Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Apricot Loaf (80% whole wheat)

Don't you love how, with the same recipe but a different flour, you can create a totally different bread? This loaf springs from my beloved Local Breads, by Daniel Leader, a book I return to over and over for the elegant spareness of the writing, the simplicity of the instructions and the overwhelming passion that infuses every page. If you feel like going on a bread tasting trip to Europe without leaving your kitchen or your bakery, this book is for you.
I had made Leader's Whole Wheat Sourdough Miche and loved it (I posted about it here in my French blog) but this time, I wanted to add a hint of apricot and macadamia to the whole wheat flavor (I love how these tastes combine to create a distinctly new one). So I prepared the fruit and the nuts, and I was getting out the scales when I remembered that I had bought organic whole wheat bread flour from a small mill a few weeks ago when I took a friend from France on a tour of the Hudson valley. I decided to use it.
This flour had been stone-ground from hard red spring wheat with 100% of the wheat germ intact and I got it at Wild Hive Farm Store in Clinton Corners, New York. The store sells other flours (I bought some triticale that I have yet to try), various homemade products, including breads which didn't appeal to me and amazingly delicious cookies which did (try the chocolate meringue and the Linzer torte, you will not be disappointed, I promise, and I don't have a sweet tooth, so these cookies have to have been truly awesome).
From my classes at the San Francisco Baking Institute, I knew that hard red spring wheat is richer in protein than hard red winter wheat but that the quality of its protein is inferior, which means that its tolerance to long fermentation is lower and therefore that flour made from that wheat is less well suited to artisanal bread making. But Wild Hive Farm's self-avowed mission is "to help build sustainable communities and support regional sustainable agriculture by producting food products made with the local, organic bounty of the Hudson Valley" and I had decided to help it achieve that goal by giving this high-protein flour a try.
But, boy! was I glad I paid attention at SFBI when they told us (they actually hammered it into our heads) never to start with the full amount of water called for by a recipe! Leader uses 375 g of water. I put in 283 g before I remembered to stop pouring. I figured that I would probably use the 92 g that were left over and maybe even more since this new flour would undoubtedly be very thirsty (spring wheat is supposed to have more water absorption).
But all spring wheats are obviously not created alike. This one surely didn't act like a sponge. Even with only 283 g of water, the dough was overhydrated. I added 15 g of all-purpose flour when it became apparent that I would never be able to do anything with it if I didn't stiffen it up a bit and with a couple of folds during the first fermentation, it turned out to be okay. However I got a very different bread from the one I had started out to make, very good actually (the flour tastes deliciously wheaty and I love the added flavor of the apricot and macadamia nuts) but definitely not a "pain Poilâne"... Ingredients:
Whole wheat levain

  • 50 g stiff dough levain
  • 75 g water, lukewarm (70 to 78 degrees F/22 to 26 Celsius)
  • 100 g stone-ground whole wheat flour

Final dough

  • 375 g water, lukewarm  (70 to 78 degrees F/22 to 26 Celsius) (as indicated above, I ended up using only 283 g and even that was a bit too much but the exact amount will vary according to the type of flour used)
  • 100 g unbleached all-purpose flour (+ 15 g I added when it became clear the mixing wasn't happening as it was supposed to)
  • 400 g stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • 225 g whole wheat levain
  • 10 g sea salt
  • 50 g macadamia nuts, unsalted, roughly chopped in a mortar & pestle
  • 50 g dried apricots of the soft variety, chopped with scissors
  • 10 g wheat bran, optional (Leader doesn't call for it but I added it to try and dry out the dough a little)

