Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peter Reinhart's Light Wheat Bread

light wheat bread

You know what I love about fall? It's not too hot to bake a loaf of bread. I mean, I like the pretty leaves and I like sweaters and boots, but is there anything better than the smell of bread baking? The loaf you see here is the one I've been baking every week or two for the better part of a year.

harvest grains

The recipe is from Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which is tied with Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone with my number one favorite cook book. It's a mix of white and wheat flours, and I like to add half a cup of this grain-and-seed blend from King Arthur just to up the hippie factor. The resulting bread is flavorful from the whole wheat flour but not overhwelmingly nutty, so it stands up brilliantly to a variety of sandwich fillings.


It's also a dough that is really pleasant to work with. If you've never made a loaf of bread before but you're looking for a place to start, give this one a try. The dough comes together easily and it bakes up with a nice tight crumb.

making bread

And let's be honest, we all know the ultimate test of a bread is how well it toasts. Voila:


Peter Reinhart's Light Wheat Bread

Dudes, if you're baking regularly (or if you wish you were), get on the bandwagon and get a scale. I've been using this one for 3 years, and it makes everything so much easier. Just start pouring flour in the bowl and hit the tare button before you add the next ingredient. Who needs mulitple measuring devices? I dirty exactly one spoon for this whole recipe.

11.25 ounces (2 1/2 cups) bread flour (you could use all purpose, too)
6.75 ounces (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
.75 ounces ( 1 1/2 Tbsp) sugar (or honey, added with the water instead)
.38 ounces (1 3/4 tsp) kosher salt
1 ounce (3 Tbsp) powdered milk
.17 ounce (1 1/2 tsp) instant yeast*
1 ounce (2 Tbsp) shortening (or butter), room temperature
10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) water, warm (slightly warmer than body temp, 100-110F is perfect)
spray oil (I use Pam)

Mix together the flours, sugar, salt, powdered milk and instant yeast in a large bowl. Add the shortening and stir to mix it in a bit. Add the water and stir until the ingredients clump together in a ball. Then dump the whole mess out on a lightly floured counter and begin to knead. It should take about ten minutes of fairly vigorous kneading to get it to where you want it, which is smooth and cohesive, maybe a little tacky but certainly not sticky. You can add a bit of flour as you knead if the dough is sticking.

You can also do this in a mixer, just measure the ingredients into the mixer bowl and attach the dough hook, then turn the mixer on low and add the water in a slow stream, it should come together in a ball, then you can turn up the speed to medium and knead in the machine for 6 minutes or so.

With either method, when the dough is ready it will spring back if you poke it with your finger.

Now wipe any crumbs out of the mixing bowl (no need to wash it) and mist it with spray oil. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it alone for an hour or until it doubles in size. When it's doubled, it will feel pillowy and soft if you touch it gently.

Once the dough has doubled, spray the counter with oil and dump the dough out onto it. Press it into a rectangle about 6 by 10 inches, it will deflate as you press it. Starting at a short end, roll the rectangle into a log, pressing each seam tight with your fingers as you go. When you have a loaf shaped log, pinch the seam closed and roll it on the counter top to smooth it out. Spray a loaf pan with oil and put the loaf in, seamed side down. I usually squish it down a bit, trying to even it out some. Cover it gently with plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Let the loaf rise until it just crests the lip of the pan. When it has risen, Use a serrated knife to slash down the center of the loaf about 1/4" deep. Put the loaf in the oven. After 30 minutes, rotate it for even baking and bake another 15-20 minutes. The loaf is done when it's evenly golden brown all over and sounds hollow if you tap it. If you take the temperature of the finished loaf, it should read between 190F and 200F. Make sure you let the bread cool for at least an hour before you slice it, toast it, and enjoy it with some delicious fried eggs.

*Instant yeast is a lot like active dry yeast but it doesn't need to be proofed or allowed to bloom in warm water first and I prefer it because it's easier to use. If you only have active dry yeast, just use the same amount and let it get foamy in the water first.


  1. every blogger is baking bread lately. i need to try this!


  2. Great photos! Thanks for posting.
    Nice article, thanks for the information.
    Bakery Equipment

  3. This is the best bread recipe I have ever made. It has become the standard in our house. I double the recipe to make 2 loaves, approximately every weekend. Delicious

  4. Boy,I tell ya, I don’t seem to be very skilled with homemade bread, at least not consistently. My bread just won’t rise like it’s supposed to, and it also won’t pass the poke test where it’s supposed to spring back to indicate it’s been kneaded enough. I kneaded for almost 15 minutes by hand, but it was still pretty dense and not springy. What am I doing wrong?