When I finally got my copy of Michael Ruhlman's latest cookbook Ruhlman's Twenty, the first recipe I made was this beautiful cast iron bread. It is now my go-to bread recipe, producing a round loaf with a tender crumb, a chewy exterior, and excellent volume. This loaf also has a lightness you don't expect from 100% whole wheat bread. With only five ingredients (seven for my adapted version), the recipe is simplicity in edible form, and makes, as my husband says, an "amazingly good" bread.
Though the version in Ruhlman's Twenty is made with all-purpose white flour, I made a whole wheat version using freshly ground white whole wheat flour. For the most consistent results, I use a digital scale to measure the flour and liquids by weight. To reduce the kneading time for the whole wheat dough, I used the autolyse technique, mixing the flour, instant yeast and liquids together in the mixer bowl, then covering the mixture and letting it sit for an hour. This helps hydrate the dough and develop the gluten with less work. After the autolyse period, I worked the salt into the dough using my hands, and then kneaded the dough for ten minutes on medium speed in a mixer until the dough achieved a proper windowpane when stretched.
Borrowing an idea from the website Breadtopia, I substituted beer and vinegar for a portion of the total water required, adding a very subtle undertone of sourdough flavor. If you'd like a little stronger sourdough flavor, simply increase the amount of beer and vinegar to your taste, but keep the total amount of liquid at 330 grams for 500 grams of white whole wheat flour.
Since whole wheat flour contains less starch than refined white flour by weight, it helps to develop the flavor further by letting the dough sit overnight. In this recipe, Ruhlman offers an option to complete the second rise overnight in the refrigerator. I shaped the dough into a round for the second rise and put it on a large piece of parchment paper in the refrigerator, covering it loosely with plastic wrap. The next morning, I used the parchment paper to lift the mostly risen dough into the 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven, placing the parchment paper and dough directly into the dutch oven. This keeps the bread intact without losing any volume in the transfer.
Besides the excellent loaf Ruhlman's recipe produces, the thing I like most about this recipe is being able to take the dough straight from the refrigerator the next morning, and after an hour of letting it sit at room temperature, to simply bake it. For a solid recipe with great results, and one that is easily adaptable into a 100% white whole wheat version, this cast iron bread from Ruhlman's Twenty definitely takes a place among my all-time favorites.
white whole wheat flour: 500 grams
instant yeast: 2 grams
lukewarm water: 230 grams
pale lager beer: 85 grams
apple cider vinegar: 15 grams
coarse-ground kosher salt: 10 grams —the musician who cooks