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Baking bread with Peter Reinhart

March 5, 2008 |  1:45 pm

Img_2307Last week at the Grove's Sur La Table store, author and baker Peter Reinhart was in town teaching a bread class. (Here is Reinhart, examining the texture of a student's dough.) Reinhart is on a tour to promote his latest book, "Whole Grain Breads." From L.A. he's traveling to the Bay Area and then to Phoenix for a stop at Chris Bianco's Pizzeria Bianco -- Reinhart has also authored a book on pizzas -- before heading home to Charlotte, N.C. (The day before this class, my colleague Betty Hallock and I had the pleasure of eating pizza with Reinhart at Pizzeria Mozza. It was his first time at Mozza; during the meal, he kept his containers of sourdough starter in the restaurant's refrigerator.)

Reinhart, a longtime baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University, didn't just have his students mix dough. He sent around just-baked samples and bowls of fascinating stuff: whole grain mash in various stages of preparation, crackers made from pumpkin seed flour and agave syrup, spent grain donated from Torrance's Angel City Brewery. The spent grain, a byproduct of beer making, went into perhaps the best bread of the night: a gorgeous, nutty and unbelievably flavorful loaf, which Reinhart had baked earlier in the day, made from a combination of a "biga," a "soaker," a "starter" and a dough, along with about a cup of the brewery grains. 

Reinhart had the class make four doughs: the spent grain, a country miche, a whole wheat mash bread and a Vollkornbrot, a type of Old World rye bread. Other than the spent grain bread, the Vollkornbrot got the most attention. The dough -- made from rye starter, a mash of rye meal, malt powder and flax seeds, cocoa powder, molasses, yeast and sunflower seeds -- had the consistency of mud and barely rose at all. But the bread, the color of dark chocolate, dusted with flour and covered with rustic surface cracks, was astonishing.

Reinhart thinks dense German breads are the next bread trend. "We've done French and Italian," he said, referring to the mainstream marketing of baguettes and ciabattas. "I think that's next."  Reinhart concluded by having the class feed his two sourdough starters; this baker travels with both starters and a supply of the hard-to-find spent grain, which he checks as luggage.

"Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor"  (Ten Speed Press; 2007).

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo by Amy Scattergood