Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seven Grain Bread

I wrote a while back about the most amazing place I've ever been. There have been times, I confess, at the end of a vacation, when I'm ready to be home.  I want to sleep in my own bed and wash my clothes. I need to cook something where I know the ingredients. I want to wear a pair of shoes that is not one of the four I brought (C Fierce note: J Fierce is lying if she thinks anyone will believe she only brought four pairs of shoes on vacation).  Last week, I wasn't. I'm not. Sharing a studio with two other boys (in addition to The Boy) and two kittens who played with my toes while I slept? None of it phased me. Here I am, and I'm still dreaming about San Francisco.

I hadn't been in a kitchen in a week. I didn't want to settle back in - I began to purge everything for the "well if I lived in a studio in San Francisco I wouldn't take this with me" mentality. Failing all else, I made bread.
It calmed me a bit-the process of kneading, rising, shaping. Measuring usually does that. The transformation that happens over the course of those few hours is incredible. And that photo? up top? I made that! It would look right at home in the basket at a bakery. You would happily pay about $5 for that. 

This weekend I'm going to slip back into vacation mode with help from this girl. I am going skiing for the first time ever. I know, I lived in the snow belt, and now I live in the mountains, and I've still never been skiing. 

Seven Grain Whole Wheat Harvest Bread
1/2 cup (3 oz) 7 grain hot cereal mix (not instant) (If you can find 9 grain that is what they suggest; I couldn't)
1/2 cup (4 oz) boiling water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz) warm water (110-115F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup (3 oz) honey
2 3/4 cups (14 oz) bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup (4 oz) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Put the cereal mix in a medium bowl. Add the boiling water. Stir to blend. Let it sit for 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Don't worry, it will absorb. 

2. Pour the warm water in to the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar and yeast and whisk with a fork or something to blend. You don't need to use the whisk for the mixer at this point, just the bowl. Let it sit for 10 minutes, until the yeast has activated-it will be foamy. Now, add the cooled cereal mix, honey, both flours, and salt. Knead the dough on low speed 2-3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cotton towel and let it rise for 20 minutes. You're doing this to ensure it is fully hydrated. Turn the mixer to medium low, and continue to knead until the dough is firm and elastic, 4-7 minutes. 

3. Lightly oil the tub or bowl. Scrape the dough into the tub. Be sure to lightly coat it with oil so that it doesn't dry out on this rise. Cover with the plastic or towel you were using until it is doubled in size. Depending on the temperature in your room, this will be 35-45 minutes. If at 45 minutes nothing has happened, try turning on your oven and placing the bowl near it. 

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough. You want to break some air bubbles in there but you don't want to knead it again. Shape it into a round, taught loaf. 

5. To shape into a "round, taught loaf" you will need to get comfortable with your inner sculptor.  Make the dough into a round. Gather all of the sides toward the middle, like you're wrapping a round present really badly. Pinch the edges together, and turn it over so that the smooth side is now up. Cup the edges in your hands, tucking them under as you go. You want there to be tension so that it will keep its shape as it rises. If it isn't perfect, thats okay-its hand made, after all. 

6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a towel again until it is almost doubled in size, 20-30 minutes. 

7. Get the oven ready. Preheat to 400F. 

8. Dust the top of your beautifully risen loaf with a little bit of flour. Slash a pattern in the top with a knife or something. 

9. Bake 40 minutes, or until it is golden brown. If you have an instant read thermometer and are into that, you want the internal temperature to reach 190F. Transfer to a rack so that it can cool completely, and slice with a serrated knife. 

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