Whole-Wheat Multigrain Levain Bread

You can’t judge a book by its cover. You can judge a loaf of bread by its look.

Start at the crust: a dark color, indicative of good caramelization, and a nice crunch. The ear on top by the score (where dough is cut before baking) should show dark and distinct layers with color variation. These are markers of proper dough treatment. On the inside: the open, large and irregular holes are signs that the bread had a long natural fermentation. If you are the baker, the nutty aroma wafting from the oven is an early signal that a good loaf is underway. Finally, it’s all about taste. All of the above crust and crumb characteristics should translate into remarkable bread flavor.

The higher the percentage of whole-wheat flour in the dough, the harder it is to maintain the open crumb structure. When I cut open this whole-wheat multigrain bread made with 50% whole wheat and found the relatively large irregular holes, I was overjoyed. One percent instant yeast was added to leaven the bread in addition to natural yeast. Sometimes it is convenient to reach for instant yeast. When you are short on time waiting for hours and opt for a shortened fermentation process. This bread took only two to three hours total for the initial and final rise. The addition of honey enhances the sweet note while tempering the tangy flavor associated with lengthy fermentation. There is a 100% naturally leavened version of this bread: please see sourdough seeded bread for details.

You can judge a loaf of bread by its look

The liquid levain and the soaker (adding water to the grains) were prepared overnight before mixing the final dough in the morning. I used a bag of King Arthur Flour’s grains blend, an assortment of whole oat berries, millet, rye and wheat flakes, as well as flax, poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds. They are all suitable grains and seeds for the soaker. Whatever combination of grains and seeds you desire to use should be OK. Why not?

This bread is a real standout from a nutritional standpoint: 50% whole wheat flour and 18% grains. Not all the multigrain breads in the market-place are created equal. Check the ingredient list. For all you know, multigrain might mean refined wheat flour with a dash of refined corn flour. You’ll be surprised how small the percentages of whole wheat and grains are in the “multigrain” breads, unlike the real deal that comes out from your own oven.

The beautiful darker shade of brown of the crust came from honey. This breads were presented in two different looks: one round, one oval. Whatever shape it took on, each had an invariably complex flavor; every bite was as interesting as the last. Can’t say the same about most breads out there of the whole-wheat varieties!

Yes, you are the judge.

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