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Monday, February 7, 2011

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread #1

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread:
an experiment in time management

This is an experiment in time management, and baking a Reinhart bread around a nurse's schedule. 

The context:
I knew that I was going to work for 3 days straight, and I knew that I was having trouble baking bread on my first day off from work (see the section "scheduling bread", on the last blog), due to physical and emotional exhaustion.

I decided to put together the ingredients of Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread on the day before (Thursday night) I worked that trio of days (Fri Sat Sun), so that I could try and bake a bread on the first day off after work (Monday).

Here is what I forgot: I had to go to a retirement luncheon for a friend on Monday morning.  That meant I had to either bake the bread in the morning of the day off before the luncheon, or else later in the day when I returned home.

Originally I was going to bake it when I got home.  But Reinhart's recipe says that the refrigerated starter and biga are only good for 3 days.  I had already passed that point, by waiting until morning to bake.  Further delay would only make things worse.

The nice thing about getting up before 5 am for work, though, is that one's body gets used to it, and even on my days off, I tend to wake up the same time without an alarm.

The cat helps too: he is used to being let outside when I wake up, so if I don't wake up on time on my own, he will make it happen.

So I woke up before 5 am, and began gathering the ingredients from the refrigerator.

Timing is Everything: The Method:

1. Measuring and mixing the ingredients before work:
Frankly, this is more time consuming and laborious because I am documenting it all with photos.

final dough prep

2. Baking Day, after work:

The starter and biga are to be allowed 2 hours to come to room temperature.  I felt that, while I was making myself a cup of tea, I could at least cut these two preferments into smaller pieces, roll them in flour, and let them sit like that in a bowl to wait. Someone (one of Reinhart's recipe testers? on a forum somewhere? or a margin note?) said that it is a time saver to put the biga and starter atop one another to cut it.  Well, not a huge savings, I guess.  I still separated them to roll them in flour, and that took longer probably.

The final dough is mixed, then kneaded.  This stage takes only a few minutes, but it is the most time-critical part, full of timed mixing, resting and kneading -- all part of Reinhart's secret enzyme-activated recipe.  I probably take a bit longer than most people in this stage, because I am photo-documenting everything, and have to fight with gooey hands on the camera.  The dough felt great, though, coming together, which is always a surprise.  It took very little mixing: I used one hand, no spoon. 

The kneading could also be done one-handed for the most part.  I incorporated a bit of the flour on the surface of the counter into the dough as I kneaded.    This took 4 minutes, plus 5 minutes of rest, plus 1 more minute of kneading.  The coolness of the dough at the beginning of kneading is quite different from the warmer, slippery texture of the dough at the end of kneading.

Then comes an hour of bulk fermentation, during which the dough is supposed to increase to 1 1/2 times its original size.  Reinhart suggests this will take 45-60 minutes at room temperature.  Now, our house at night is quite cold in the winter.  But in the two hours that I had been waiting for the dough to come to room temperature, I had built a cosy fire in the family room, to warm up the house.  Woodfire stoves give a very nice, even heat.  I've found that this is really helpful on these cold winter days to get the bread to rise quicker.  I checked the dough at the 45 minute mark.  I felt it was ready.

The dough is shaped.  This also is meant to only take a few minutes.  Here the dough feels distinctly poofier.   I made a boule using a few stretch and folds with the pastry cutter -- not exactly Reinhart's method, but one that has worked for me in the past.

Then comes the final proof, during which the dough is again supposed to double.  I placed my dough in a basket lined with a floured towel.  Reinhart suggests that this stage might take 45 minutes.  My wife was stirring by this time (she loves to sleep in, if she can).  I had just enough time to clean up the kitchen, with every extra utensil and bowl I used, washed and dried -- she likes a clean kitchen to start the day.

Began preheating the oven and stone 30 minutes.

The dough was quite jiggly, like a bowl of jello when I brought it back to the kitchen.  I knew that it would deflate substantially when I inverted it onto the hot stone.  At that point, it still had to be scored, and pictures taken, and steam added, before I could close the oven door -- so this bread, again, does not follow Reinhart's directions 100%.  I was frankly a bit disappointed that the dough flattened out so much, when I put it on the hot stone.

