This is one of our family’s “go to” breads (the other one being a dark sourdough). It’s similar to a German Volkorn, but with less rye to make it ligher. My version, I believe, provides the perfect balance; hearty yet soft, good for sandwiches but also for toast, wholemeal but not dense, and replete with whole grains which add lots of texture and makes it really healthy.
I have tried several multigrain recipes, including a multigrain struan by the well regarded Peter Reinhart (too white, and slightly too sweet), a multigrain & honey loaf by Dan Lepard (insufficient whole grains), to the volkorn that we made at the bakery and was similar to the one in Dean Brettschneider’s “Bread” book (which has a good mix of grains, but the flour component is all white).
Baking bread at home is a completely different ball game to baking it commercially. This recipe is meant for home baking and is truly foolproof, provided you follow the steps religiously. Contrary to popular perception, bread making can fit into your schedule (see notes).
This is one bread where I would strongly recommend using mechanical help. The inclusion of a significant quantity of whole grains makes kneading by hand more tedious. I make it using our stand mixer. If you have a bread maker, use the “dough” function to speed the kneading. I haven’t tried using a food processor, but know from other blogs that people have have had some success in using the dough blade setting of a processor to make the kneading easier.
This bread needs strong kneading (unlike a sourdough) which is much easier in a stand mixer. If you knead by hand, watch this video by Richard Bertinet, which makes relatively easy work of the kneading process and is more effective than more rigorous kneading methods. Although in the video, Bertinet is making a plain dough, the process is the same for a grain filled dough. It just takes longer to get the same level of dough development.
This bread uses instant yeast, so it’s easier to make than one using wild yeast/levain . There are 2 videos below to show the ‘stretch & fold” technique and also do demonstrate the final shaping of the loaf. The shaping technique works for any tin loaf that you are baking.
Do watch the videos and read the recipe notes before you start off. The details will help plan and organise things for easier execution.
There are also some very good blogs focusing on baking bread, which are a worth a look at if you are interested in baking bread at home.
The Versatile Multigrain Bread
My baking timetable is based on soaking the grains overnight, starting the dough in the morning and finishing baking by mid afternoon. You can change that to work around your day and leave the grains to soak for longer (for up to 24 hours), prepare the dough late afternoon and bake the bread in the evening. (Also see note below about refrigerating the dough).
The flours- I like to use stoneground wholemeal and unbleached bread flour, but you can substitute regular versions of both. It's important to use "bread" or 'strong' flour as you need a high gluten or protein content in the flour to support the grains in the bread. Else the bread will be too dense.
Remaining ingredients for dough
Day 0 - pm.
Start the recipe by soaking the whole grains. Place all the soaker ingredients, including the warm water and salt in a mixing bowl. Cover and leave to soak overnight. If your kitchen is hot, place in the fridge.
Day 1 - 9am
"Autolyse" – Mix both the flours and water either by stirring with a spoon, or if you are using a standing mixer, mix on the lowest setting until no dried bits of flour are visible. Cover and leave on the counter for one hour.
Day 1 - 10am
Add the soaked grains and all the other ingredients into the bowl, and start mixing on a slow speed. Once the dough looks mixed, increase the speed to a medium low setting and mix for two minutes, followed by a two minute rest. Repeat three times so in total six minutes of mixing and six minutes of rest time.
If mixing by hand, use the “slap and fold” method as demonstrated in Bertinet’s video and work the dough until it reaches a "rough window pane test". See next step.
Whether kneading in a mixer or by hand, the dough should be kneaded until it passes “a rough window pane test.” See photo. I say rough, because at this point the dough should be somewhat, but not fully developed. It won't pass the windowpane test (where the dough can be stretched even thinner) but the dough begins to hold together when stretched.
Day 1- 10:15am
Transfer the dough on to a floured counter. Acting as if the dough has four corners, stretch and pull each corner and bring it back to the middle of the dough. Then flip the ball of dough over and place again in the oiled bowl (See my video to see how it's done).
Lightly oil a bowl large enough to allow the dough to double. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover with a plastic shower cap or cling wrap. Leave in a warm place (23 to 26°c) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check the dough after 45 minutes. At this point it should have increased in volume, but may not have doubled. If it has barely risen, leave for another 15 minutes.
Day 1 - 11:15am
You can see from the photo that the dough has risen. Place the dough on the counter and gently “knock back”, by doing another "stretch & fold". Cover and leave for 30-45 minutes until it’s doubled.
Day 1 - 11:45am
Begin preheating the oven to 230°C and place a baking tray in the bottom third of the oven.
