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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reinhart's Multigrain Hearth Bread from WGB

Reinhart's Multigrain Hearth Bread from WGB

To judge by the front cover of his book "Whole Grain Breads," Reinhart was most proud of this loaf.  The cover picture appears again beside the introductory paragraphs to his Multigrain Hearth Bread, so I assume that this is the bread featured on the cover.

my loaf
But look at that picture closely.  This looks like a large loaf, but it it isn't.  This is the usual size loaf, rather smallish, and this photo is a closeup.  The ratio of height to width of the bread makes it appear to me to be quite flattened out: the scoring shows some oven spring, but it has caused the loaf to spread sideways.  You can, however, still see a slight rounding of the loaf around the bottom edges (at least on this side -- the far side is eclipsed in shadow).  So although it appears sagged to me, it is not oozing.

When I made this dough, I found the soaker far too wet to work with, and had to compensate by using a lot of extra whole wheat flour during the kneading stages.  Like up to a cup more.

Now, I suppose part of this was my fault, and part of it was the fault of the grains I chose for my multigrain hearth bread.  But I'm also beginning to question whether the ratios of the flour to water is correct in the recipe.  This recipe feels NOTHING like the other hearth breads (or sandwich breads) so far that I've made.  The soaker is impossibly wet and needs to be fixed.  I spent some time figuring out whether the grains that are added are done so in the correct ratios that Reinhart says they are -- and they are.  So the only thing I can come up with is that the hydration was scroogey for this loaf because of the grains I used.

Or -- another possibility -- I used the wrong liquid.  I had two different breads on the same table, and both were waiting to have water added.  Some of these bowls got moved when my wife sat down to read the paper over her breakfast.  Perhaps I later picked up the wrong container of water by mistake.  But why then was the weight correct, when I tested it?

Most of Reinhart's hearth loaves aim for a hydration of 75%.  For example, see the Whole Wheat Hearth bread that I've already made: here, the flour to water ratio for the soaker is 227g : 170g, or about 75% hydration. 

In this bread's soaker, the flour to water ratio is 56.5g : 170g or about 300% hydration.  "Oh," you say, "but you have to include the combination of cooked and uncooked grains in the flour amount,"  Okay, that seems to be true: 170g + 56.5g : 170g is indeed about 75% hydration. But don't forget that -- depending on the grain that you use and if it was boiled to pre-cook it -- you are also adding a bunch more liquid in that weight.  "But," you say, "shouldn't that water be locked into the plumped-up grain?"  Sure, sure, I reply: but don't you realize you are talking to yourself?  

Perhaps if I had used some grains that weren't so moist, the "golden mean" that Reinhart bases his recipe on (66% flour to 34% multigrain by weight) would have worked and the hydration would have been closer to what I assume Reinhart intended.

But for me, this soaker and dough was more like slop, and I had to correct it with flour to even begin to make it work.

It was so wet I didn't dare add more moisture in the form of butter and honey.  These breads have no optional ingredients.

The Grains I used

Couscous is sort of like a tiny noodle, rather than a grain, and so I wasn't quite sure about using it.   But it is listed in the marginal notes of suggested grains to use in this bread.  And despite what you might think from looking at its white starchiness, I learned that couscous is actually one of the healthiest ways to eat grain.  Couscous is made from ground durum wheat.  Salted water is sprinkled onto freshly ground durum, and simultaneously the flour is raked, so these starchy little pearls form.  Like tiny planets, the outer surface tends to form around a denser core -- thus the bran and the germ becomes the middle.  This saves the germ's oil from spoilage, yet retains all the goodness of the whole grain.  Israeli couscous is big and plump.

Kasha is also not a grain.  It is the seed of the buckwheat plant that has been roasted, and as everyone knows, buckwheat is not a grass but is related to the rhubarb plant.  I am taking a special interest in buckwheat this year, as I am growing a test plot of it in my garden.  I have heard that it makes for an excellent green manure.  The black, sproutable pyramidal seed gets reddened when roasted, and has a strong recognizable scent.  Buckwheat flour also has a recognizable taste -- think of buckwheat pancakes, I'm sure everyone has had those -- so you don't require a lot of it.  I used only 40g of cooked kasha, and the rest of the grains made up the difference for this loaf.

Wheat berries and Steel Cut Oats are very familiar to everyone.

Israeli Couscous

Whole Wheat Berries

Kasha: roasted buckwheat

Steel-cut Oats

Soaker Ingredients

What I did
I made two loaves here with the original thought to compare them: one with a biga, and one with a wild yeast starter.  But they can't be compared now because I 'fixed' the consistency of the dough separately.  One might have a different hydration than the other, and one might have more water than grain from the too-moist soaker.

For my soaker, I pre-cooked some whole wheat berries, some steel-cut oats, some Israeli couscous, and some kasha.  All of these grains/seeds were boiled, some in pots, and some in a pressure cooker, the afternoon before I put them into the soaker.  All of them were drained with a sieve and cooled before using.  All of them soaked up water like crazy.

