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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reinharts Transitional Country Hearth Bread

Reinharts Transitional Country Hearth Bread

It has been a while since I made a loaf from Reinhart's book 'Whole Grain Breads'.  This one is next on my list of breads to bake.  I've baked it before, but wasn't happy with the forming.  This is a do-over.

I had almost forgotten about Reinhart's book, and my pledge to bake my way through it,  in my current enthusiasm for the 'Tartine Bread' book, and my experimentation with turning those recipes into 100% whole grain breads.  But the recent organization of a 'Whole Grains Bread' bread-baking challenge by Jenni from the blog 'Something to Savor' brought me back to the task of baking through Reinhart's book, at least for this bread.  And while I'm unlikely to follow her schedule, I can at least add the bread recipes that I trial from that book to her list of willing home bakers.

I've made a couple of changes here to the recipe.  For one thing, I didn't have enough yeast.  I ran out, with only 3g for the final dough.  I guess I haven't been using much yeast recently, I've been making all my bread from my various wild starters.  I wasn't even aware that it was getting a bit low.

With less yeast, it was no wonder that the bulk fermentation took slightly longer: I gave it 90 minutes rather than 60.  The bread actually rose fine without as much yeast in the final dough as Reinhart suggests in the recipe.

Finally, I made one more change because all my baking stones are busted.  Instead, I used a casserole dish to bake the bread (similar to the way I've been making the Tartine Bread recipes).  The resultant loaf turned out fine, and had a nice oven spring, even though the proofed bread severely deflated when I scored it.

I mixed soaker and biga with 10 minutes to spare before leaving for work on the night shift:

Next afternoon, when I woke up: Final Dough Mis en Place

After 1 1/2 hours, the pieces of soaker and biga are ready for mixing:

Initial mixing:
Rests, and final kneading:

Bulk Fermenting: at start, 60, and 90 minutes:

Formed and proofed:

Finished loaf:
The Baking Temperatures and prep times are exactly the same for baking in a casserole dish,
as what Reinhart gives for a stone

This bread, which is not 100% whole wheat, is for my wife.  I might have a piece of it to see how it tastes, but I won't eat more than a single slice.  I'll stick with the 100% whole grain breads that by now I'm used to.
Here is the crumb shot. I think you can tell, even from these severely crunched pictures for fast web loading, that the interior has a swirly two-tone look about it, which is fairly unique -- but it probably means I didn't knead it quite long enough, the whole wheat soaker and the all-purpose biga didn't properly combine with Reinhart's epoxy method.  Still, the dough hung together and made a single bread.  I think it's interesting.

The bread, to my palate, tastes a bit flat. But I think that this is precisely what my wife is looking for, in a breakfast or luncheon bread, upon which she can taste her jam.  She tells me, through bites of honey-laden toast, that "this is a good bread."

Notes to Myself
  • The final dough does not require that much yeast.  You can get away with 3g, if you allow it to sit an extra 30 minutes in bulk fermentation.  

    Would the loaf have stayed nice and puffy if it had been entirely free formed and baked on a stone, though, I wonder?  Or did the casserole dish support it somewhat?  Would the longer time in bulk fermentation affect the dough's ability to retain its shape?  Unknown.
  • From previous loaves that I've baked, I think that having the Biga out of the refrigerator for only 1 1/2 hours (like I did here), rather than 2 hours (as Reinhart suggests), before mixing, works better.  The mixing goes easier with the dough still slightly cold, and the dough warms up nicely from the friction of kneading and the warmth of your hands.  With 2 hours, my dough is already too wet and sloppy and sticky to work with without mess.
  • How different is the feel of all-purpose flour in dough, to someone like me who rarely uses it anymore.
  • I will bake this loaf for my sweetie any time, if she likes it.  All I require is a day's notice to prepare the soaker and biga.


  1. Great write up.
    Your loaf looks great and what a neat idea to bake in the casserole dish.
    Will be great to see the crumb shot and hear how it tasted. :)

  2. I have updated this blog posting now with a crumb shot.

    Although I've had good results with baking loaves in casserole dishes up til now, I should warn everyone who wants to try it that you really should use a dutch oven that is rated to sustain those really hot oven temperatures instead.

    See the NEXT post, to see why...