I can’t write about Alinea just yet. So I’ll write about bread instead.

(Bet no one’s ever taken this shot before, eh?)

Yes, we went to Chicago, where yes, we spent a personally unheard-of amount of money on dinner. The short answer is that it was worth every penny. I still haven’t figured out a way to do the evening justice, so here’s hoping a longer simmer in my memory will help me find the words.

In other jet-setting news, I’m heading to Atlanta this week, for my first national blogging conference. While hopping on a plane in order to arrive at a destination where for several days the entire focus will be food and blogging is something I’m very excited about, I’m currently still in prep mode, making lists, stocking the house with groceries and meals, arranging schedules with friends in Athens, and in general acting like an agoraphobe. Mantra to self: I have left my family before, for more than one day, and the world did not end.

So since part of my prep this week was making bread, it seemed as good a time as any to cover the topic in a post. This is what I had in mind when I was trying to sell everyone on a kitchen scale for Mother’s Day — but no worries if you didn’t get around to buying one. I managed this morning to convert the weights to measures, as best I could.

This has become our regular sandwich bread. I know, I’ve said this before — but this one has stuck for a while. Having fallen under the influence lately of the methods touted in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook (I’m no purist, and have even come close to WPF blasphemy), I wanted to find a bread recipe that utilized the pre-soaking of flour, to help neutralize phytic acid, an anti-nutrient. This recipe does not do that perfectly, but it does do it to a point where I’m still happy with my loaf. Yes, in a perfect world, my family would only consume naturally-yeasted sourdough. But this is our reality, as it currently stands.

Two caveats. One, I make my bread using the dough hook in my Kitchenaid mixer. Two, I have a grain mill, so I can grind my own flour from whole hard white wheat berries. If you don’t have a mixer that kneads bread, you can absolutely do this by hand — but I recommend only trying this if you are experienced at making bread that way. If you don’t have a grain mill, then buy the freshest whole wheat flour you can find — probably in bulk at a health food store — make sure you taste it; if it’s bitter at all, it’s rancid.

Other notes:

  • I have read that the phytic acid in freshly-milled flour is neutralized very quickly, in just two hours. If you are using flour that is not freshly-milled, you might consider an overnight ferment.
  • I still use a very small amount of unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur is my favorite) in this recipe. I have found that it makes a huge difference in the texture of the bread. Feel free to substitute with all whole-wheat, but the texture will be different.


Soaked (pre-fermented) Wheat Sandwich Bread
makes 2 loaves

I usually start this around 8 or 9am, since the process start to finish can take 10-12 hours (hands-on time is about an hour, divided). If you’d like to do an overnight ferment, start the dough in the evening (through step 1) and let sit covered overnight before proceeding.

1) Make the sponge

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add:

  • 60 g whey or plain yogurt
  • 415 g warm water (no warmer than 110º)

(If using liquid measures, pour 4 Tbsp whey into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, and add enough warm water to equal 2 cups liquid. Pour this into your mixer bowl.)


  • 410 g (3 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour (if using volume measure, use the scoop method)
  • 40 g (2 Tbsp) honey
  • 20 g (2 Tbsp) olive oil
  • 1 tsp instant yeast

Mix using the whisk attachment on your mixer, for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, and mix for another 30 seconds. Dough should look like thick pancake batter.

In a separate bowl, combine:

  • 125 g (1 cup + 3 Tbsp) whole wheat flour
  • 150 g (1 cup + 2 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour*
  • 1 tsp instant yeast

Mix together well, then spoon this flour mixture over the top of your batter in the mixer bowl. Cover the whole area so no batter is showing. It should look like this:

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature (a warm spot if you have one) for 2-4 hours. During that time, the sponge will bubble up and burst through the flour layer. It might look like this:

2) Knead the dough

At the end of fermentation, sprinkle over the dough/flour:

  • 1 Tbsp sea salt (fine grain)

I usually pre-stir the dough a little, using the dough hook in my hand, to avoid giant flour splatters from the mixer. Attach the dough hook, and knead on low (2 on the Kitchenaid) for 10-15 minutes (I’ve kneaded, with pauses, for up to 20 minutes before gluten was fully developed).  This is what the dough looks like after kneading for about 5 minutes (not sure what happened to sound, but I’m quite sure I wasn’t saying anything important):

If your dough is not cleaning the sides of the bowl and forming a nice ball after a few minutes of kneading, add a little all-purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time, until both of these things happen.

