I love baking homemade bread. Waiting for it to cool enough to cut when it is fresh from the oven is the hardest part, and yet, with many of my favorite recipes, toasting them on subsequent days is my number one way to enjoy them. This one especially fits under that category.
This bread is full of heavy, hearty add-ins, and that means that it ends up being a fair dense loaf. When toasted, that denseness is completely irrelevant and with a little butter - maybe some jam - this bread is a meal unto itself. You can mix your own add-ins, but I use Bob's Red Mill Muesli as my main player along with some dehydrated apples that I cut up with scissors. I especially love the dried fruit. It gives a great little flavor burst in the finished bread.
Bread making is about the only time I use weight measurements. It just makes it so easy to measure out the ingredients.
This bread is mixed in two stages. It has a pre-ferment, but it is a fairly short-lived one, only about two hours. The preferment has a fair amount of food for the yeast in it, so it gets big fast.
To the preferment, you add the water, flours, and salt and then mix either by hand or with a stand mixer. Do NOT add the add-ins until the bread is well kneaded because they will break the developing gluten strands and make it hard to develop the dough. Once the dough is stretchy and smooth, about ten minutes of mixing, you can very gently mix in the add-ins. You do not want to overmix the dough at this point, just mix enough to get them somewhat evenly distributed. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, normally a few hours.
This dough is fairly easy to shape. Dump it out on the counter and shape into a stubby rectangle, then pick up the ends and alternatively flip the ends to stretch the dough. You want the motion of a suspension bridge while gently pulling apart the dough. This will cause it to thin and elongate. Shape into a roughly 12 x 4 inch loaf. It will be about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost double.
When the dough is getting close to being ready, pre-heat the oven. The dough will be puffy and it is ready when you gently poke the dough with your finger and it is slow to rebound. To help with crust development, I also have a spray bottle with water in it and give a few spritzes on the sides of the oven when I put the loaf in.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the bread has a nice golden color on it. On this loaf, color is normally enough of an indicator to tell when it is done, but other signs include a hollow sound when tapped and an internal temperature of 210F.
Again, the hardest part is to let it cool for a bit before slicing into it. That cool down time is actually a very important step in the baking of a loaf, so try to curb your enthusiasm! Look at all that good stuff in there. Talk about a bread that tastes good and keeps you going.
Yield: 1 loaf
200 g whole wheat flour
200 g lukewarm water
30 g honey
5 g instant yeast
200 g water
250 g bread flour
50 g rye flour (light or dark)
10 g salt
300 g mix ins (such as muesli mix, rolled grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit)
Mix the preferment and let sit 2 hours until puffed and bubbly. Mix the preferment and all other ingredients except the add-ins and knead until stretchy and smooth, about 10 minutes. Once the dough is nicely developed, gently knead the add-ins into the dough. Do not overmix at this point because the add-ins can break down the gluten structure you worked so hard to develop. Let the dough rise in a covered bowl until double.
Shape the dough into a roughly 12x4 inch loaf. It should be about 3/4" tall. Place on a parchment covered or greased sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise until almost doubled. It will be nice and puffy when ready. Shortly before it is ready, preheat the oven to 450F.
When the loaf and the oven are ready, place the uncovered loaf in the middle of the oven, spritz the sides of the oven a few times with water from a spray bottle and then reduce the oven temperature to 400F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf is nicely golden. Let cool almost completely before enjoying.
This bread makes excellent toast, and I like to slice the bread and then freeze the slices so I can easily grab a slice and toast it on busy mornings for breakfast.
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