Monday, December 14, 2020

Bread Making in 2020: Soakers and Bigas


My journey with flours began in the seventies when I first married and had two months before starting my first job. The Fleischmann's Yeast Bake It Easy Booklet was my guide with good results. While many of the recipes were made with white flour, some were made with whole wheat and rye flours and some with cornmeal. In the twenty first century my flour mix was 50-50 with 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flours.  When the cafe I managed was recognized by the Whole Grains Council in 2007, most of our desserts and breads were made with that 50-50 mix. In the past 5 years I've experimented with many whole grain flours, both gluten containing and gluten free and with the purchase of my countertop flour meal became a dedicated follower of Sue Becker

Intrigued with the renewal of sourdough breads, I have an active 18 month old starter and use the discard weekly in a recipe. My best sourdough achievements are quick breads-pancakes, cornbread and dumplings. After many failures, I was challenged to learn new techniques for making whole grain breads. These are among some I'm testing guided by Peter Reinhart's 2007 Book on Whole Grain Breads.

Delayed fermentation utilizes pre-doughs which initiates enzyme activity to release sugars from complex starch molecules before inducing yeast fermentation. The recipes follow a two day process, making the pre-dough on the first day and adding the yeast and other ingredients in the final dough on the second day. 

Pre-fermented doughs include wild yeast starters and commercial yeast doughs called bigas. A biga includes flour, liquid and a small mount of yeast. Here is an example:

227 grams unbleached flour
1 gram instant yeast
142 grams water (room temperature)
Mix together to form a ball. Knead for 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 minute. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours-3 days. Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before making final dough.
Another example of pre-fermented doughs include hydrated grains with salt but no yeast. These are called soakers. Here is an example:

57 grams whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
170 grams water
57 grams oats
47 grams cornmeal
43 grams whole rye flour
7 grams flaxmeal
7 grams oat bran
Mix all ingredients for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Delayed fermentation significantly decreases the kneading time. The long overnight rest allows the gluten and flavor to develop. 

Final Dough  

57 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 grams instant yeast
Portion tablespoon portions of pre-fermented doughs into bowl of electric mixer. Combine flour, salt and yeast and place in mixer. With paddle attachment in place, mix on slow speed for 1 minute. Replace attachment with dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Remove to a board lightly covered with whole wheat flour. Knead by hand for 3 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes. Knead for 1 minute. Transfer dough to a clean bowl greased with olive oil spray. Cover and allow to rise until 1 1/2 times original size.
Form desired loaf shape. Allow to rise 1 1/2 times original size.  
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lower temperature to 350 F when placing bread in oven. Bake 20 minutes. Rotate bread 180 degrees. Bake 20 minutes or until internal temperature of bread reaches 200 F.  

The health benefits of whole grains are clear. Whole grains contain disease fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Whole grains even contain some vitamins (B and E), iron, magnesium and fiber not found in fruits and vegetables. Like vegetables, whole grains each contain unique nutrient profiles. Including different whole grains can increase nutrient variety and decrease insensitivity. Consumer purchases often include whole wheat, brown rice, corn, oat purchases. Many consumers include quinoa in the repertoire (among the most expensive purchases per weight). Buckwheat, teff, amaranth, colored rice, barley, sorghum and millet and ancient varieties of wheat (Kamut, spelt and farro) are delicious grains worth exploring with some grown locally, others on grocery shelves and in local co-ops and most through online outlets.  








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