With my focus this year being Nourish, bread must have a place in it. In our family, bread is nourishment. It is a favorite food, prepared fresh with wild yeast I nourish weekly. It is a creative art form, nourishing my soul. It is spiritual reminder of our life-giving Jesus. All these things come together when I hold the silky, perfectly kneaded and work-warmed dough in my hands.
Bread is life.
A wonderful custom used to take place in Western Scotland each Michaelmas (September) when families baked breads called struan. Large struans were made for the community and small ones for each family member. In remembrance of absent friends or those who had died, special struans, blessed at an early morning Mass, were given to the poor in their names. It's an exquisitely beautiful bread, and unusually delicious. It is a harvest bread, made with various grains
Peter Reinhart writes of developing his struan recipe when he was a brother at an Orthodox monastery, and says it is his favorite bread; he includes a recipe in each of his baking books. When I first read the story and recipe, I knew I had to make this bread. Weeks and months went by, and in my busyness I put it off. But struan embodies nourish to me; so the first weeks of the new year it was baked and devoured and baked again. The bread is amazing warm, and makes the most luscious toast. Can toast be luscious, you ask? Try it with struan.
My recipe is somewhat different than the one in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. That's the beauty and flexibility of this bread - you can use the grains you have on hand, the "harvest" of you pantry. Just make sure you don't substitute cooked grains for the uncooked ones, or vice versa. I also added wild yeast starter to mine because, well, I love my sourdough.
You can skip the overnight part and bake this bread all on the same day, but I don't recommend. I've done it both ways, and it is much better after the overnight "cold ferment" - the flavors are deeper and more complex and it isn't as sweet, as the yeast has had time to feed on the sugars.
makes 2 loaves
5 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup wild yeast (sourdough) starter - optional
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 rolled oats
1/2 cooked red quinoa (you can use cooked grain; Reinhart's recipe uses brown rice; I've also used an "ancient grain" blend of white and red quinoa, millet, and buckwheat)
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon sprouted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon almond meal
(In the original recipe, the three above ingredients were simply 3 tablespoons of wheat bran. You can also used a 12-grain cereal blend instead.)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar - optional
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup buttermilk (or yogurt, or any dairy or non-dairy milk)
Optional poppy seeds are sesame seeds for garnish - our family doesn't like seeded crust so I skipped this.
Combine flour, sourdough starter, cornmeal, oats, flax meal, almond meal, sunflower seeds, sugar, salt, yeast, honey, water, and milk in a mixing bowl. Use a spoon or paddle attachment on a stand mixer - which is what I did - and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes, and then mix again for 2 minutes on the slowest speed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Lightly knead for 2-3 minutes; the dough will be soft and sticky but hold together in a soft ball. With wet hands, gently stretch the dough and fold over to the center, doing this on all four sides. Cover with a damp cloth and repeat the stretch-and-fold three more times at 10 minute intervals. After the final stretch, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or for up to 5 days).
On Baking Day:
Remove dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before baking. Shape the dough into two sandwich loaves using 4 1/2 by 8-inch loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel an allow to rise for about 2 hours, until the dough is at least 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake at 45-30 minutes, checking periodically to see if the top is browning too quickly (I covered my loaves with foil at abut 30 minutes), until loaves have an internal temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool for at least an hour before slicing.