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BMB: Sourdough Multi-grain Bread

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After a long hiatus, I'm finally baking bread again. This is actually the second loaf of the new baking "season" — a Sourdough Multi-grain Bread adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur flour website. This is an easy sourdough recipe since it does not rely on the starter for leavening; in fact, it has as much yeast as a typical bread dough. Instead, the sourdough gives this bread a tang and chewy texture like an artisan loaf, but has the quick rising time (2 hours) and softness of a good sandwich loaf. Best of all worlds, really.

This is a great way for sourdough starter "guardians" to make use of that excess sourdough you find yourself with when it's time to feed the starter. You can use that "unfed" starter in this recipe because you'll also be using yeast to give the bread its rise.

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I've adapted the King Arthur (KA) recipe by substituting two ingredients that are proprietary KA blends with more readily available ingredients. First, I used vital wheat gluten (VWG) instead of KA Whole-Grain Bread Improver. Vital wheat gluten is available in either the baking aisle or natural foods section of many supermarkets, and in bulk in many natural food stores and co-ops. It helps homemade breads retain moisture, and improves their rise. Second, I made up my own blend of grains and seeds in place of the KA Harvest Grains Blend. I started with a multi-grain hot cereal blend that has whole-grain rolled rye, barley, oats and wheat (available at Trader Joe's) and threw in flaxseed, black and white sesame seeds, cracked mahlab seeds (a type of cherry seed from the Mediterranean, available at Penzey's Spice and in Middle East groceries), and white poppy seeds (we didn't have black poppy seeds).

King Arthur is our default choice for baking flours — we keep KA all-purpose, whole wheat, and bread flours as pantry staples. King Arthur flours are neither bleached nor treated with potassium bromate, a flour enhancer that is a possible carcinogen and has been banned in many countries, including the European Union, Canada, and China. It is allowed in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in 1958, before it was identified as a carcinogen (particularly linked to breast cancers) in the 1980s. For some reason, the FDA continues to decline to ban potassium bromate, and instead "urges bakers not to use it"… what?! In California products containing bromated flour must carry a warning label! (Source: Wikipedia and Livestrong)

This is the third time I've made this loaf. It is every bit as chewy, soft and scrumptious as described in the original recipe. It is divine completely naked, or dressed in a coat of butter and dab of boysenberry jam. It is a soup's best friend, and is an equally great companion to a plate of cheeses with fruit or chutney. Oh, and yes, it holds a sandwich together with some pizazz, too.

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SOURDOUGH MULTI-GRAIN BREAD
Adapted from baker Clay Miller's recipe on the King Arthur Flour website

1 TBL raw sugar
1 to 1½ cups (132g-150g) all-purpose flour
(start with the smaller amount and add 1 TBL at a time, up to an additional 3 tablespoons)
½ cup instant potato flakes
½ cup (65g) whole wheat flour
1¼ tsp sea salt
4 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional, but helps rise for heavy doughs)
cup blend of seeds and rolled whole grains
(see article above for some suggestions)

Combine all dry ingredients.

cup sourdough starter
cup lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBL olive oil

Place starter, warm water and yeast in large mixing bowl. Stir to blend. Add dry ingredients and olive oil.

Secure bowl to mixing stand, and attach dough hook. Stir on low speed until dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase speed to medium and knead for 7-10 minutes.

The first two times I made this bread last year, the dough was pretty sticky by the end of the kneading time, even after the full 1½ cups of all-purpose flour was added — this was predicted in the KA recipe, and is okay as long as you can handle the dough with floured hands. But this last time the dough came together as a solid dough with no stickiness at all with only 1 cups flour.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rise for 1½ -2 hours. The dough might not double, but it should rise significantly.

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Lightly oil a 9” loaf pan (the original recipe calls for an 8½” x 4½ “ loaf pan, but this is the smallest I have). Punch down the dough and shape it into a loaf to fit your pan. Cover pan with a disposable shower cap, or greased plastic film. (Disposable caps are a genius tip I learned from the original KA recipe — they give the dough plenty of space to rise. You can find multi-packs of these cheap shower caps in dollar stores. They are like the ones you find in hotel toiletries too.)

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Set in a warm room, and allow to rise for 1½ -2 hours, or until the dough is well over 1” over the rim of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough shouldn’t spring back right away and should leave a slight impression. Because this dough will not get a dramatic rise once it’s in the oven (known as “oven-spring”), it’s important to give it a good chance to rise in this final proof.

In the last 20 minutes of the proving time, pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190F/88C. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, you can use the tried-and-true method of pulling the loaf out of the pan and giving it a good knuckle rap on its bottom — if it sounds hollow, the loaf is done; if it sounds like a dull thump, put it back for a few minutes more.

Remove loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack. Let bread cool completely before slicing. Resist the overwhelming temptation to cut this loaf while it’s hot. You get gummy bread slices — I speak from hard-headed experience. This loaf does have a most heavenly aroma, and it’s really, really tempting to just tear into it when it comes out of the oven. I had to leave for a meeting after taking it out and had to bribe T. with a promise that I would bake him a small roll next time if he promised not to cut this loaf while it was still warm.

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Pairs perfectly with a bowl of your favorite soup
(turkey vegetable soup, anyone?)
and/or with some flavorful cheeses. Bon Appetit!



The first bread I made to kick off the new baking season was the No-Knead Sourdough, which is easy but requires a long lead time. A variation on a straight sourdough are these rye breads: NY-style light rye and sweet raisin-rye.