Here we are, rapidly approaching the halfway mark in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, and I’m still enjoying the ride. Even though I have been baking bread for more years than I care to admit, I continue to learn as I work my way through the recipes in Peter Reinhart‘s excellent book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
I was really excited about this week’s bread, Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire, as it is one of Peter’s signature breads, a version of which has appeared in several of his books. I’m not exactly sure why he renamed it — it was always called Struan before — but it’s basically the same bread, which I have wanted to make since reading Bread Upon the Waters. As the new name implies, this bread is chock full of grains, some of which aren’t generally used in bread baking. Having experimented with my own multigrain bread, Five Grain Seeded Sourdough, I was anxious to try Peter’s recipe.
As with many multigrain breads, including mine, this recipe begins with a soaker. The night before I made the bread, I put the cornmeal, wheat germ and oatmeal in a small bowl, added a little bit of water and covered the bowl with plastic wrap. The recipe called for wheat bran, but all I had on hand was wheat germ. I did an online search to try to determine how different the two really were. I learned that germ is the center of the wheat kernel, whereas bran is the outer husk. Beyond that, the information was confusing and conflicting. Some sites said that the two could be interchanged, while others stated that the difference between them was like that of an egg yolk to the eggshell. Armed with this lack of agreement, I went ahead and used the wheat germ for the recipe.
The next morning, I prepared my rice. Here, again, I had a slight departure from the recipe. I didn’t have any brown rice and didn’t feel like running out for it. So I called a friend of mine who was coming over and asked him to bring me some brown rice. As it turns out, he didn’t have any either. Instead, he brought me red rice. Never having eaten, let alone cooked with red rice, I went back to the ‘net, this time finding that red rice is cooked in the same manner as brown rice.
Now, that created a problem for me, as I have never had any luck cooking brown rice. It either comes out crunchy or as 1 big pasty lump. I did a search for how to correctly cook brown rice and found that our own Nicole, of Pinch My Salt fame, had a blog entry with directions for perfectly cooked brown rice. I knew I needed look no further. If Nicole said it worked, that was good enough for me. I followed her directions, and 40 minutes later, had perfectly cooked red rice.
After the rice cooled, I mixed the dough. I began by putting the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Then I added the soaker and rice.
I began mixing the dough, which was quite sticky. It did not clear the bowl at all, and I knew it would need more flour. I added a few small scoops of flour. As they mixed in, I liked the look of the red rice in the dough but felt like it could use more. I had another ounce or so of rice left (about what I had put in to begin with), and I went ahead and added it all. Then I continued to add more flour until the bread had the right feel — tacky but not sticky. After about 10 minutes of mixing in the Kitchen Aid, I took the dough out of the bowl and kneaded it for a few minutes on the counter.
I put the dough in a bowl to ferment, and about 75 minutes later, it had doubled and was ready for shaping.
I patted the dough out into an oval.
Then rolled it into a loaf and panned it.
I then misted the dough with water and sprinkled it with poppy seeds.
I let the loaf proof for about 90 minutes, then baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until it registered 185 degrees on my instant read thermometer. I took the loaf out of the pan to cool on a rack.
It smelled amazing — warm, yeasty, and a bit like molasses. In fact, I would say the smell reminded me quite a lot of Anadama Bread, the first BBA Challenge bread. Even though the Struan loaf had honey and brown sugar in it, I hadn’t really anticipated that it might have a sweet taste to it. Smelling it, I couldn’t imagine what the flavor would be like.
One interminable hour later, I sliced the loaf. The crumb was beautiful – soft and light. And the taste really did remind me of Anadama bread. A bit milder, but really delicious. This would make an excellent sandwich bread and would also be great for morning toast and tea.
This is certainly a bread to make again. The only changes I might make next time would be to omit the poppy seeds on the top of the loaf — there’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t seem to add anything to the bread. And I would make a double batch next time. This bread is just too good to only have one loaf at a time.