100% Whole Wheat Baguettes

Hey folks, Peter here.  After much experimentation I have finally managed to bake a baguette out of 100% whole wheat flour.  The quality depends heavily on the flour, but the dough is easy to work with (or as easy as it ever was), and with the addition of some olive oil and honey, even delicious.

100% Whole Wheat Hearth Bread (from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day)
(Makes 2 baguettes or loaves)

This is more a variant of the basic high-hydration, overnight-cold-fermentation, no-knead bread than a recipe in its own right.  The measurements are copied from the book, but I rounded the weights. If you have a kitchen scale (as I do now) I recommend trying it once with the exact numbers, and if not, just go by feel the first time.

6.25 cups (800 g) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons (14 g) salt
2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar, or 1.5 tablespoons (? g–I use about 30) honey
1 tablespoon (9 g) instant yeast
2.75 cups (625 g) warm water
2 tablespoons (30 g) olive oil

The assembly method is essentially the same as in the original recipe, so I’ll go quickly (which is also, incidentally, how I put together the bread). Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix. Wait 5 minutes for the water to hydrate the flour, and then mix again. (Reinhart says to stir for a total of 6 minutes and to stir “more vigorously” for the last 20 seconds. I usually just knead for a minute or two until I get bored, and I think it accomplishes the same thing.) Then do the stretch and fold maneuver 4 times, spaced by 10 minutes each. Portion into two bowls and put in the fridge at least overnight and for up to 4 days.

Shaping and Baking:

I haven’t had success getting this to rise very much, and it’s never a particularly light bread. With that in mind, I advocate handling the dough as little as humanly possible after taking it out of the fridge, to keep whatever air bubbles are already in the dough inside. To that end, I’ve had the most success with a baguette thingy I inherited from my parents (and I certainly hope they didn’t pay $27 for): in one swift motion (confidence is important; the dough responds to surety of purpose) pick up the dough, stretch it to the length of a baguette, and put it on the (very well greased) pan. It is thus shaped with a minimum of handling. Let warm to room temperature for a long time (at least 1 hour) and preheat to 500 F. Put in the oven and reduce temperature to 425; bake for about 30 minutes. I recommend the usual tricks about water pans, etc., to get steam in the oven.

In my experience, if you’re not too demanding about the shape or density of your loaf, this recipe is pretty resilient. You can mix in other types of flour, use varying amounts of sugar and oil (but more is better, of course), bake in different shapes, etc., and the taste will be great (better, I think, than white bread). And that’s what matters, right?


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