Whole Wheat Honey-Pepita Bread
This loaf goes out to the seedy toast lovers in the house! We make the dough with more than a half cup of whole wheat and a generous spoonful of honey, so it already has a subtly sweet, nutty flavor — a handful of pepitas gives it even more, plus a wonderful crunch. It’s delicious, and it has the kind of rustic good looks you’d expect from a bakery, but it’s very easy to make.
By this point, you’ve scrolled down to look at the directions, and you’re thinking, “Oh boy, 15 steps!” Let us put your mind at ease: This recipe is about time, not labor. You can save a little of that time by making your poolish the night before you want to bake the bread; if you get the dough going by midday, you’ll have fresh bread for dinner. And, while the bread is busy rising, you can do your own thing — work in the home office, hang out in the garden, or what have you.
All of which is to say: this bread spends up to 4 ½ hours rising. During that time, we stretch and fold it periodically, strengthening the glutens and helping the dough maintain a consistent temperature — in short, ensuring that the bread will rise and develop nice, big air pockets. We bake it in a Dutch oven, which mimics the heat and moisture of a bread oven, giving the bread a moist, airy crumb and a crispy crust.
This is a very satisfying project because it is so hands on and because you end up with a beautiful loaf of bread — and one suited to all purposes. It’s positively lovely toasted and smothered in salty, tangy European butter and a big dollop of jam. We’d also dunk a thick slice of it in a bowl of stew or soup. And because the crumb is so tender and pliable, it makes a great sandwich, too,
Yield: 1 loaf
For the poolish:
2 cups bread flour
1 cup room-temperature water (about 70°)
1 pinch instant yeast
For the bread dough:
1 ¼ cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
¼ tsp instant yeast
¾ cups warm water (about 85°)
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp kosher salt
⅓ cup raw pepitas
To make the poolish: The evening before you make your bread, combine the bread flour, room-temperature water, and instant yeast in a medium tupperware. Stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 12 to 14 hours, or until triple in size and bubbly. The bubbles should be popping on the surface.
To make the bread dough: When the poolish is ready, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, and instant yeast in a large bowl.
Scrape all of the poolish into the flour mixture, then add the slightly warm water, honey, and kosher salt. Mix with your hands, stretching and pinching the dough between your fingertips, until the ingredients are combined and the dough is smooth (it will be very sticky). Cover with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Uncover the dough and wet your hands with water to prevent sticking. Reach under the edge of the dough and grip about ⅙ of it between your thumb and forefingers. Pull the dough upwards and across itself, tucking it under the opposite side from which you pulled. Grip another ⅙ of the dough just to the right of where you last gripped it, and tuck it under on the opposite side. Repeat this folding method until you have worked your way around the dough.
Flip the dough over. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Note: the dough will become smoother, stretchier, and less sticky with each set of folds.
Repeat steps 4 and 5, sprinkling some pepitas over the dough between the folds, until you’ve used them all. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Repeat the folding process one more time. Cover and ferment at room temperature for an additional 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until double in size, airy, and very jiggly when shaken.
Turn the dough onto a clean surface and wet your hands to prevent sticking. Pick up the dough and gently stretch it into an oval. Complete a wallet fold: Fold ⅓ of the dough over itself into the center, and fold the remaining side over that. Turn the dough 90 degrees, gently stretch it, and repeat the fold.
Flip the dough over and shape it into a boule: Wrap your hands around the back of the dough and pull the dough towards you, rotate the dough 45 degrees, and pull again. Repeat this process until you’ve rounded the dough and created a tight skin around the boule.
Place a clean towel over a medium mixing bowl and generously dust it with flour. Place the boule, smooth-side down, in the towel so it falls into the bowl. Dust the dough with flour, cover with the edges of the towel, and proof at room temperature until the dough grows 1 ½ times in size, 1 to 2 hours. Note: if you press the dough with your finger and the dough barely bounces back, it’s ready to bake.
45 minutes before baking, place a large Dutch oven with the lid on into the oven and preheat to 500°.
Uncover the dough and gently flip it onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a bread knife held at a 45-degree angle, score a ½”-deep line down the center of the bread.
Using oven mitts, remove the Dutch oven from the oven, gently place the bread inside, cover, and bake for 20 minutes.
Using oven mitts, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and reduce the oven temperature to 450°. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until the crust is well browned and the internal temperature of the bread reaches 210° on an instant-read thermometer.
Carefully transfer the boule to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours. The bread can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.