This dough is baked in a preheated 500 degree F. oven with steam.  After the first couple of minutes, I turned the temperature to 450 degree F. and set the timer for 20 minutes

The bread is turned.  It looks like there has been some nice oven spring, but it hasn't come back to the original size of the dough as it was in the basket.

I checked the internal temperature of the bread with a thermometer before removing it from the oven.  Target core loaf temperature:  200 degrees F.


Disappointed in the way it didn't sit up, but flattened out too much.

Obligatory crumb shots:

In my opinion, this loaf is not overly sweet (I found the enriched breads in the front of Reinhart's book to be too sweet for my taste).  In fact, although the interior crumb is nice and tasty, there is a bitter acrylamide taste to the outer crust that could be tempered somewhat, in the future: perhaps by the use of rice flower in the lined basket, rather than whole wheat; or perhaps by using an egg wash, or maybe a wheat berry gum wash, at just the right moment, during the baking cycle.  I do personally like the bread as it is, though. 

Notes to Myself

  • As usual, I don't know if I'm pulling the dough tight enough on the bottom.  The sealing that is supposed to happen during shaping and pinching the bottom of the boule tends to pull apart quickly when it sits upside down in the basket.  Perhaps that is the major thing I'm doing wrong, and the cause of the sideways sag or oven deflation.
  • These preferments were in the fridge for just more than 3 days: did that negatively effect the sagginess or lack of spring in the loaf?  Did it negatively affect the taste?  Did it ruin the healthful benefits of the loaf?  So far, I can't say.
  • I plan on trialing many different versions of this bread for different sweetening contents.
  • Got to get me a real banneton, and forget these baskets.  If there was one in a store nearby me, I'd buy it, but if I have to send away for them, I dawdle.


  1. This bread looks lot of work, i think they tasted great or you find any difference in the taste.

  2. I would hate to leave anyone with the impression that this was a lot of work. Really, the hardest thing about it is measuring ingredients and waiting. The actual time spent working on it is negligible. The actual physical work is easy -- far, far easier than most other whole wheat breads I have made, far easier even than no-knead breads, which can be hard to stir.

    However, you do have to be around to do things in a timely manner. You need a stretch of time where you can go away and do other things (like blog) and come back to the bread-making. There is a bit of clock watching involved.

    As for taste: yes, indeed, loaves made with Reinhart's methods and recipes taste unlike any other whole wheat bread you have ever tasted. It may not be to everyone's taste, of course: but the taste certainly is unique. If you like whole grain breads -- or better yet, if you don't like other whole grain breads you've tasted so far -- and if you like to bake, you owe it to yourself to try his recipe and method at least once.

  3. what's the hydration on this dough? how are your shaping it? those are the two things that are most confusing to me given your result, because your method looks right but the dough flattening like that is a little strange.

  4. one other question: how deep are your scores? are you deflating it by cutting it too deeply?

  5. Josh - I followed Reinhart's formula very closely, and he says that is is only a 70.5 % hydrated dough. I'm still unclear whether to add the honey and oil to this amount: if you do, you would add an additional 3 + 3 %, so you might think that the dough is as much as 76.5% hydrated. That is not too wet, so I don't feel that that is the problem.

    I also don't believe my scoring of the bread is causing the deflation. If you look at Reinhart's picture of his boule shaping (p. 89), you see how deeply he scores his loaves. My scores are nowhere near as deep as his. My scores are ugly, sure, but if anything, they are not deep enough.

    No, the problem in this loaf, I feel, is the way I shaped it. Here, I did not follow Reinhart's instructions (again, p.89) but used a kind of stretch and fold using a pastry cutter, out and up from the counter-side of the dough, several times, and pinched at the top to seal. This method surely would have worked if I had, when I was finished stretching and folding, turned it over and rotated it on the counter as Reinhart shows in the upper right picture of that page. This I didn't do: and so, the gluten cloak was simply not tight enough, and the pinching was not complete. I just put it in the basket, and it unfolded there. Totally my fault. I'll try this loaf again, of course, to see if that fixes it.