People often ask me with abject incredulity, You really make all your own bread? How do you have time? There are ways, my friends. And this is one of them: Make one batch of bread dough to use all week. There are two main advantages to this: 1) it is more efficient to make dough once and then pull off pieces of the levain throughout the week to make different loaves, keeps the variety AND 2) this way your bread is fresher. I used to make monster loaves that were the size of my sink, and then I would chip away at them over a week or two, and try to pretend like I didn’t care that they got stale, or I would go to extreme lengths to preserve the bread with saran and bags and, well, too much equipment. So these small portion breads, pulled from a bigger batch of prepared dough, are pretty slick. This one is a whole wheat moon and stars loaf– moon and stars as tribute to what I looked at for 10 hours during my overnight driving shift on KP and my last road trip across the country for the holidays. And by last, I don’t mean most recent.
Moon and Stars Bread
Adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day Book (thank you for the gift Kim Wiseman!!)
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 cups lukewarm water
1 to 2 tablespoons of whole seed mixture for sprinkling on top crust: sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, and or anise
I do it differently than the technique recommended in the book for two reasons: 1) I use sourdough starter, never yeast, and NEVER vital wheat gluten (that is sooo cheating) and 2) Tartine Bread book changed my life, and in my mind, they are the originators of the super-hydrated bread dough technique that does not require kneading—so I stick to their method with little deviation.
Start with mixing the water to and the starter to form a very wet dough. Add the flours, do not add salt yet. Mix this all up and wait forty minutes before adding the salt in a little bit of water. This gives the dough some time for the gluten molecules to align (as they must)—and because salt can retard sourdough growth, giving 40 minutes for there to be a jump start is a good idea. At this point, you can let the dough rise for hours and hours. Then you can put the dough in the fridge and pull off pieces from it to use for baking fresh bread all week.
Cover loosely (leave lid open a crack) and allow to rise for two hours at room temperature (if you decreased the yeast, you’ll need more time). NEVER PUNCH DOWN or intentionally deflate. The dough will rise and then begin to collapse. Refrigerate and use over the next 14 days, tearing off one-pound loaves as you need them.
On baking day, cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough (about a pound), using a serrated knife or a kitchen shears:
Now, quickly shape the loaf into a batard and pull the ends toward you like a crescent. DON’T KNEAD or otherwise knock all the gas out of the loaf:
Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest on a pizza peel covered with cornmeal or parchment for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough. This is longer than our 1st book because whole grains take a longer rest than white doughs. Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise; our loaves depend more on “oven spring.”
Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on a middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other rack that won’t interfere with rising bread.
Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water and sprinkle with seed mixture.
Slash the loaf with 1/4-inch deep parallel cuts across the top so the moon starts to look like a shell. Use a serrated bread knife held perpendicularly to the loaf, or scissors.
Slide onto the hot stone and carefully pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray. After a 30-minute bake, cool on a cooling rack, and serve however you’d like.
Winter cross-country drives
offer me the midnight prayer
I call: Wyoming.
Each night, while you sleep,
trucks crawl this country upon
dark, icy ribbons.