I’m so happy to have my copy of Whole Grain Breads back! It was on loan to a friend, and it came back just at the perfect moment to rediscover its treasures.
I’ve been slowly working up to getting back into whole grain breads, and it’s the result of a confluence of several things I’ve been doing in the kitchen.
First, my lovely accident of scalding my flour has led me down the rabbit hole, learning that it doesn’t have to be a mistake, and can actually be a useful tool for adding flavor and softness to flours with very little gluten or that might have a bitter flavor.
Second, reviving my starter and running out of all-purpose and bread flours at the same time, forcing me to use rye flour to feed it. It’s ended up working out really well, providing some more gluten formation and nice acidy flavor with lots of activity.
“Meteil” just means it’s half rye flour and half whole wheat flour. When Reinhart refers to a sandwich bread, it usually means it’s softer and has a bit more gluten formation that some of the other whole grain breads in the book.
After not reading it for almost a year, I began at page one, pouring over each word. I’ve owned this book for nine years, but this time I was finally ready to absorb all the science he includes in his introduction.
I felt a little silly having done all the research for my The Science Behind… the baking process series, because here it all was, broken down and easily readable. I could’ve just posted screenshots of his pages and called it a day (not that I would do that, copyright restrictions and all).
One thing that makes Peter’s book unique is his epoxy method technique, which I’ve detailed over the years in the following posts: German many-seeded bread, spent-grain bread, sprouted-grain bread, whole wheat St. Lucia buns, whole wheat challah, whole wheat matzoh, and transitional sandwich bread.
He sets a lofty goal for himself in the introduction:
“…to invite you into a new frontier of whole grain baking. I will show you how to make whole grain breads that taste better than any you have ever had and that are easy to make so you will choose to make and eat them, not just read about them and node your head in intellectual agreement.”
By separating the processes of long fermentation and autolyse, Peter Reinhart has made breadmaking more convenient and let the processes do what they do best without getting in each others’ way.
So, for the rye sandwich meteil, you will need:
For the starter:
250g all-purpose, whole wheat, or rye starter, active
120g rye flour
- mix the ingredients together, then let rest for 15 minutes before gently shaping into a ball. The dough will be very sticky and hard to handle.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit overnight.
For the soaker:
225g whole wheat flour
170g buttermilk or yogurt
- Mix the ingredients together until they form a smooth ball.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight.
After an overnight rest and a few hours in the refrigerator, my soaker and starter looked like this:
When you decide to bake it, you will need:
All the starter
All the soaker
56g (or more) whole wheat flour
7g instant yeast
28g vegetable oil
113g diced onion or shallot
7g caraway seeds (make sure they are, in fact, caraway. See my endnote)
- Place the soaker and starter on top of one another and use your hands or a bench scraper to break them up into about 12 pieces. Add the other ingredients.
2. Mix well. I mean, you seriously want to make sure everything is well incorporated. This is tough, because so many of the elements are sticky: the rye flour, honey and molasses will want to stick to everything. Keep it up. I found I needed to add a great deal of extra whole wheat flour.
3. Transfer your dough to a floured counter. Gently knead for about five minutes until the dough is well-incorporated and uniform in color.
When the dough sticks to itself and not the counter, roll it in a bit of flour, shape it into a boule and transfer it to a prepared proofing basket or banneton so it is seam-side up. If you don’t know what a proofing basket is, check out this post. Put a dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 500 degrees F (this differs from Reinhart’s recipe).
After an hour rise, my bread looked like this:
When the oven has preheated, gently turn out your dough into the dutch oven so it is now seam-side down. Score the top of your dough with a razor blade. Return the lid and bake 15 minutes at 500, 15 minutes at 375, and 15 minutes at 375 with the lid off.
This bread looks and smells incredible. The crumb is small, perfect for sandwiches.
***One small endnote: as soon as I tasted it this morning, I realized I had made a big mistake. What I thought were caraway seeds (typical for rye breads) were in fact CUMIN seeds. Even though the recipe only calls for 7g (about two teaspoons) of seeds, they make their presence KNOWN. I ate a bite, then couldn’t really eat any more. The spicy flavor was just too jarring to eat an entire piece.
So here’s the thing. I now have this loaf of bread that tastes like cumin and is basically inedible in slices. What do I do?
I thought, well, I’ll use it in a recipe that calls for cumin AND breadcrumbs. Meatballs are one option; breaded meats like chicken are another. Another option is meatloaf. Even though this was a mistake, it’s heartening to know I have lots of options!