Day 1 - 11-45 or 12pm (check that dough has doubled)
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and stretch and fold it to mould into a roundish shape. Leave the dough on the counter, and cover with the upturned bowl. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Day 1 - 12:15pm
Remove the cover and flatten the dough into a rough oval shape. (Watch the shaping video). Stretch the left side of the dough and fold into the centre and use the side of your palm to push the edge of the dough into the centre to seal. Repeat the same action with the right side of the dough, by folding and bringing it into the centre. The idea is to create some tension on the outside surface of the dough, which will form the exterior of the bread. Now roll the top third down into the centre and repeat the same process by using the side of the palm to join the side to centre. Roll the top down to create a nice package and pinch the seam together.
Now wet the outside of the loaf by either spraying it with a water spray bottle, or by using your fingers dipped in some water.
In a flat baking tray mix together the ingredients for the topping. Roll the wet loaf in this oat mixture to coat evenly all over.
Lightly grease a deep loaf tin (see note below) . Please the loaf seam side down in the tin and use your knuckles to press down firmly level the top.
Using a sharp knife make a deep cut down the centre of the loaf. Alternatively use a pair of sharp kitchen scissors and snip the top of the loaf 3-4 times. Cover the tin with a shower cap or cling wrap and leave to prove in a warm place (ideally 28-30C) for 45 min to 1 hour.
Day 1 - 1pm
You know that the loaf is fully risen and ready to bake, when it reaches the top of the tin and crests over. If you're unsure, you can try the poke test. Flour your finger and poke the top of the bread gently. The indent should be visible and only slowly fill back. This is the point at which the bread is ready to be baked. If the indent springs back too quickly, leave for another 10 minutes.
Once the bread is ready to go into the oven, spray some water on the top of the bread and then place on the preheated tray in the oven. Create steam in the oven by throwing a few ice cubes on the tray in the oven, and quickly close the door. After a few minutes, open the door a crack and spray some more water using a spray bottle.
Bake the bread for 20 minutes at 230C, then lower the oven temperature to 200°C and bake for another 30 minutes. At the end of the baking time take the tin out of the oven, invert carefully using an oven glove and tap the bottom of the bread. It should sound hollow when knocked on with your knuckles. If in doubt, and you possess an instant read thermometer, check the internal temperature of the bread. It should read 96°C. Bake longer if needed.
Day 1 - 2pm
Let's the loaf cool fully on a wire rack before you slice it.
- There is no exact rule about the mix of grains you use for making the soaker. I like to use a variety of grains, so I use a mix of rye and barley. However you can easily use broken wheat or buckwheat, or any other broken grains you enjoy. The total weight of grains/seeds you need is 215g for this recipe.
- Weighing out the soaker grains takes time, so when I weigh the grains, I do multiple batches for 3-4 loaves and keep in separate jars ready for use (see photo). Once done, it’s easy to just tip the contents of the bottle and soak in the warm water and salt, the night before you intend to make the bread.
- A weighing scale is essential for making bread. I use a scale even for small quantities like the yeast and salt, as my scales are accurate for tiny quantities. Else use the teaspoon measures provided.
- All proving timings are based on an ambient kitchen temperature of between 23 and 26°C. If your kitchen is cooler it could take longer, and you have to rely on the dough doubling as an indication, rather than the timings given. In Singapore, if I left the dough on the kitchen counter, it would develop much faster, and I would have to slow it down by finding a cooler spot. As a general guide, use the shorter timings for a warm kitchen and the longer timings for a cooler kitchen. One solution to a cold kitchen is to place the dough in the oven with the pilot light on.
- The best thing about bread making is that you can work around your schedule. At any point in the proofing process, if you need to get suspend the process (and it has happened to me), just pop the dough, well covered, in the fridge. The dough will continue to proof but very slowly. If you do this, you will need to then judge timing based on the "size" of the dough. for e.g. doubling the dough in the fridge will take a lot longer.
- Loaf tins come in different sizes and the ones with sloping sides are generally meant for loaf cakes and not bread. Tins for making bread have straight sides and tend to be deeper. I always use a deep tin for making bread and this recipe is perfect for a standard loaf tin, which measures 20cmx12cmx11cm. If you are using a cake tin you might have excess dough, which you can use to make a few rolls.
- The best way to avoid dough sticking to your fingers is to wet them. It's much easier than flouring your fingers. Use water for all dough handling, except at the very end when you are doing the final shaping as you need to keep the outside of the dough dry.
- If you maintain a sourdough starter, add 80 g of active levain to the bread.
- “Autolyse” is a bread baking term, which just means letting the flour and water mix rest, which aids gluten formation, and is particularly useful when using whole grain flour as it allows the bran to hydrate fully and make the subsequent kneading a lot easier.
- This is a perfect bread for toasting from frozen. If you have any left over after two days slice and freeze it in a ziplock bag.
- If you have any topping (the oats mixture) left over add to your porridge or use for the next loaf.