When I make my list of top 10 favorite BBA Challenge breads (and I will), I won’t forget to mention this loaf.
I grew up in a family of white bread eaters. So things called “multi grain” always sounded foreign, and overly hearty, possibly difficult to chew. I steered clear.
Over the years, as I learned to cook, I grew to appreciate whole grains more and more, but I still stayed in the white zone when baking bread. Not because I didn’t like whole grain breads (I’d had more than a few, usually in restaurants, that were stunningly rich and delicious and light), but because I didn’t know where to start in making my own. Any bread books I owned that talked about whole grains had recipes for heavy, dense loaves that were lauded for their excellent keeping qualities (which I took to mean that you couldn’t tell the difference between a fresh version of one of these loaves and one that had sat around for two weeks).
So, even though fellow BBA Challenge bakers who had forged ahead of me were full of praise for the Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire, I was somewhat suspicious. The name made me a bit suspicious, too. I mean, why call something “extraordinaire” unless you’re trying to convince someone that it’s not so bad? Really.
This is a two-day bread, but instead of starting with a pre-ferment, it starts with a soaker. The soaker, which is a mixture of the multi grains in question, and water, sits at room temperature overnight. This soaking process provides two benefits to the resulting bread. First, it softens the coarse grains, which affects the texture of the baked bread. Second, it allows the enzymes in the grains time to extract sugars from the grains, giving the bread a sweeter, less bitter taste.
Mixing the soaker is a quick process. For my grains, I made a mixture of coarse cornmeal, rolled oats, some bran sifted from whole wheat flour, and water, and let the mixture sit overnight at room temperature. After I left that to soak, I made some brown rice for dinner and set aside a few tablespoons for the next day.
The next morning, I made the dough by mixing together unbleached bread flour, brown sugar, salt, yeast, the reserved brown rice, honey, buttermilk, and water. Then I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes until I had a soft, tacky dough that passed the windowpane test with flying colors. I rounded up the dough and put it in an oiled bowl to ferment for about 90 minutes, until the dough doubled.
After that, all I had to do was shape the dough into a sandwich loaf, put it in an oiled loaf pan, sprinkle with poppy seeds, and let it proof for another 90 minutes. I baked it for about an hour total.
See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.
It smelled incredibly delicious and it was hard to wait the 1-2 hours for it to cool. I slathered my first warm slice with butter. I made amazing toast with that bread all week long.
For my daughter’s school’s annual fund raising auction last fall, Michael and I contributed “six months of bread.” Once a month for six months, we’re making a loaf (or two) of fresh bread for the winning bidder. We’re on the 3rd month next week and Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire is on the menu.
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!