Cinnamon rolls, monkey breads, sticky buns...all of those seemingly complicated (at least as far as assembly is concerned) yeast-based baked goods turned out well. For my first true attempt at bread last year I opted for what seemed like a much simpler, more straightforward bread...the baguette. It failed miserable. The dough did not want to rise a second time. It finally doubled up enough to justify baking it. Into the oven three loaves went.
What came out I would hesitate to call bread. The sticks of dough were ghastly pale, not the scrumptious golden brown I anticipated. It was very toothsome...almost to the point of tooth shattering. Never had I encountered a crust that rock solid. Once I managed to chisel my way through the yeasty armor, no tender crumb but lifeless dry mass greeted me.
The bread was not even fit for bread crumbs or stuffing. Not even the birds would touch it.
Needless to say, I've put off trying my hand at a loaf of bread for a long time because of those anemic baguettes.
After thumbing through Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, I found a loaf a step up from basic white and wheat sandwich breads: Multigrain Extraordinaire. The part of the recipe that called to me was the multigrain soak...three grains with many available substitutes. The recipe below details the combination of grains I used; but millet, amaranth, buckwheat, triticale flakes, wheat bran, and rolled wheat are options as well.
adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
yields one 2-pound loaf
for the soaker (prepared the night before)
3 Tbsp quinoa
3 Tbsp rolled oats
1 Tbsp wheat germ
1 Tbsp coarse cornmeal
1/4 cup water, room temperature
for the dough
2 cups high-gluten or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp instant yeast
3 Tbsp cooked brown rice
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water, room temperature
1 Tbsp sesame or poppy seeds
for the soaker
The day before making the bread, combine the quinoa, wheat germ, rolled oats, coarse cornmeal and water in a small bowl. The water will just moisten the grains. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest overnight at room temperature.
for the bread:
In a 4-qt bowl sift together the flours, brown sugar, salt and yeast. Add the brown rice, soaker, honey, buttermilk and water. Stir until all of the ingredients form a ball...adding water a few drops at a time if any flour remains on the bottom of the bowl.
Sprinkle the work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes, sprinkling with extra flour as needed. The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled a bowl. Mist lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap.
Allow the dough to ferment a room temperature for 90 minutes or until roughly double in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl. On a lightly floured work surface shape the dough into a 6 by 10 inch square. Starting with the short side, gently fold the dough onto itself, squaring the edges to form the loaf. Place in a lightly oiled metal loaf pan with the seam down. Mist the loaf with water and sprinkle the sesame or poppy seeds on top. Lightly mist with oil. Loosely cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap.
Proof the loaf for approximately 90 minutes or until roughly double in size. The dough should crest fully above the top of the pan by almost an inch at the center.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Place the loaf on the middle rack in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 20-40 minutes, or until the bread registers between 185 and 190 on a thermometer and sounds hollow when lightly thumped.
Once finished baking, immediately remove loaf from pan and allow to cool and a wire rack for at least one hour prior to slicing, preferable two. This allows additional moisture to evaporate, the starches to settle and prevents the loaf from appearing under-baked or soggy.
Success! Not a raving, stop the press sort of success, but a huge step towards no longer fearing yeast.
The starter was an interesting technique. Most of the grains were very much intact when the time came to start the dough. The scent of the quinoa was by far the most prominent. Even overpowering the yeast as the bread fermented and proofed. At least until the bread stating baking. Then the kitchen was filled with that welcoming warm scent of nostalgia and a hundred visits to the bakery with Mom or Grandma.
What was surprising was that all of the grain, short of the quinoa, broke down and dispersed thoughout the dough. I was expected a grain flecked loaf of health and was instead treated with a fluffy and tender treat. The little kernels of quinoa were the only discernible texture.
The crust was a little thicker and crisper than I would have liked...making it a bit hard to saw through the first slice. But the crust succumbed to the bread knife and yeilded the soft interior...still warm after two hours of cooling.
The grains offered a light nutty flavor. I'd love to experiment with the other grains to see what additional flavors can be coaxed out. Nuttiness was accented by the wonderful sweetness of the honey and brown sugar. The bread was divine sliced and slathered with sweet cream butter. It was just as wonderful for dinner, serving as the base for a hearty BLT of thick cut bacon.