For me, the cooling temperatures this time of year bring out an irresistible urge to hunker down and bake bread. In particular, earthy seedy whole grain breads. Something tasty, and toasty; slathered with the farm fresh butter I scored at the green market and probably one of the 72 kinds of jam I’ve socked away. I’ve sort of convinced myself that since I’m not working out as much, I should eat more whole grains and the effects will offset each other. Perfectly logical, don’t you think?
I’ve never bought into the whole low carb thing. Geez, have the toast and love it. If you’re going to eat bread – and boy, do I think you should – make it worthwhile. Sneak some whole grains, some seeds, a few nuts in there. You know, stuff. When it comes down to it, I like a lot of stuff in my bread. Given the choice between a 5-grain and a 12-grain loaf, I’ll go for the 12 every single time. It’s simple reasoning – more stuff has got to be better for you right? Sure! I also like a lot of seeds on the top crust, much like an everything bagel. The nutty taste and texture just shoot me to the moon. Fantastic.
The thing is, I’ve made some real beasts of whole wheat bread over the years. Compact, dense loaves that are just horrendous. Serious heavy duty door stops. What I’ve learned is that despite my good intentions, a 100% whole wheat loaf is just not the way to go. Say what you will about white flour but it really helps to lighten the loaf, so to speak. I’ve found that a 50/50 mix whole wheat to white flour works best for me. To boost the nutritional value, I like to add the stuff right into the dough – sees, nuts, whole grains. A friend calls it birdseed bread and I like it.
This recipe is a new favorite of mine – a combination of white and whole wheat flours with a little molasses and some seeds within. Shaped into a loaf and topped with more seeds and a touch of coarse salt you’ve got a tasty loaf that even after a few days, when its gone slightly stale, makes great toast. If I’m particularly motivated, I might cook ¼ cup wheat berries in some hot water for 30 minutes until tender and knead these into the dough.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: HUGE. It’s bread – there is nothing more relaxing than beating a chunk of dough into submission. To have it rise and then bake into a golden crusted beauty is the greatest satisfaction.
MULTI-GRAIN WHOLE WHEAT HARVEST BREAD
Makes 1 loaf
Multi-grain cereals are easily found most grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill makes some great ones – I picked up the 10-grain but they had a great variety. Keep in mind that these are hot cereals like oatmeal, not cold cereals like Raisin Bran. You can vary the seed mixture any way you like – use all the same seed, a combination like I used or add in some sunflower seeds, cooked wheat berries, millet. Whatever – it’s all very flexible. Just be sure to add most to the bread as a lot of seeds will fall off the top if you have too many.
½ cup unsweetened multi-grain hot cereal mix (such as 7 or 9-grain)
2 cups boiling water
1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 teaspoons)
2 1/3 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 ½ Tablespoons flax seeds
1 ½ Tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 large egg, whisked to blend
2 cups water for steaming
- Prepare the cereal: Place cereal in large bowl.
- Pour 2 cups boiling water over and let stand until mixture cools to between 105°F. and 115°F, about 20 minutes.
- For the seed mixture: in a small bowl, combine the sesame, flax and poppy seeds. Set aside.
- For the dough: Make sure the cereal water is hot to the touch but not uncomfortable. If it’s too hot for your finger, it’s too hot for the yeast and will kill it. If too hot, stir to bring down the temperature. Sprinkle yeast over cereal.
- Add 1 cup bread flour, oil, molasses, salt and two-thirds of the seed mixture. In mixer: Use the dough hook attachment and mix until smooth. By hand: stir with a large wooden spoon until smooth.
- Gradually mix in remaining bread and whole wheat flours to form dough.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth.
- First rise: Spray large bowl with cooking spray, add dough to bowl; turn to coat.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Shape: Punch down dough and turn out onto work surface.
- Shape into 12” x 4” loaf by patting dough into a rectangle then rolling into loaf shape.
- Add the 1 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt) to the remaining seed mixture.
- Place a sheet of parchment on a sheet plan and place loaf on the sheet pan.
- Second rise: Cover loaf with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven: Position 1 oven rack in oven center and 1 just below. Place baking pan on lower rack and preheat oven to 425°F.
- Prepare for baking: Brush loaf top and sides well with egg white and sprinkle with remaining seed mixture. Press the seeds onto the loaf to stick.
- Using sharp knife, cut 3-4 diagonal slashes in the loaf surface.
- Have 2 cups of water ready and place loaf baking on the top rack above the pan.
- Immediately pour 2 cups water into hot pan on lower rack in oven (water will steam). Shut the oven door immediately.
- Bake: about 30-35 minutes until golden and crusty and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
- Transfer to rack and cool completely. Best day it’s made but to keep longer, wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.