Pay attention to the dough, making sure it doesn’t just spin on the hook. If this happens, it’s not really kneading, and gluten is not being developed:

If your dough spins on the hook, you need to reposition it in the bowl. Afterward it should be back to normal:

Kneading is complete when the gluten is developed. You can tell this is the case by the stretchiness of the dough, as in this picture, where the dough pulls in a long line off the hook (rather than breaking off quickly):

3) Let the dough rise

Place dough into a large, oiled bowl, and then spray a little more oil on the top of the dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Dough immediately after kneading:

Dough after rising:

4) Rest and shape

Divide dough in half, and knead into two balls. Let rest, covered loosely with oiled plastic wrap, for 10-15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax (this allow for easier shaping).

In the meantime, thoroughly grease your bread pans — I use Spectrum shortening. After the dough has rested, shape your loaves: roll out into a large rectangle/oval, then give a business-letter fold. Roll out into another rectangle/oval that’s as wide as the length of your pans:

Then roll this up into a log, pinch the seams, and place seam-side down into your pans:

5) Final proof

Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until the dough rises about an inch over the top of the pans (about 1 1/2 hours). About halfway through rising, preheat your oven to 350º (oven should preheat at least 1/2 hour). Place your rack second from bottom, and remove rack above. If you have a rectangular pizza stone, place it on the rack before preheating.

6) Bake

When dough is sufficiently risen, place pans directly on stone in hot oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Do not open oven door for first 20 minutes of baking.

Remove pans from oven, and loaves from pans. Loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom — or if you prefer more accuracy, and instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf (from the bottom) should read about 190-200º. Let loaves cool completely on a rack before slicing.


This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via Spain in Iowa.

22 thoughts on “I can’t write about Alinea just yet. So I’ll write about bread instead.

  1. Have you tried the yeasted buttermilk bread in the Nourishing Traditions book? I’ve tried it twice — my mixer isn’t powerful enough to mix the stiff stuff, and it takes some long and hearty hand-kneading — both times I’ve done it it hasn’t risen as much as it should, but it has a nice texture, good taste, and slices beautifully. Both times I cheated and warmed the buttermilk in the same pan while melting the butter — maybe overwarmed the buttermilk. Next time I’ll try it the right way.

    Anyway, this one sounds good, too, and I’ll have to give it a try. I wonder if you can use buttermilk instead of whey or yogurt.

    1. Marcy, I have not, but I should. I haven’t been crazy about the recipes I’ve tried from NT — the results, for me, have been very spotty (and salty). But this is one I should give a shot, for sure.

      Warming the buttermilk shouldn’t be a problem as long as it doesn’t above 110º — otherwise it can kill your yeast (and any enzymes in the milk).

      This recipe should work well w/ buttermilk too, as long as the cultures are active. You might experiment with a higher ratio of buttermilk — so maybe 1/2 cup?

      1. It might have gotten that high — I started with frozen butter, lol. I’ve had similar experience with NT recipes — have you found better resources for cooking according to these principles?

      2. No better resource, other than maybe a few blogs — but I usually don’t use their recipes either. I generally just take the basic principles and try to incorporate them into my own cooking. So, preparations of grains, beans, etc. This summer I hope to experiment more with lacto-fermented pickling.

