.

    It’s loaded with flavor and I didn’t overbake it, it’s nice and moist. Due to the transitional loaf style it has nice crumb, not the dense and/or crumbly 100% whole wheat texture.

    It’s subtly sweet, I suspect from both the honey and the slow cold fermentation and the soak, really developing the grains. Also probably dialing back on the yogurt in the soaker probably cut the tang a bit, despite the buttermilk this time. The actual whole grains are too subtle to be noticed individually but this loaf does taste more “robust” than the last one so their influence is there.

    Something got crunchy, not sure what but I suspect it’s the farro. After cooking the farro it was soft, but the soak really dried so potentially the other grains absorbed some of the hydration that was in the farro. It’s just enough to give some crackle to the loaf without danger of a tooth crunch from raw uncooked grains. Meanwhile the flaxseed and sunflower seed provide plenty of softer crunch.

    I’m now sure how I’d try to dial this up any more so this may be the bread of my future. I might, however, try the rustic (“hearth” vs loaf pan) version to see what a little more crust development might do. It’s also possible that developing the biga from my sourdough culture might provide a little extra kick. I might also see what happens doing this in the small loaf pans to make mini-loaves. Perhaps with a little more sweetness and formed differently these dough might make excellent dinner rolls. So I guess there are some things to try for the future.

  2. Pingback: Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain transitional loaf – 1 | dailydouq

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