I’ve been out of the South for some time now, but there will always be certain “Southern” things about me. To the city folk, I’m not sure I’ve ever looked or sounded especially country, but there are the rare occasions where I might slip and say “y’all” or blurt out something full of country twang if I’m not well rested. I love my jeans, like any girl, and I’m not a Belle; I’m more the Laura Ingalls type. And I love food. Especially carbs. (Hold the chitlins and gizzards, please!)
So this afternoon, Seba and I baked a couple loaves of bread. We have some German friends here, and everyone knows they love their breads, too, probably more than even we Southerners. Any time we get together, they bring their homemade breads fresh from the bread machine. I’m an insanely covetous and competitive soul, so I demanded the secret to great bread, long life, and inner peace, because those three things are equally sacred. I’ll pass on the secret (for the bread, at least) to you in a few minutes. Here’s a hint: the bread machine is just a luxury, not a necessity!
I actually only recently began baking breads, because I just thought it was too much planning. Let’s be honest. There is a lot of waiting time for the bread to rise and proof, and if the temperature isn’t just right, the prospect of that fresh, out-of-the-oven doughy goodness will be a flop, literally. Enter the quick bread from stage left to save the day.
I’ve experimented quite a bit with these recipes, and they never disappoint, but some combinations are better than others, so my friends, don’t be afraid to use different whole grains, like oats, millet, quinoa, or amaranth. I’ve used these by grinding them into flour in my Magic Bullet, but you can just throw some leftover cooked grains in with the mix, too. And I’ve also used softened wheat and rye berries for a little texture. Be sure to use at least one high-gluten ingredient, because it will help bind the dough during baking. Gluten-free friends, I’m working on a gluten-free combination for you!
I mentioned baking two loaves. I baked a basic whole grain bread and a slightly sweet cinnamon raisin bread, so I’ll give you the rundown on both. Here’s what you need to know to make it happen:
Whole Grain Bread
You’ll need: Active Dry Yeast, Whole Wheat Flour, Rye Flour, Wheat Bran, Molasses, Sea Salt, Water
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 teaspoons yeast and about a teaspoon of salt with just enough warm (not hot!) water to cover them. Let sit 5 minutes to activate yeast. Add 2 cups WW flour, 1.5 cups rye flour, 1/2 cup wheat bran, and about 2 tsp (if you like the taste) of molasses. Mix with water (I didn’t measure this one exactly!) until well incorporated. It should be fairly stiff, but pliable and easy to handle. Lightly oil your hands and knead until you are satisfied with the texture. Cover with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out.
*If you like sourdough, you can leave this bread sitting to rise for several hours, checking it and kneading it once every
hour or two. This bread will not rise if you prepare it as a quick bread, but I add the yeast for a little flavor. Expect a
very dense, heavy bread!
*Baking instructions and times are listed below the following recipe.
You’ll need: Whole Wheat Flour, Oat Flour, Oats, Applesauce (or other fruit puree), Raisins, Cinnamon, Water
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups WW flour, 1 cup oat flour (oats ground in Magic Bullet), 1 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 whole oats, and water (I used about 1/2 a cup). Lightly oil your hands and knead the dough.
*This will be a little stickier than the previous recipe, but should not stick too much to your hands.
Instructions for Baking
Because these are quick breads, they won’t rise, so there’s no need to use a loaf pan. The dough for each recipe is very heavy, and should easily be molded, so if you’re having trouble, you can either add water or a little extra flour or grain to help reach your desired consistency. Think Playdoh. These will make two small logs; they aren’t your average loaf, but they are loaded with whole grains, and you know what they say about small packages! Fluffier, store-bought loaves can’t pack a punch quite like these guys can!
Form each dough into logs or squares and place on a baking sheet. You might need to use a little oil or parchment to keep them from sticking. Bake on 350° for about 40 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap the bottoms. About halfway through baking, I take the breads out and drizzle a little water over the tops, just to keep them a little more moist.
These are pretty much a staple over here, and it’s a good thing, considering some of the totally unnecessary ingredients you find in store-bought breads! Sugars? High fructose corn syrup? No, thank you. Not exactly the way I like to start out my day. The raisin bread is not very sweet, so you might want to add a little extra sweetener if you’re used to traditional breakfast foods. Or try a different type of fruit puree. The mister really likes it as is, because he think it has a more cake-like consistency, and he is a die-hard coffee and bread man. If anyone out there tries these using different ingredients, let me know so I can jump on that train, too!
Enjoy your day, everyone!