A Toothsome, Wholesome, and Whole-Grain Loaf: Peter Reinhart’s Multigrain Bread

Multi-grain bread with rasberry-tayberry jam and peanut butter

I was a strange child. When I was 12, I decided to become a vegetarian. I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. I did not like the idea of eating animals, nor did I particularly enjoy meat, other than the occasional hamburger. So it was not much of a culinary sacrifice for me for the next ten years of vegetarianism.

Just sliced multi-grain bread

As I mentioned in earlier posts, we ate out often as a family. Back in the early 1970s, this presented challenges, with my self-imposed dietary restrictions. If my grandmother were along, she immediately – and loudly – would ask the wait person, “Young man {or “young lady”}, my grandson won’t eat meat. What do you have for him on your menu?” She made this declaration, as if I were unable to read the menu or ask myself about what I could eat. Often the response was “the house salad”.

The “house salad” was indeed a vegetarian option. However, it was never the sort of colourful, nutritious, and satisfying salad one can find at many restaurants today. The salad consisted of a wedge of the definitely not trendy iceberg lettuce, with a few slices of anemic-looking “cello” tomatoes. (The “cello” referred to the cellophane, which encased a trio of perfectly shaped medium-sized tomatoes sitting in a open-weave plastic basket, similar to the baskets for cherry tomatoes or berries today; this terminology always confused me in supermarkets, as my brother took cello lessons back then, but this “cello” was pronounced differently and had nothing to do with music.)

On such house salads, there might have been a slice or two of soggy cucumber or even a few rounds of carrot. If it were a better restaurant, sometimes a handful of very salty croutons decorated the dish. Often the salad had a thick layer of gloppy Green Goddess dressing, poured liberally from an industrial-sized jug of commercial dressing, no doubt.

Learning to bake bread and Peter Reinhart’s whole-grain bread recipe At home, as the only vegetarian in my family, I tried to learn to cook and bake for myself. I tried baking breads, in addition to carob-laden desserts from health food cookbooks (it was the 1970s, after all). Funny how carob never caught on – maybe because it really does not taste anything like chocolate, nor does it have the depth, richness, or other delightful qualities which chacterize chocolate? You will not find any recipes featuring carob on IslandEAT – ever. My whole-grain breads – like the carob “treats” – never turned out particularly well in the 1970s.

Multigrain dough in pan after it has risen

So, until recently, I have shied away from yeast breads. Quick breads – banana bread, Irish soda bread, and the like – were not much of a challenge or intimidating for me, but I recalled the difficulties in baking bread with yeast. Nonetheless, I have revisited this childhood trepidation – not quite a trauma or nightmare – to overcome my fear of working with lively and living yeast.

Fresh out of the oven, the bread registers 199 degrees.

One bread I have now baked successfully twice is Peter Reinhart’s flexible recipe from The Baker’s Dozen. For a novice, the recipe may appear rather daunting, due to its length and the “sponge” step. The non-active time for rising does mean it will not be ready for about five or six hours after you have started. But, fear not, it is easy to make, if you follow the directions carefully – and if you have a good stand mixer. Otherwise, the kneading makes for a good workout.

The multigrain dough is rising nicely.

With corn meal and rolled oats in my variation, it makes a hearty yet light bread. This loaf is substantial enough to hold up as sandwich bread, which also toasts perfectly. I have enjoyed this bread with peanut butter and my own home-made raspberry-tayberry jam – a vegetarian option – or with avocado, tomato (non-cello, thank you very much), and prosciutto, for a non-vegetarian sandwich. Any way you slice it, this bread will leave you feeling wholesome, satisfied, and fearless.

Hearty, toothsome, and light for a multi-grain loaf

Multigrain Bread
Adapted from Peter Reinhart, in The Baker’s Dozen COOKBOOK

1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups (10 ounces) whole-wheat bread flour *
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose “AP” bread flour *
¼ cup buttermilk **
3 tablespoons honey
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
¾ cup of uncooked rolled oats ***
½ cup of coarse cornmeal ***
1 cup whole-wheat bread flour, or as needed
1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for glazing (optional)
1 tablespoon uncooked rolled oats, for top of loaf (optional)

    Notes on my modifications:

* Re the whole-wheat bread flour and AP flour I used, in Peter Reinhart’s recipe, he suggested “3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour”
** Peter R. called for ¼ cup of buttermilk or water; my thinking is, why opt to use water, when the crumb will be nicer and the bread will be a bit richer with buttermilk??
*** I used 3:1 oats to cornmeal, though, in Peter R.’s recipe, he suggested ”1 cup (5 ounces) total of any combination of the following: uncooked rolled oats; uncooked coarse cornmeal (or polenta, but not fine cornmeal); cooked brown or wild rice; oat or wheat bran; uncooked millet, amaranth, or quinoa; rye or kamut flour; triticale, rye, or wheat flakes.”

1. To make the sponge, combine the water, yeast, and honey in the bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Let stand until the yeast is creamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the flour and stir well, about 100 strokes (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment for 1 minute). Scrape the bowl down and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature until the sponge is bubbling vigorously (it may collapse, which is fine), about 2 hours.
3. To make the dough, add the buttermilk, 3 tablespoons honey, and the salt to t, the sponge. Attach to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. On low-speed, add the grains and mix to form a dough. The amount of dry ingredients and liquid will depend on the grains used. If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon at a time). If too moist, add more flour as needed; it could take up to a cup, depending on the multi-grain blend you use. (NB: I did not have to add any more flour or water).
4. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed until the dough is supple, about 10 minutes. The dough will feel tacky but not sticky, and neutral in temperature, neither cold nor warm.
5. Lightly butter or oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, place in the bowl, and turn to coat with the butter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature (not necessarily in a warm place) until doubled in volume, about 11/2 hours.
6. Lightly grease an 81/2 X 41/2 X 21/2-inch loaf pan with vegetable shorten· ing. Pat the dough into a 9 X 6-inch rectangle. Starting at a long end, roll the dough tightly and pinch the seam closed. Place seam side down in the prepared loaf pan. Cover loosely with a damp kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 60 to 90 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
8. If desired, lightly brush the top of the loaf with some of the egg-water glaze all and sprinkle with the oats.
9. Bake until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped or the bottom (remove the loaf from the pan to check) or a thermometer reads 195 to 200 degrees (F), after 50 minutes to 1 hour.
10. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.


8 responses to “A Toothsome, Wholesome, and Whole-Grain Loaf: Peter Reinhart’s Multigrain Bread

  1. hI DAN
    This bread is a killer !! chers from Paris Pierre

  2. Salut, Pierre.

    Merci pour tes commentaires. Tu aimerais ce pain, je crois.

    A la prochaine,


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