Have you noticed a hint of chill in the air? For the first time in a long time I needed my jacket after dinner last night. The promise of falling temperatures always makes me start thinking about serious baking season. Time to get that oven going!
Long ago, it seems, on a humid summer night, I bookmarked a recipe for this tall, light loaf of bread loaded with whole grains as the first bread I’d bake when the temperature cooled down. The neat thing about “Struan” bread is that there is no official recipe – you can use whatever combination of grains you have available, because it was created to celebrate the bounty of harvest time. Hodgson Mill Best for Bread Flour is my “old reliable” for breads like this one; a firm dense crumb that can stand up to the addition of wholesome Hodgson Mill Multi Grain Hot Cereal – a ready-made sampler of harvest grains.
One of the most fascinating techniques I’ve read about lately in bread baking books is the idea of using a “soaker” – soaking grains or flours in liquid before mixing them into the dough. When grains or flours come in contact with liquid, they soften and start to release sugar, which leads to a softer, sweeter loaf of bread.
For the Struan recipe, begin by soaking multi-grain cereal in water before adding it to the bread dough. The whole grains can sit for as little as 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Next, combine the dry ingredients, and add wet ingredients (including the soaker) and Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast proofed in warm water.
Then knead this soft, shaggy dough for 10-12 minutes by hand, or if you prefer, use a mixer with a dough hook or your bread machine. (I always knead by hand, but I’m sure this could easily be adapted to handy modern conveniences.)
After kneading, allow the dough to rise, which takes about 90 minutes; then shape it into a loaf, top it, and give it time to rise again.
Here is my dough after its second rise, ready to pop into the oven. You can see I’m using a poppy seed topping; you can also use sesame or sunflower seeds. (I was generous with the topping, and some seeds rolled down the side as it rose, making that dark stripe.)
And here it is fresh out of the oven – look at that big boy! This recipe can also be made as two smaller loaves, but since this is my celebration of the beginning of fall baking, I wanted to make a loaf with slices that would test the capacity of my toaster.
Letting baked loaves cool completely is always the hardest part. The smell of freshly baked bread is the antidote to self-control. When I finally got to bite into a slice, the extra sweetness, moisture, and texture that resulted from using soaked whole grains made the wait worth it. I’ll definitely be making this again this winter!
Au revoir summer with its cool pasta salads, quick pizzas, and fruit-laden desserts. Hello, fall baking season; you’re off to a great start in my house.
What will you bake first to welcome the coming season?
Struan Celtic Harvest Bread
Mix together Multi Grain Cereal and ½ cup water for the soaker. Cover and soak at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight.
Proof yeast and warm water in a small bowl until yeast is bubbling and fragrant. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, and then stir in all other ingredients and the soaker. Add more flour or water until the dough can be formed into a ball that is tacky but not sticky. (The surface of the dough should stick slightly to your hand when you lift it away, like Velcro, but pieces of dough should not come away on your hand.)
Place the ball of dough on a clean, well-floured surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes. Return it to the bowl, drizzling with a little more olive oil and turning it to coat completely. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
Gently punch down the dough and shape it. You can make one big loaf or split it into two even portions for two small loaves. Place the loaves in greased bread pans, spritz or brush water on top using a brush or damp hands, and evenly sprinkle on poppy seeds.
Cover the pans loosely with plastic and allow the loaves to rise until doubled in size again, approximately 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F.
Remove plastic and bake loaves for 30-40 minutes. Smaller loaves may be done at 30 minutes; my one large loaf took 40 minutes. Cover loosely with foil during baking if top is browning too quickly. When ready, the loaves will be deeply browned and will sound hollow when tapped.
Notes: Any combination of whole grains can be added to this bread. Keep proportions similar (about ¾-1 cup total for soaker, and a ¼- ½ cup total added straight to dough) but have fun and experiment.
Makes 1 large loaf or two small loaves.
Adapted loosely from Peter Reinhart’s Struan Bread
You can find this and other recipes from Hodgson Mill by visiting the Recipes page.