Generally speaking, you get the best breads when you work with bread flour, especially if you want to create “rustic” type breads that have an open crumb with lots of large air pockets. The challenge comes when you want to use other types of flour to make a loaf of bread. We may want to live off white bread alone, but whole grain breads can be a nice change from time to time, too!
For this loaf, I used some whole wheat flour and some barley flour, but still made up most of the dough with bread flour to give the loaf the consistency and texture that I wanted. Even though the whole wheat and the barley flour make up less than half of the total flour in the dough, the loaf has an attractive “whole grain” look and feel to it. Because whole wheat flour is lower in protein than bread flour, my dough would have lost some elasticity if I used it for the bulk of the bread. The same goes for barley flour. Worst case scenario, the bread would have ended up being crumbly (it didn’t, fortunately!). The crumb is not tight, but isn’t wide open, either, and the bread is both moist and chewy inside.
I should also mention that this loaf has an excellent flavor, a little bit nutty and very slightly sweet. The whole wheat and barley flours are big contributors to this, as is the long, overnight rise for the sponge. If you don’t have barley flour, you can use other non-wheat flours as a substitute. Rye flour would work well, and so would oat flour. You could even simply use more whole wheat flour in the recipe.
Country Wheat Bread
2 cups water, divided
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
3-3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup barley flour
2 tbsp honey
2 1/2 tsp salt
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup water with the yeast, 1 cup of bread flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Stir well, then cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, until slightly bubbly. Refrigerate overnight (12-24 hours). Let sponge come to room temperature before proceeding.
Into the bowl with the sponge, add remaining cup of water, 1 cup of bread flour, barley flour, honey and salt. Stir well. Gradually incorporate remaining flour (add 1/4 cup at a time), until dough is sticky, but not wet, and is somewhat elastic. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface an knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Try not to add too much flour as you work the dough. It is ok if it is a little soft,rather than stiff. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 2 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently deflate, then shape into an oblong loaf by folding each of the sides into the center and pinching the edges together to seal. Place, seam-side down, on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover with a clean, damp dishtowel and let rise for about 45-60 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F.
Slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife, then bake for about 30-35 minutes, until bread has an internal temperature of about 200F (use a meat thermometer in the bottom of the loaf to check for doneness). Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Makes 1 large loaf.