Why This Recipe Works
Although multigrain bread often has great flavor, 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 both great flavor and balanced texture.
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 this move only made the bread chewier, not less dense. The solution 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 combination also made the dough less tacky and therefore easier to work with. The result was a loaf that baked up light yet chewy, without being tough. To incorporate grains into the bread, we hit upon a convenient, one-stop-shopping alternative: packaged seven-grain hot cereal. To soften the grains, we made 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.