I made a double batch of soaker and divided it up between my two breads when it came time to make the final dough.  Both loaves got exactly 401g of soaker. 

I even suspected that I had forgotten to double up on the amount of flour in the doubled soaker, and checked it by weight.  It turned out that I had, but it was STILL sloppy AFTER I added the correct amount.  Frustrating.

Gee, that looks pretty sloppy for a Reinhart 'soaker'

oh, I forgot to double up on the flour, that's got to be the problem

I'll just add it to the soaker now

Gee, that's STILL sloppy for a Reinhart soaker!

Most of Reinhart's soakers come off feeling very dry to me, but this was more like soup.  There was no way I could 'chop' the soaker 'pieces' into 12 smaller pieces.  I tried spooning some out and adding some flour to each spoonful, but then I realized that this was ridiculous, and just added more flour until I had what I felt was a better consistency.  It still felt nothing like these Reinhart loaves normally do, so I added even more flour during the kneading stage.

Mis en place: to the left, the sourdough version, to the right the biga version.  In the middle, the shared soupy soaker.

Gee, that is soupy.
Fixing the Hydration problem

chop this into 12 pieces... yeah, right.

roll each piece in extra flour... yeah, right
 I had to knead in a lot of extra flour just to get this to hold together.  This felt nothing like any other Reinhart bread I've made from this book (except the ones where I made mistakes, e.g. my blunder bread).  Obviously I've done something drastically wrong.

My new Dutch Oven Combo Cooker
I was literally going to the cupboard to get my pieces of broken baking stones to see which ones would hold together the best for these breads, when there was a knock on the door.  It was a delivery girl with my new dutch oven combo cooker.  That was fast service: this package arrived on the day that would have been promised with expedited delivery, but I hadn't even asked for that, since it was going to cost me an extra $40.  So I was expecting 6-10 days, but it was here in 2.  I was very impressed with the speed of this package's arrival.  And right in the midst of a Canada Post Strike.  I guess the real delivery trucks can move faster now that the national post service trucks are all off the road…

These loaves are the first loaves I've baked with my new dutch oven.

And like Reinhart's pictured loaf on the cover of his book, my loaves look like they've sagged a bit.  Mine is even worse, of course, perhaps due to the hydration problem I had.

This loaf tastes fine.  It doesn't need the extra oils and sweetener.  On the other hand, because I added so much flour during the kneading of it, this was flour that hadn't had time to soak or autolyse: so there isn't going to be as much flavour here, in theory, because the enzymes wouldn't have had a chance to work on the amylose.  So perhaps it is a little bland: but that might be a good thing.

I think that my wife will eat it.

The wheat is tall now in the fields near where I walk the dog, so I brought home a sprig of it today

The possible combinations of grains you can add to this recipe can't be infinite, but it is a rather high number.  Experimentation is key to find the choicest edibles.  For me, I simply used what I had on hand.

I think that some millet or quinoa would add a nice touch to this bread.

I'll have to make this recipe again to see where I went wrong.

Notes to Myself
  • When assembling your soaker, add the water last, and only add enough to bring it to the consistency you'd expect of a Reinhart soaker: i.e., fairly dry, not too liquid.
  • When doubling the recipe, write down the quantities you are going to be using, don't just double the amounts on the fly, or you might make a mistake (e.g. either forgetting to double one, or perhaps doubling it twice).
  • Kasha is a powerful scent, but adds very little to the flavour.  I can barely detect it in this loaf, and it is just 13% of the total grains, but I can still detect the scent because I know what I'm looking for.
  • Steel cut oats add a lot of moisture and not a lot of graininess.  I think that this was the main culprit behind the hydration problem.  Also, the mush that results when the oats are cooked is pretty bland, and it doesn't add a lot of flavour.  I wouldn't use this grain again in this bread.
  • The whole wheat berries add a nice crunchiness to the loaf, but very little taste.  At the same time that I made this bread, I was making Nils Schöner's bread for my mother-in-law again, the one with the applejuice-soaked rye kernels, and I was thinking that these wheat berries really needed to be soaked in juice before using them too.  That would require an extra day for the recipe, though.


  1. That is one good looking loaf you have there. Pat yourself on the back for me.
    Yay for the cast iron combo cooker. I hope you will enjoy baking in it. I have to agree about writing down the measurements when halving or doubling a recipe. I have started doing that now. I also have to agree on adding the water last and only enough to make a soaker of the 'normal' consistency. The three multigrain struans that I have blogged about added grains and liquid a bit at a time, till the total weight was 340g (excluding the whole wheat and salt). I have to try PR's multigrain hearth though, and in the combo cooker it should be fun.

  2. As heavy as the combo cooker is, I wish that it was slightly bigger, for some loaves. I think it does a good job though. I was tempted to buy one of the 5 quart pots, and use it inverted, but that would be truly dangerous to handle at 500 degrees F, since it has no handles when upside-down.

    I'm fairly certain the mistake in hydration in this bread was mine (a mix-up with the other bread I baked that day, that also experienced some problems).