Sunday, 19 April 2009

Rustic European Whole Wheat Bread

This rustic European-style loaf is made with whole wheat and walnuts. The bread is round shaped and slightly porous. It is a rather wet dough so it’s best to form it by the sink so you can wet your hands frequently to keep the dough from sticking.

To begin the process, you make an Italian biga in the bread machine and let it sit overnight. Use 1/3 cup of the biga and mix the rest of the ingredients using the dough setting on the bread machine.

Using the bread machine definitely makes the dough easier to work with. After about 20 minutes in the bread machine, we'll take the dough out and let it rise and bake in the La Cloche. Or, if you prefer, you can use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and tented with foil to rise then bake it on a baking stone.

Italian Biga for Wheat Breads

Adapted from: Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts

Note: The longer you allow the biga or homemade starter to stand, the more sour the flavor will become. 


  • 1/4 teaspoon bread machine yeast
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spring water
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic bread flour


Add the yeast, water, and flour to the bread machine pan and process on the dough setting until the starter has mixed for 5 minutes, then turn off the bread machine.

Let the biga sit in the bread machine or in a covered jar overnight, or for a minimum of 10 hours. I let my biga sit for 12 hours before using it in the recipe.

Remove the starter to a 2-quart glass or plastic storage container. Cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, store it in the warm kitchen for a few days, stirring from time to time to further "sour" the taste. Feed this starter as you would any other: Add 1/2 cup each organic bread flour and spring water, knead thoroughly, cover, and set aside n the warm kitchen overnight or until it becomes bubbly and active again.

A Rustic Round of Whole Wheat and Walnuts

Adapted from: Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts

Makes: one 1 1/2-pound loaf


  • 1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
  • 1/3 cup Italian biga
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup black walnuts or English walnuts if black are not available, or more to taste.


Add the yeast, flours, biga, salt, and water to the bread machine pan.

Process on the dough setting just until mixed and kneaded, about 20 minutes.

Remove the dough from the pan to a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set to rise for 4 hours, or until tripled in bulk.

The dough can be left alone to rise in the refrigerator overnight or for as long as 24 hours if need be. If you leave it in the refrigerator for the long, cool rise, bring it back to room temperature before shaping.

Lightly flour a work surface close to your sink. With wet hands, scoop the tripled dough out of the bowl onto the work surface.

This is the scooped dough. Although mine sort of just plopped out.

Flatten it into a 12-inch disk.  Sprinkle the surface with the walnuts

Press them into the dough with flat palms.  Pull the sides of the dough into the middle and form a tight, smooth ball.

Line a rimless cooking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with flour.  Place the dough ball on the parchment paper and tent it with heavy-duty aluminum foil or cover with a large bowl, making sure the dough has plenty of room to rise and will not touch the foil or bowl and stick.

The dough was really wet and I didn't want to add additional flour so I decided to let it rise and bake in the
La Cloche rather than putting it on a baking sheet to rise.

Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone (if using) in place to 450 degrees F.

When the loaf has doubled, carefully slide the parchment paper with the dough on it onto the hot stone. After about 15 minutes, pull the paper out from under the loaf to help insure a crisp bottom.

Bake until browned and crusty, 30 to 35 minutes. Since I baked the loaf in the La Cloche, I let it bake about 40 minutes.

Cool the bread completely on a rack.  It will keep in a brown paper bag for up to 4 days.

This loaf is delicious! Crusty on the outside, but chewy on the inside.

This bread is very good by itself. In fact, I made a meal of it. It's very hearty (and healthy for that matter), but not too heavy. It tastes great warm with butter or you can spread other yummy stuff on it. I prefer just butter.

Happy Baking!

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