You'll note that we add a pan of water to the oven along with the bread. This water will steam during baking, and it's this steam that allows the yeast to work longer than usual in the dough, creating a larger loaf.
Excerpted from Bob's Red Mill Baking Book by John Ettinger and Bob's Red Mill Family, ©2007, Published by Running Press. All rights reserved.
Makes one 12-inch loaf
1/2 cup unsweetened multi-grain cereal (such as 7-Grain)
2 cups boiling water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
21/2 cups unbleached white flour, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
11/2 teaspoons salt
11/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons poppy and flax seeds, mixed
2 cups water
1. Place the cereal in a large bowl, and pour the boiling water on top. Stir, and let it stand until the cereal cools to between 105 degrees F. and 115 degrees F., about 15 or 20 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the yeast over the cereal and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let stand until the yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
3. Add 1 cup of the unbleached white flour to the cereal, along with the oil, sugar, and salt, and stir until smooth. Mix in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating between unbleached white and whole wheat, to form the dough. Add up to 1/4 cup more unbleached white flour if needed. Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes, adding more flour if it's sticky.
5. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough inside, turning it over in the oil, and cover with the dishtowel. Let the dough rise until it's doubles in size, about 1 hour.
6. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes, then shape into a 12 x 4-inch loaf. Sprinkle a baking sheet with 2 teaspoons of the seed mixture and place the loaf on top of the seeds. Cover the dough with the dishtowel and let it rise until almost doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes. At this point, the dough, when pressed with a finger, should dent rather than fill back in.
7. Set one of the oven racks in the center of the oven and one just below the center. Place a baking pan on the lower rack and preheat the oven to 425degreesF. Brush the dough with a little water and sprinkle with the remaining seed mixture. Using a sharp knife, cut 3 slashes across the top of the loaf. Pour 2 cups of water into the hot pan on the lower rack in the oven (water will steam) immediately place the baking sheet with the loaf in the oven.
8. Bake the loaf until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.
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