      3. That’s about where I am, too. Despite not liking anything lacto-fermented so far, I am going to keep trying, a bit at a time. I made some red cabbage kraut around Easter and will taste it in another month maybe. There will be pickles later, and maybe try pickled beets… and I might try kombucha; the stuff I tried last spring was nearly sweet.

  2. you are just showing off.
    and i’m seriously jealous of your bread making
    and hell will freeze over before I soak flour!

  3. I probably fall under the Sarah-Jane category above since I think the soaking causes it to be a sour dough?? Is that correct to assume that is what you meant by “in a perfect world, my family would only consume naturally-yeasted sourdough?” I like to get as much preservatives as possible now in order to lower the costs of embalming after my demise. Anyway, I was wondering, when Townes couldn’t consume dairy, what bread would you feed him?

    1. No, soaking doesn’t cause it to sour. It does lacto-ferment (hopefully) enough to neutralize phytic acid, but it tastes just like regular wheat bread.

      I love sourdough, in moderation. My kids, not so much. And it can be a lot more finicky when it comes to wheat bread — I kept up with it all last spring, but then let my starter die when we moved.

      Nice forward thinking on the preservatives ; )

      When Townes was dairy-free, I made ALL of his bread(!). I just used an unfermented, straight-up bread recipe, like this one (though I’d use olive rather than canola now, since I’ve read too much bad stuff about canola).

      1. I would love to try to bake some bread as I have fond memories of my aunt baking bread. I thought it was absolutely the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. This will have to wait until I have my new, huge kitchen as promised to me by Prince Charming when move to Indy became 100% certain. I can’t wait to hear about your 18 course meal. I don’t think I could sit still that long. Do they offer a lap track for you to stroll in between course 7 and 8?

  4. Quoting from your Step 2: “Attache the dough hook …”

    Suddenly I picture you in your kitchen twirling the dough hook, tossing your suddenly-volumunous hair, while wearing sequins, while a jazzy show-tune plays in the background.

    1. well, it was obviously a freudian slip — because I always pull out the big hair when I’m using my mixer…

      (a slip that has now been edited.)

  5. Just wondering about the shaping of the bread. Does it make a difference to roll it out, then fold it, roll it, then shape it. What would be different if I just shaped it into logs and skipped those other steps? Just curious…

    1. I have no idea ; )

      NO, let’s see. I seem to remember it having to do with structuring the gluten, and making sure you roll out all the air bubbles, which are in there even if you knead it, and will just get bigger. Rolling it pops them out, so you get a nice fine crumb.

  6. Made it last week and it was great!! I had to do the rise in the pans longer than the recipe said, but other than that, had great results!! Im in the midst of another batch now:) Thanks friend!

  7. Can you share your source for the idea that freshly millled flour only takes two hours to neutralize phytic acid? This would really streamline my baking!

    1. gah!!! I have no idea. It was from a real-food blog, but my google search this morning is not helping me find it.

      I remember it having to do with the fact that phytyase is at its highest level when the grain is freshly-cracked. Since phytase is what helps dissolve phytates and release minerals, it works most quickly with fresh flour (I mill mine and immediately use it, when making bread).

      I am so sorry I can’t find it. Definitely don’t take my word for it. This is why I am not a scientist ; )

  8. Is there a reason for sprinkling the last two cups of flour on top and not mixing in before I soak it? Can’t wait to try! My last bread attempt resulted in a heavy paperweight!

    1. Well, I’m not entirely sure ; ) I based this recipe on a formula used in several artisan baking books, where a poolish is used to start a dough (a poolish is traditionally equal parts flour and water with a little yeast added — I probably use a relative high amount of yeast in this batter).

      The dry flour on top acts as a blanket to insulate the poolish, and also keeps the flour proportion at a level adequate for fermentation rather than fully activating the yeast and causing the bread dough to fully rise (otherwise the yeast would be exhausted during the ferment, and not have power to proof the loaves after they have been shaped).

      This recipe admittedly pushes the envelope of proportion of pre-ferment. It would probably be scoffed at by any artisan baker ; )

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