Whole wheat levain
  1. Take your levain out of the refrigerator and pinch off 50 g (about the size of an Italian plum)
  2. Place the piece of levain in a wide, shallow mixing bowl and pour the water over it
  3. Use a rubber spatula to mash the levain against the sides of the bowl to break it up and soften it
  4. Add the flour and mix vigorously with one hand (holding the bowl with the other) until you get a very stiff dough. It will not be smooth
  5. Place in a 1-quart container, cover tightly and let ferment at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees F/22 to 24 C) for 8 to 12 hours
  6. When the levain is ready (it will have doubled in volume) and it is time to mix the dough, you can either mix by hand or use a mixer or in a bread machine (for this loaf I used my bread machine but I was standing over it watching the mixing like a hawk and I finished it by hand)
  7. If using a bread machine, put all the ingredients in the pan in the order prescribed by the manufacturer (with mine, the liquid ingredients go first and I had mixed the levain and part of the water in a bowl beforehand until the levain was well dissolved)
  8. Start the dough cycle and adjust the amount of water according to the dough consistency
  9. At the beep, add the fruit and nuts. Check the dough consistency again. Take the dough out as soon as the dough passes the windowpane test (pull off some dough with wet hands and gently stretch it. If you can practically see through the dough in places and it doesn't tear, it is ready). If necessary finish incorporating the fruit and nut by hand
  10. Transfer the dough to a 2-quart bowl or dough bucket and let it ferment at room temperature for 1 hour
  11. Take it out and knead it (or fold it) briefly before returning it to the container. Cover again and leave to ferment another 2 to 3 hours (as the dough was still pretty slack, I actually gave it another fold 30 minutes after the first one)
  12. Shape into a ball and place, seam side up, in a banneton or colander, dust it with whole wheat flour and put in a big plastic bag which you close tightly after blowing once into it (it didn't happen quite like that for me. At the end of the fermentation period, the dough looked ready but was still pretty sticky. I knew there was no way it would come gently out of a banneton after the second fermentation. So I put some parchment paper at the bottom of my trusty Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven and literally poured the dough into it. Then I firmly closed the lid of the Dutch oven and placed it in the refrigerator for the night. High-protein wheat flour isn't really made for long fermentations but, what the heck, that was enough struggle for one day and I had a feeling the dough would make it through the night, which it did)
  13. Normally however you want to proof the miche for 2 to 3 hours until pillowy. One hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle-rack of the oven (with a shallow metal container under it) and preheat the oven to 470 degrees F/243 C (since I was going to bake straight from the refrigerator, I didn't preheat the oven, figuring the gradual rise in temperature inside the Dutch oven and the ensuing cloud of mist would do wonders for that dough)
  14. Score the miche (4 straight slashes about 1 inch from the edge to form a square shape frame is the standard score) (the dough was surprisingly firm when I looked in on it in the morning but still rather wet-looking. I stenciled it and scored small cuts all around, remembering, too late, that you are supposed to score a weak whole grain dough before the second fermentation and not after. I was lucky however as the dough didn't collapse. While not athletic, it didn't look like it was about to pull a fainting act on me, for which I was infinitely grateful)
  15. Slide the miche into the oven on the baking stone, pour a cup of water into the shallow container located under it to create mist and close the oven door for 40 to 5o minutes (adding a few minutes if necessary) (as for my loaf, it baked in the closed Dutch oven for one hour at 450 F/232 C, then I reduced the temperature to 350 F/177 C, took the loaf out of the Dutch oven and set it directly on the baking stone for another 10 minutes)
  16. Let cool completely on a rack before attacking it. The fragrance of the bread and the delicious cracking of its crust as it settles will make patience very hard to attain, so maybe now would be a good time to go to the market or go do some writing or weed the yard, anything that would prevent you from ripping a chunk out of that cooling miracle...
This loaf has been submitted to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for her weekly Yeastpotting feature.


  1. I'm wondering if Leader's amount of water was an error, as there seem to be a few of them in the book. Even so, I could not have imagined that the 283 g of water you used could overhydrate this dough, so how true about not all flours being created equal and needing to really pay attention to water! Nothing like a little practical experience to reinforce the point. Nonetheless, it looks like you got a fabulous crumb on this bread. I have loved the apricot/whole wheat combination, macadamia nuts sound like a great addition too.

  2. Your bread has a fabulous crumb! It's a lovely loaf.

  3. Thank you, Susan and Mary, for your kind words! The bread did shape up during the long fermentation in the fridge, which goes to show that spring wheat isn't always always in a hurry to be baked and will sometimes agree to go slowly if asked to. Don't you love the fact that bread-baking is an endless discovery?
    I have wondered too about the possibility of an error in the Leader book. But I don't know for a fact that it is indeed the case as the only other time I made this bread was the day my scales died on me. It went crazy before conking out and I hadn't noticed and I measured out way too little water.I ended up having to literally drench the flour to make the dough start to come together. Same bread recipe, two opposite experiences... What fun!

  4. I've officially fallen in love with this bread... I can't wait to make it. Thanks for the great instructions too!

  5. Thanks for visiting, Sarah! If you do make the bread, please let me know how it comes out.



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