This whole-wheat loaf is excellent for sandwiches, toast or eating plain. It has a light, springy texture and a mellow, slightly sweet grain taste from cracked wheat. The crust is crisp when the bread is first baked, but gradually softens as it stands. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.
- Mix dough: Stir bulgur (or cracked wheat) and boiling water in a medium bowl. Thoroughly stir 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, 1 3/4 cups bread flour, wheat germ (if using), salt and yeast in a 4-quart (or larger) bowl. Thoroughly stir 1 3/4 cups ice water, honey and oil into the bulgur. Vigorously stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. The dough should be moist and a bit sticky, but fairly stiff. If the mixture is too dry, stir in just enough additional ice water to blend the ingredients, but don’t overmoisten. If the dough is too wet, stir in just enough bread flour to stiffen it slightly. Lightly coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- First rise: Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70°F) for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once partway through the rise. For convenience (and improved flavor), you may refrigerate the dough for 3 to 12 hours before starting the first rise.
- Second rise: Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch (or similar large) loaf pan with oil. Vigorously stir the dough to deflate. If it is soft, stir in just enough bread flour to yield a firm but moist dough (it should be fairly hard to stir). Transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly coat the top with oil. Smooth and press the dough evenly into the pan using a well-oiled rubber spatula or your fingertips. Evenly dust the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour, smoothing it out with your fingertips. Using well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut a 1/2-inch-deep slash down the length of the loaf. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
- Let rise at warm room temperature until the dough nears the plastic, 1 to 2 1/2 hours. (For an accelerated rise, see Tip.) Then gently remove the plastic and let the dough continue to rise until it extends 1 inch above the pan rim, 15 to 45 minutes more (depending on temperature).
- 20 minutes before baking: Position a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 375°F.
- Bake, cool, slice: Bake the loaf on the lower rack until the top is nicely browned, 55 to 65 minutes. Cover with foil and continue baking until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until an instant-read thermometer registers 204-206°), 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the loaf out on the rack and let cool to at least warm before serving. The loaf is good warm but slices best when cool.