Whole wheat breads are an acquired taste, in our opinion. Some people love them, some people learn to love them, and some people (like us) never quite warm up to their bitter, earthy flavors. Enter this new recipe. If you've never really liked whole grain breads but wish you did, you've got to give this recipe a try!
My dad is actually the mastermind behind this recipe. He took the recipe originally published in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes and gradually adapted it to his own tastes over months of baking. His final recipe combines whole wheat, rye, and white flour, along with a handful of cracked grain.
As a long-time disliker of whole wheat bread, I can vouch that this is some good stuff. The bread is sweet and nutty, with a nice texture that falls somewhere between soft and coarse. The white flour gives just enough gluten to help lift the bread and prevent it from becoming too dense. So far we've tried it fresh from the oven, with soup, in sandwiches, and as toast, and it's passed muster every time.
1 cup rye flour 1 cup whole wheat flour 1/2 cup cracked wheat, uncooked steel cut oats, sunflower seeds, or other textured grain, seeds, or nuts 4 cups white all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon yeast 3 1/4 cups (26 ounces) room temperature water
In a large bowl, mix together all the flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in the water to form a thick, gloppy batter. (If your yeast needs to dissolve in water before being added, do this in a separate bowl before combining with the flours.)
Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. If necessary, you can refrigerate the dough after this fermentation period for up to a week. Refrigerating for a few hours also helps make the dough easier to work with and improves the flavor.
When ready to shape and bake the loaves, sprinkle your work surface with a little flour. Turn the cold dough out onto the counter and divide it in two equal pieces. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and shape them into round loaves or sandwich loaves, as desired. Cover and let the loaves rise for about 1.5 - 2 hours at room temperature, until nearly doubled in bulk.
A half hour before baking, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a pan in the bottom of the oven to preheat as well. If you're baking round loaves, set a baking stone on the middle rack while the oven is heating.
When the loaves have risen, quickly cut 1/2-inch slashes in the top with a serrated knife and set them in the oven. Pour a half cup of water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and close the oven door.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the loaves are dark brown, sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and the interior registers 190° on an instant-read thermometer. Allow to cool fully on a rack before slicing and eating.