Week 3 of Bread: Honey Multigrain
Ye who are faint of heart, step aside. Ye who love a hefty loaf of bread, come right this way! If ever there was a bread recipe that could serve as the poster child Slow Food International, this Honey Multigrain Loaf is it. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. You see, this meal-in-and-of-itself loaf requires a little advanced planning and time, but it’s well worth it in the end when you’re slowly making your way through a chewy nutty slice of wholesomeness.
I’m proud to say this recipe is an original creation of yours truly, but I can’t take all the credit. A coworker and recent bread making convert had asked me to post a recipe for bread using sprouted grains or wheat berries or something with more “umph” than your typical off-the-shelf loaf. Ironically, she actually beat me to the punch and adapted the Miracle Bread recipe to include wheat berries and chopped walnuts. Yes, she’s a superstar SFTF pupil! But by the time I tasted her lovely loaf, I was already too deep in my noodling process to call off the hunt for a really hearty bread recipe.
Internet searches and endless page flipping in my private cookbook collection yielded very little, at least for bread recipes including wheat berries, which I knew I definitely wanted to use. There is one age-old recipe out there for sprouted grain bread, called Ezekiel Bread for its supposed roots in biblical times. But frankly, after reading over several recipes for it, I didn’t find the idea of it very appetizing. The [fruitless] search continued.
What’s a bread baker to do when she can’t find the right recipe? First, she takes out a piece of scrap paper, paces back and forth in front of her pantry shelves, and scribbles down a rough inventory of the grains on hand. Next, she takes that same scribbled piece of paper, flips it over and starts scribbling rough measurements – ratios really – for the available grains. Then, she decides on a general method for the bread, including proofing the yeast first and the best shape for the loaves. [By the way, proofing the yeast first was very fortuitous as the first three batches failed to show any signs of life, and it would be a real pain in the buttocks to have prepared the wheat berries and wheat germ only to have the bread not rise in the end.] Finally, she has to find another piece of scrap paper and a pen she doesn’t mind getting covered in flour so she can take notes throughout the assembly process as she adjusts the amounts of this and that, depending on how forgiving the dough turns out to be.
WA-lah!! I would say though that I have a little more fine-tuning to do, most of which is reflected in the recipe below. The honey wasn’t prominent enough so I upped it a bit. And the wheat berries were just a touch too prominent so I downed them a bit. And the alfalfa seeds were delightful so I tacked on another tablespoon. Otherwise though, I wouldn’t change a thing and plan on making this honey multigrain loaf a regular visitor to our dinner table. I think I’ll also use it for sandwiches in my packed lunches. It’s so filling that I’ll surely not be hungry again until dinnertime rolls around (I have a chronic problem with getting the “munchies” around 3 o’clock every day).
Now, a word to the wise for the newbie bread bakers out there: this loaf is a tad tricky to knead so if you’re not comfortable just yet with the kneading process, you might want to practice with a few of the other bread recipes on the blog first. The dough is sticky, making it very tempting to keep adding flour to it. Since there is so much “stuff” in the dough already demanding more moisture than normal, you really have to let it just be sticky so the resulting loaf doesn’t turn out disappointingly dry. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it!
Oh, and I realize my grains inventory might have been a little more diverse than some folks’ might be. If you’d like to adapt this recipe to what you have on hand, I’d strongly advise keeping the wheat berries for the chewy texture. You can get them at Whole Foods, Wegmans, or other stores with a diverse selection of grains (they are often found in the bulk bins near the produce section). If you can’t find the wheat berries, a potentially good alternative would be spelt, although that may be equally scarce. Trust me though; it’s worth hunting these ingredients out. Otherwise, you can easily substitute different varieties of grains for what is listed in the recipe; just keep the ratios about the same (approximately 5 cups of flours to 2 cups of other stuff).
And remember to chew slowly! There’s a lot to be savored in a slice!
HONEY MULTIGRAIN BREAD
A Straight from the Farm Original
2 c. warm water
1 package (2 ¼ t.) dry active yeast
1 t. sugar
3 c. white bread flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. rye flour
1 ½ t. salt
3 T. wheat gluten (optional, but recommended)
1/3 c. uncooked wheat berries
½ c. rolled oats
½ c. coarse wheat germ
2 T. alfalfa or flax seeds
3 T. honey
1 t. of salt dissolved in warm water
Prepare the wheat berries by combining with 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and let sit for at least an hour. Drain. This could be done a day in advance – after draining, cover and store in the fridge.
Prepare the wheat germ by combing with just enough water to cover in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for a minute or until liquid is absorbed. Allow to cool. Note: If you are using the finely milled wheat germ that closely resembles flour, you do not have to cook it as directed here.
Making the bread…
Proof the yeast by combing it with 1 cup of warm water and the sugar in a small bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise for 10 minutes or until foamy.
Mix the white flour, rye flour, rolled oats, salt and wheat gluten in a large mixing bowl. Add the prepared wheat berries, wheat germ, and alfalfa seeds, tossing to combine and coat with flour. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add yeast mixture and honey. Begin combining and add about 1 more cup of warm water until a soft dough is formed.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for five minutes until relatively smooth and elastic. This dough will be somewhat difficult to work with so just knead it as best you can, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking too much.
Clean out the mixing bowl, spray lightly with non-stick spray and place dough inside. Cover with a towel, place in a warm spot, and let rise for two hours or until doubled in bulk.
Turn dough out again onto a floured countertop and knead for a minute or two. Divide dough in half and form two oval loaves. Place loaves on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Cover and let rise for at least 30 minutes and up to 90 minutes – the longer it rises, the less dense the loaves will be.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Using a sharp knife, scour the tops of the loaves for decoration and brush with the salt water. Sprinkle tops with seeds, oatmeal, wheat germ or all three as desired. Bake loaves for 10 minutes and then lower heat to 400 F. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. Let cool on a wire rack.
(makes 2 hefty loaves)