You can’t bake bread until you’ve mastered the art of the starter, and it’s not always easy! Utilize our tips for making a bread starter (it’s super, super-easy) and troubleshoot it if need be with baking guru Claus Meyer’s new cookbook, Meyer’s Bakery. Ready to learn how to make Meyer’s famous Øland wheat bread.
The Øland wheat bread is my favorite—our customers seem to feel the same way because our bakeries sell a huge number of Øland loaves. In fact, it’s our best-selling loaf. And this makes us very proud since the bread encapsulates our entire philosophy of using a good natural starter and plenty of tasty Nordic whole-grain heirloom flour to give the bread its distinctive character. The gluten quality in Øland wheat allows us to sufficiently hydrate our dough, yielding a really tender loaf, while imparting a nice, sweet flavor to the bread that goes incredibly well with the sour notes contained in a natural starter. The combination of plenty of water and Øland wheat ensures a tasty crust and tender crumb, the inside as soft as a doughnut, complemented by that lovely Øland wheat flavor.
If you cannot get hold of Øland wheat, don’t worry. You can replace it with any whole-grain heirloom flour, such as emmer or spelt or one of the rural varieties, which all have a sweeter aroma than many modern wheat flours.
Tip: You can use common whole-grain flour if you can’t get your hands on a whole-grain heirloom variety, but go for the highest possible protein content.
- 4 tablespoons wheat stock starter
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tablespoons bread flour
- 4 tablespoons whole-grain Øland wheat flour (or other whole-grain wheat flour)
- 2 1/4 cups cold water
- 4 tablespoons young starter
- 1 1/2 teaspons fresh organic baker's yeast
- 1 1/4 cups whole-grain Øland wheat flour (or other whole-grain wheat flour)
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the starter
Refresh your stock starter approximately 8 hours before use. Mix the ingredients in a small bowl with a removable lid, cover loosely, and let stand at room temperature. The portion of the young starter you don’t use will now become your stock starter, so save it for the next time you want to bake bread.
For the dough
Add the water and starter to a large mixing bowl. Then add the yeast, the two different types of flour, and the salt. Mix, or rather beat, the dough with a wooden spoon, while scraping the dough off the sides of the bowl from time to time (this will allow air to seep into the dough). You should give it a good beating for approximately 10 minutes or longer, taking a few breaks, until the dough has transformed from a floury "glue" to a smooth, shiny, and supple dough that easily comes away from the inside of the bowl.
Take Turns: If you're baking with a partner, collaboration will only make your dough better because you can take turns at mixing and resting.
The Gluten Test: To check whether your dough has been mixed enough, lift a little of it and very gently pull it until it becomes somewhat like parchment. If you can stretch it thinly without breaking it, you have perfect dough that's ready to rise.
For the rising
Grease the inside of a bowl or a plastic container with oil. Transfer the finished dough to the container and place a lid or some plastic wrap on top to keep it from drying out. Make a mark showing how far up the dough is on the side of the container to help you keep track of how much it rises. The dough is now ready to rise.
Let the dough stand at room temperature for about one hour. Then place it in the fridge and leave it there for at least 12 hours, until it has approximately doubled in size. It may be a good idea to check up on your dough a few hours before you want to bake your bread. If it hasn't risen sufficiently, you can take the container out of the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for a few hours. The warmth will stimulate the yeast cells and the dough will rise to completion.
For the shaping
Preheat the oven before shaping your bread. It's important that the oven is extremely hot by the time the bread is ready to bake. Depending on how quickly your oven heats up, place your baking stone or pizza stone on the middle rack and switch the oven on a good 30 minutes before you start shaping your bread. If you don't have a baking stone, you can get almost the same effect by placing a cooking sheet upside down on the middle rack.
Sprinkle plenty of flour on your work surface then carefully tip the dough out of its container onto it, without knocking the air out of the dough. use one or two large baking spatulas to properly tighten the surface of your dough. Brush flour on the side of the spatula you plan to use to tighten your dough. This keeps the outer surface taut and prevents the wet dough from clinging to it. Try to avoid trapping extra flour inside the dough because it can create unwanted pockets of flour in the finished bread.
For the baking
Now the bread is ready for baking. No extra rising time is needed since the dough is tight enough as it is. Carefully lift your dough onto a piece of nonstick parchment paper, using your spatula(s). Then gently slide the paper and dough onto the hot cookie sheet or stone already in the oven. You can also use a baking peel or a large piece of cardboard. Once you get the hang of it, you can lose the nonstick parchment paper, but while you are getting used to handling bread dough this way it's easier than using a baking peel brushed with flour.
Bake your bread for approximately 5 minutes at the oven's highest temperature (480°F to 530°F). Then lower the temperature to approximately 450°F. We say approximately because ovens are different and they bake differently, which is why the actual temperature in your oven may be significantly different from our oven, and this influences the time it takes to bake a loaf of bread. So, baking temperatures and baking times are approximations. You will need to use your senses (possibly aided by a kitchen thermometer with a probe) to assess when your bread is done.
If the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it and it is nicely dark brown in color, your bread is usually done. If you're not entirely sure, you can measure the bread's core temperature by sticking the thermometer's probe right into the center of your bread. The temperature here should be 210°F to 212°F.
When in doubt, it's better to bake your bread a little longer, but make sure you don't scorch the crust. Move the oven rack up or down a level depending on which position darkens the bread more. You can also turn down the heat or cover the bread with aluminum foil, or simply place a cookie sheet between the bread and the heating element in the oven.
When done, transfer the bread to a wire rack and let cool before slicing it. If you slice it the moment it's out of the oven you may well press down on it and ruin the texture. So do your best to ignore temptation and be patient.