Published March 1, 2006.
Some multigrain bread is better suited to propping open a door than making a sandwich. We wanted a light but flavorful loaf--and we didn't want to spend all day making it.
Too often multigrain bread has great flavor, but the quantity of ingredients weighs it down so much that the loaf becomes as dense and as heavy as a brick. On the other end of the spectrum are loaves with a nice, light sandwich-style texture but so little grain that they're hard to distinguish from plain old white bread.
We wanted a multigrain bread with great flavor and a light texture. We also wanted a recipe that would require just a few hours in the kitchen and no special equipment.
Our first challenge was to develop more gluten (a protein made when flour and water are mixed and that gives baked goods structure) in the dough, as early tests showed that the whole grains were impeding its development. Because the protein content of any flour is an indicator of how much gluten it will produce, we thought first to switch out all-purpose flour for higher-protein bread flour. But bread flour only made the bread chewier, not less dense. The solution to the problem was twofold: Long kneading preceded by an autolyse, a resting period just after the initial mixing of water and flour that gives flour time to hydrate. This step proved vital, not only ramping up the development of gluten (which depends on water) but also making the dough less tacky and so easier to work with. The result was a loaf that baked up light yet chewy, without being tough. Now that we had just the right texture, we had to figure out the best way to incorporate grains into the bread. After driving from store to store to collect a variety of individual grains, we finally hit upon a convenient, one-stop-shopping alternative: packaged 7-grain cereal. When added to the dough straight from the package, some of the grains remained quite hard. The simple solution was to make a thick porridge with the cereal before adding it to the dough. A final step of rolling the shaped loaves in oats yielded a finished, professional look.list of recipes