Light As A Cloud Wheat Bread

by Janice on September 30, 2009

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If you’ve been following me, you already know that I’ve been doing the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge for almost 20 weeks now.  Peter Reinhart’s Light Wheat Bread recipe was a perfect chance for me to gauge exactly how much I’ve learned in the process.  I first made this bread in February of this year (long before the Bread Baker’s Challenge began), following the recipe and instructions given on Smitten Kitchen’s blog.  The photo below shows the result:

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I certainly made a visually passable loaf of bread that time.  But the texture was so heavy that I ended up making bread crumbs out of most of it.  To the recipe’s credit, it was still a much better loaf of bread than most breads I had made with whole-wheat flour in them.  But my family wouldn’t eat it.  The slices felt more like slabs.  Toasting them made them worse; they simply became dried-out slabs.  I went back to baking bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  (By the way, I happily met Zoe Francois – one of the authors of that book – at BlogHer Food last weekend.  She has a giant genuine smile and very sweet energy.)

Fast-forward 7 months, with 4 months of weekly bread baking and 180 pages of reading under my belt.  (And a whole lot of learning from my fellow bakers!)  The same recipe made a loaf of bread so light that I’ll swear it had angel wings.  Toast made with it was the perfect crunchy vehicle for the apricot-vanilla bean jam I made this summer.

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I’ve learned that everything makes a difference when you bake bread.  Weighing the flour, rather than measuring the flour by volume.  Having a loaf pan with the correct  dimensions.  (Notice the shape of the bread in the first photo and then in the second.)  The incredible flavor profile a pre-ferment can add.  How much moisture does the air in my kitchen have today?  How much moisture is in the flour?  What’s the difference between sticky and tacky?  How do I know, by feel, when I’ve reached the perfect ratio of flour and liquid?  When is the kneading process done?  When is the dough finished rising?  How do I keep from over or under-baking the bread?  I know not only the questions to ask, but how to adjust my baking process to reflect the answers!

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Almost half-way through this challenge, I realize I’ve learned a lot.  And I’ve only just begun.  Rye bread is rising in the kitchen right now.  Did you know that rye has glutelin instead of wheat’s glutenin?  Neither did I.

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Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: Light Wheat Bread — Pinch My Salt
February 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna @ WayMoreHomemade September 30, 2009 at 7:38 pm

I have learned a ton also. It’s been such a great experience for me and I’m so thankful for Nicole starting this. Beautiful bread, by the way!

misterrios
Twitter: misterrios
September 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Twitter: @misterrios

That is quite a difference in the look of the loaves! While the bottom one looks okay, the top one looks great!

Isn’t it great to be part of this challenge? It’s like we are all in one huge class together and we bake then discuss the breads.

Kelly October 1, 2009 at 12:56 am

It looks beautiful, and I love that you have a before the challenge direct comparison. I love how we’re all learning with each bread.

Congrats!

Oggi October 1, 2009 at 8:18 pm

This is one of my favorites too. It’s light and delicious. And your loaf is beautiful.:-)

roundthetable October 6, 2009 at 2:44 am

Donna – Thanks for stopping by, funny lady! Will always remember you for “window pain.”

Misterrios – Totally LOVE baking with you!

Kelly – Yes, it was another way for me to realize what a huge learning experience this has been.

Oggi – You are always so sweet!

saltandserenity October 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Sometime when you’re right in the thick of things you don’t realize the small changes that happen every day. It’s so true that we have learned so much from our own bread baking as well as from others in this challenge. I didn’t really appreciate how far we have come until I read your post. Th second ligh wheat bread looks wonderful.

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