Posts made in March 6th, 2013
Snowed in and looking for a way to pass the time? Might I suggest baking some bread?
We make a lot of bread in our house. I’d say, in the average week, we make at least two loaves. Which, considering we’re only two people, is quite a bit of bread to get through in seven days (I’m thankful that bread freezes well). We’ve tried a lot of bread recipes, but this recipe has skyrocketed to the top of our must-have list.
Not only is it absolutely beautiful—beautiful enough to serve to company, even—but it’s absolutely delicious, too! The crunchy seeds add such flavor and texture and the combo of ingredients makes a tender, chewy and light bread, that just happens to be 100% whole wheat. With a little touch of salted butter, this bread is the perfect friend to a warm bowl of soup. Which just happens to be exactly what we had for dinner last night. Which just happened to be an absolutely perfect dinner to go with the really unfortunate March snowfall we had last night (c’mon, Spring!).
Interestingly enough, even though we bake a lot of bread, I don’t tend to post a lot of bread recipes. I guess I just don’t feel all that confident in my baking skills. I’ve always said I’m a cook, not a baker and to this day, I struggle with the exact, precise chemistry that is baking. Measuring is hard.
I guess this bread is helping me change my lack of baking confidence, because I swear, it turns out incredible each and every single time I make it. It’s pretty much foolproof. I could probably forget to put the yeast in and it would still be delicious (okay, maybe not).
The real superstar of this bread is the crunchy seed and grain mixture that is on the crust. I honestly change it up every time I make, but my favorite combo so far has been the one that’s photographed here—a mixture of oats, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, millet, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds and fennel seeds. All the other seeds rock, but the caraway and fennel seeds add so much flavor and punch to the bread.
Instead of just sprinkling the seeds on the top, each roll of the braid is coated in the seeds, then the bread is braided, and then it has a second rising time. By doing this, it means there is a really beautiful and crunchy swirl of seeds that goes through the entire middle of the bread. The entire loaf of bread is a nice balance between rustic and graceful beauty, and I think the thin swirl of crunchy, old world grains and seeds in the middle of the fluffy loaf of bread is just another example of that.
Before I spill the beans on this recipe, I do have to mention the butter in these photos for no other reason than I’m totally proud of it. I made it myself! I’m not sure why, but there is something about making my own butter that is really exciting to me. I’ve only done it once before, and that was in 8th grade ag class (country school) where the whole class shook a Tupperware container with cream in it for 30 seconds each until it turned into butter. Then we smeared it onto saltines for us to try. I remember it being insanely delicious then, and my own homemade butter is just as good! Store-bought butter just does not compare. Even our crazy expensive, organic, grass-fed local butter doesn’t compare.
To make the butter, I just poured the cream off of our whole milk share we get each week, put it in the food processor until it was clumpy, then I put it in a Mason jar and shook the beejeebus out of it until it was solid. I poured the buttermilk off, added a little touch of salt and ate it smeared on a slice of this hot-out-of-the-oven bread. And then I did it again. And maybe again. It’s hard to say no to a match made in kitchen heaven.
Braided Seed Bread
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 12 slices
Adapted From: King Arthur Flour
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup uncooked grains (any combo of quinoa, millet, wheat berries, etc.)
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup dry nonfat milk (can sub regular milk)
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup mixed seeds and grains (chia, poppy, sesame, fennel, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, fennel, caraway, oats, etc.)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl by hand, combine the water, oil, flour, grains, oats, salt, honey, dry milk and yeast until well-combined and soft.
- Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until dough is very smooth and supple—about 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a well-oiled boil, cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm area for about 90 minutes—or until it’s looking pretty puffy.
- Deflate the dough, transfer to a floured work surface, divide dough into three even pieces and roll them into long logs—about 24″ in length each.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Using a pastry brush, cover the tops of each of the three logs, sprinkling with the seed mixture as you go. Roll all three logs over, repeat with the egg mixture and seed mixture—coating each log as much as possible in the seeds. Let the logs rest for about 15 minutes—uncovered.
- Squeeze the three logs together tightly at one end, then braid into a not-too-tight braid just like you would with hair. Squeeze closed the other end. Tuck each end under the bread to create a finished look.
- Transfer the bread to a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with any remaining egg mixture and sprinkle with any leftover seed mixture. Cover bread with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour or until the bread is very puffy and the braid seemed filled out.
- Toward the end of rising time, preheat the oven to 425°. Remove the plastic wrap from the bread and bake it in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350° and tent the bread with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning. Continue to bake for 10-15 more minutes or until the bread is very brown and the internal temperature registers at 190°.
Serving size: 1 slice. Servings per recipe 12.
Are you a baker? What’s your favorite kind of bread to bake?
I feel like I’m in a serious food rut. I know 99% of it is due to the season, but man, I’m dreaming of the days when I can make caprese salads out of fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil from the garden. I’m jonesin’ something fierce. I know I could make a caprese anytime I want, but for a caprese to be really incredible, I feel like it needs really incredible basil and really incredible tomatoes and that just doesn’t happen until July. Mostly, I think I’m just wishing for fresh, light foods. I’m sick of pulling things from the freezer or the pantry. I’m overloaded on carbs. Someone bring summer, fast!
- I tried my hand at making a kefir bowl (as opposed to a yogurt bowl). It was good, but the kefir is a little too…cheesy…to work well in this form. I still ate it, of course. Along with the kefir, I had Grape Nuts, a clementine, some strawberries, some chia seeds and some sunflower kernels.
- I wasn’t really in the mood for lunch-lunch, so I pulled together a snacky tasting plate for lunch. A rye crisp with some peanut butter, some carrots, a few tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg, some roasted chicken, a slice of cheese, half a banana and a few apple slices.
- Tea time! I’ve gotten in the habit of pausing my day early each afternoon, sipping on some tea and doing a bit of reading. It’s nice.
- I made us a big batch of hummus, and I had to do some quality control, so I made a little plate of crackers and veggie dippers for an afternoon snack.
- I realized Babyface was working late and dinner was still hours away, so I whipped myself up a smoothie. In the mix: kefir, banana, peanut butter, chia seeds, unsweetened protein powder.
- Dinner was some cheese tortellini from the freezer, topped with some homemade alfredo and garlic-sauteed kale. It sounds pretty delicious, but it was actually pretty meh. Too heavy and (if there is such a thing) too cheesy for me. Considering my deep-seated love for all things carbs, pasta and cheese, the fact that I couldn’t finish this bowl is definitely a sign I’m ready for spring and lighter fare.