Set the Net

Recipes and snapshots of life in Bristol Bay, AK

A Sheaf of Wheat Bread

I love this loaf, not only for its show stopping presentation but because it is so darn easy to make and serve! No kneading, no slicing, just pull the sheaf apart and it is the perfect dinner loaf. Make this for your next dinner party, serve a few “stalks” in a basket, and your sure to wow.

Baking bread makes me feel powerful, like I have conquered some ancient tradition and I know some of you out there are thinking…”I don’t make bread exactly for that reason, its a full day job”… Tell your inner voice to can it and get out the flour because this could not be easier.

For two 1 lb. loaves you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 Tbsp. Kosher salt or fine grain sea salt
3/4 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 cup unbleached white bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ

A large mixing bowl and spoon
A pizza stone [square is preferable]
A broiler pan and 1 cup of hot water to make steam

*Note you can use all unbleached white bread flour or 2 1/4 cups unbleached white bread flour and 1 cup wheat flour if you don’t have wheat germ handy, I just like the extra nutritional punch the germ packs.

To make:

In a large bowl mix water, yeast and salt until foamy but not fully dissolved, don’t fret about the yeast floating on top not dissolved, trust me it’ll do it’s magic. Stir in the flour until the water is equally mixed and there is no dry flour visible, if needed add a little more water or flour to accomplish this, in increments of Tablespoons. The dough will be pretty wet and that’s ok, you want it to be dough but not soup or a solid mass. Does that even make sense?

Anyhoo now comes the work…wait for it…cover the bowl with plastic wrap to create an air tight seal, place in a warm spot and leave sit for two hours.

What?! You don’t knead it? What crazy lady? You heard me, go find something else to do, a nap perhaps?

Allow to rise for two hours, till dough has risen and fallen to leveled off. Then place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill, overnight is even better. In fact this dough will be good in the fridge about 10 days, how is that for planning ahead?

When you are ready to bake, remove dough from fridge, sprinkle the surface with wheat flour and split into two balls. On a well floured surface, roll the dough into about a 10-12 inch long rope. Allow to rise 30 min. when you are 10 minutes into the rise preheat your oven to 450 F with your pizza stone on the second to top rack and your empty broiler pan on the rack below it. At the 30 minute rise mark your oven most likely won’t be to temp. but that’s alright, in fact that’s the general idea.

Take your stone from the oven, dust the stone and the dough ropes lightly with wheat flour and place your loaves onto the hot stone parallel to each other at least 4-5 inches apart. To make the wheat “seeds” pinch one end of the rope into a point, then take some sharp kitchen shears and two inches down the rope, cut 3/4’s of the way through the dough at a 45 degree angle with the scissors facing towards the opposite end of the rope. This will create a “seed”, repeat the cut every 1 1/2 – 2 inches till you reach the other end. After each cut, stagger the seeds on opposite sides of the rope. Refer to the picture of the finished dough to see the effect.

When both loaves are cut into their wheat like perfection, place the stone back into the oven and pour your cup of hot water into the broiler pan before quickly closing the door to trap in the steam it makes.

Now whatever you do, DO NOT PEAK at the bread for 25 minutes, or you will let out the steam essential for creating the crunchy rustic crust!
When your 25 minutes is up check on your loaves, they may very well be ready or could use a few more minutes of baking for the color of crust you desire. I like mine one shade darker than golden brown. Cool your loaves on a wire rack, and listen for the loaves to “sing” as they cool. You should hear a lovely crackling of the crust.

Serve the bread cooled down a bit or at room temperature if you can seriously wait that long. At the very least, try to let them sit for at least 15 minutes before breaking apart to allow the crumb [that’s baker lingo for the middle of the loaf] to rest. This bread is at it’s very best same day as baking but if for some miraculous reason you have leftovers, store in a paper bag inside of a loosely closed plastic bag for a day or two. Also don’t feel obligated to bake both loaves at once, remember the dough will last 10 days in the fridge!

This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

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