Ken Forkish's Overnight 40% Whole Wheat Bread

May  7, 2020
6 Ratings
Photo by Alan Weiner
  • Prep time 17 hours 20 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Makes 2 loaves, each about 1 1/2 pounds, and is suitable for focaccia
Author Notes

My preferred ratio of whole wheat flour to white flour in a brown bread is 30 to 40 percent whole wheat. Sometimes I bake a 75 percent whole wheat bread for the extra fiber, but from a purely gastronomic point of view, using just 30 to 40 percent gives the flavor and texture I like best. With this ratio, the final bread has good volume and a light, open texture, along with the nuttiness and depth of flavor whole wheat provides.

In this recipe, the shaped loaves spend the night in the refrigerator rising very slowly; this allows the dough to develop more of the complexity of flavors that come from an extended, slow rise. We use this technique for much of the bread we bake at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, especially our levain breads, but it works for straight doughs too, as here. The schedule in this recipe makes it possible for you to bake the bread early the next morning. Baking this bread is a very nice way to begin the day, perhaps on a Sunday morning, filling the air with baking aromas (unless you live in Eugene).

I like this bread for pretty much any use: for sandwiches, as croutons, grilled, toasted, or just as table bread. Or try using stale pieces of this bread for savory bread pudding or panzanella. You can use this recipe schedule and yeast quantity as a starting point for variations using different blends of flours. If you decide to experiment with the ratio of whole wheat to white flour, keep in mind that the more whole grain flour you use, the more water you’ll need to achieve the same dough consistency.

PROOF TIME: 12 to 14 hours
SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Mix at 1 p.m., shape into loaves at 6 p.m., proof in the refrigerator overnight, and bake at 8 a.m. the next morning. The bread will come out of the oven a little after 8:45 a.m.

Reprinted with permission from Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish copyright © 2012. Photographs by Alan Weiner copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Food52

What You'll Need
  • 4 2/3 cups (600 grams) white flour (60% baker's percentage)
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (400 grams) whole wheat flour (40% baker's percentage)
  • 3 1/2 cups (800 grams) 90°F to 95°F (32°C to 35°C) water (80% baker's percentage)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (22 grams) fine sea salt (2.2% baker's percentage)
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) instant dry yeast (0.3% baker's percentage)
  1. Autolyse Mix the 600 grams of white flour and the 400 grams of whole wheat flour by hand in a 12-quart round tub or similar container. Add the 800 grams of 90°F to 95°F (32°C to 35°C) water and mix by hand just until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Mix Sprinkle the 22 grams of salt and the 3 grams (¾ teaspoon) of yeast evenly over the top of the dough. Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn’t stick to you. (It’s fine to rewet your hand three or four times while you mix.) Reach underneath the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed. Use the pincer method to fully integrate the ingredients. Using your thumb and forefinger, make five or six pincer cuts across the entire mass of dough. Then fold the dough over itself a few times. Repeat, alternately cutting and folding until all of the ingredients are fully integrated and the dough has some tension in it. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then fold for another 30 seconds or until the dough tightens up. The target dough temperature at the end of the mix is 77°F to 78°F (25°C to 26°C). Cover the tub and let the dough rise.
  3. Fold This dough needs three or four folds (see pages 69–70 for instructions). I recommend doing all of the folds in the first 2 hours after mixing the dough. When the dough is triple its original volume, about 5 hours after mixing, it’s ready to be divided.
  4. Divide Moderately flour a work surface about 2 feet wide. Flour your hands and sprinkle a bit of flour around the edges of the tub. Tip the tub slightly and gently work your floured free hand beneath the dough to loosen it from the bottom of the tub. Gently ease the dough out onto the work surface without pulling or tearing it. With floured hands, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the area in the middle, where you’ll cut the dough, with a bit of flour. Cut the dough into 2 equal-size pieces with a dough knife or plastic dough scraper.
  5. Shape Dust 2 proofing baskets with flour. Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight ball. Place each seam side down in its proofing basket.
  6. Proof Place each basket in a nonperforated plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, 12 to 14 hours after the loaves went into the refrigerator, they should be expanded but not overflowing their proofing baskets. There should be about a 2-hour window when the cold loaves, still in the refrigerator, are optimally proofed. They can go straight from the refrigerator into the oven. There is no need for or benefit in allowing them to come to room temperature first.
  7. Preheat At least 45 minutes prior to baking, put a rack in the middle of the oven and put 2 Dutch ovens on the rack with their lids on. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). The bread can go into the oven right out of the refrigerator. There is no need for it to warm up first. If you only have 1 Dutch oven, put the second loaf into the refrigerator about 20 minutes before baking the first loaf and bake the loaves sequentially, giving the Dutch oven a 5-minute reheat after removing the first loaf.
  8. Bake For the next step, please be careful not to let your hands, fingers, or forearms touch the extremely hot Dutch oven. Invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down while it was rising—the seam side. Use oven mitts to remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid. Carefully place the loaf in the hot Dutch oven seam side up. Use mitts to replace the lid, then put the Dutch oven in the oven. Maintain the temperature at 475°F (245°C). Bake for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the lid and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until at least medium dark brown all around the loaf. Check after 15 minutes of baking uncovered in case your oven runs hot. Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a rack or set the loaf on its side so air can circulate around it. Let the loaf rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

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  • Dirk Shumaker
    Dirk Shumaker
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2 Reviews

Dirk S. September 8, 2020
Moist, flavorful, great for sandwiches...Don’t have the book (yet) so got some help from Google for step 3. Great result for very modest amount of work.
Michael B. May 9, 2020
After a few years of self-taught bread baking, mostly sourdough, I bought Ken Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast. That was a game-changer. When friends and family express a real interest in baking, I send them a copy. Most of them create masterpieces on the first try after reading because the section on fundamentals—complete with pictures—is easily understood and a key to all of the recipes which follow, this one included. If you are reading this recipe and don’t already have a copy of Flour Water Yeast Salt, do yourself the biggest possible favor and buy a copy. And just for fun, try the recipe first and then again after your read just the first part of the book. Lots of things will start to become very apparent and you will not look at bread baking the same again. There are certainly other good books on the subject out there, but this is the Bible I use and it will work for anyone. Full disclosure, I don’t recall ever using this exact recipe before, but if I did, I’m sure it produced a terrific loaf, all of the others in Flour Water Salt Yeast have.