I am endlessly fascinated with all of the different ways to make bread. There are so many opinions, methods, ingredients, and weird voodoo incantations (just kidding…not really) to make the perfect loaf, and I feel like I have so much further to go before I can even start to consider myself a bread expert. Bread can be tricky, and sometimes it has a tantrum and decides it doesn’t want to be bread, but when it does cooperate I always fight the urge to sing a happy song at the top of my lungs and do a little dance around the kitchen. There’s something very satisfying about watching a blob of dough magically swell up and dome into a beautifully bronzed blob of bread.
As a result of my hunt for the perfect bread recipes, I’ve rarely made the same bread twice – with only two of us in the household, it takes us a while to get through a loaf or two, so I don’t make it every weekend and progress is slow. However, I make an exception for this bread. It’s full of different grains and textures, and it is hands-down the best all around bread I’ve ever made at home. It works for both savoury and sweet applications. It toasts up like a dream, and it carries a rich, delicious flavour. It’s a long process, but it’s worth it, I promise, and most of the time is just waiting. It also freezes well. I usually make two loaves, and once they’re cooled, I slice and freeze them. When that carb craving hits, they’re easy to take out slice-by-slice, pop in the toaster and devour.
Recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. Makes two loaves.
- 5 cups (638 g) unbleached bread flour
- 1/4 cup (42.5 g) coarse cornmeal (polenta grind)
- 1/4 cup (28.5 g) rolled oats
- 3 tbsp (21 g) wheat bran or oat bran
- 1/2 cup (56.5 g) cooked brown rice
- 1/4 cup (56.5 g) brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp (19 g) salt, or 3 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 2 tbsp (19 g) instant yeast
- 1 1/2 tbsp (28.5 g) honey or agave nectar
- 1 1/2 cup (340 g) lukewarm water (about 95F)
- 1/2 cup (113 g) lukewarm buttermilk, yogurt, or any other milk
- Poppy or sesame seeds for garnish
- Combine flour, cornmeal, oats, bran, rice, sugar, salt, yeast, honey, water and milk in a mixing bowl. Use the paddle attachment of your mixer and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes (or stir by hand for 2 minutes). Let rest for 5 minutes.
- Mix on the slowest speed with the paddle (or by hand) for 2 minutes more. It should be soft and very tacky or slightly sticky. Add flour or water if necessary.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, then dust the top of the dough with flour. Lightly knead for 2 to 3 minutes. It should form a soft, supple ball.
- With wet or oiled hands, reach under one end of the dough, stretch it out, then fold it back onto the top of the dough. (You’re essentially folding it in half to create structure.) Repeat on the back end and each side, then flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball. Place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Repeat 3 more times. After the last one, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
- Shape the cold dough into two sandwich loaves. My technique for doing this is to pat it into a 5 x 8 rectangle. Roll it up on the 5 inch side, and pinch the final seam closed with your fingertips. Gently rock the loaf to even it out.
- Place shaped loaves, seam side down, in a greased loaf pan. Brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, and then cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until increased to 1 1/2 the original size and domed at least 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan.
- After about an hour, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and make for 25-40 minutes more. The total time is 45-60 minutes, though mine always only take 45. The bread is done when it’s a rich golden color and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
- Cool. Slice. Eat.