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Dark Days Challenge: Fresh-Baked Bread

Last week, we were fortunate enough to get more wheat berries at our CSA pickup.  As you can see in the photo, we get two different varieties mixed together.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what specific types they are, but I decided to try a bit of alchemy and see if they could be made into a loaf of bread for this week’s Dark Days Challenge meal.

As you can see, the first essential step is separating bits of chaff and plant matter from the wheat berries, since we get little baggies of wheat that’s a bit rough around the edges.  It’s a pretty fast sort on a countertop.  Once everything was sorted, I put the wheat in my mighty Vitamix blender.  Using the dry blade, I ground it into flour in about a minute.  (I love me some Vitamix.)  After digging up a new recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, I was ready to go.

The recipe was simple, requiring only honey, water, flour, yeast, and salt.  Just for variety, I replaced two tablespoons of flour with mesquite meal.  It turned out that without any miraculous intervention, we achieved bread…albeit a very dense bread.

Homemade whole wheat bread is something I am still trying to sort out.  It is inevitably significantly more dense than I would prefer.  I suspect I should be adding some vital wheat gluten to the dough, but I’m not sure.  I would really love a good 100% whole grain bread book.   Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Despite its denseness, we both enjoyed the texture of the bread.  The crust was crunchy, the inside moist and chewy.  The mesquite added a depth and sweetness that was enhanced by an overnight sponge technique before the first rise.  All in all, it went very well with local eggs scrambled up with garden chives and parsely.  We topped off the meal with a side of sauteed greens.

Simple, tasty, and satisfying. Two thumbs up!


4 Comments so far

  1. Mangochild March 2nd, 2009 3:09 am

    No matter what else goes on in a meal, homemade bread is UNBEATABLE – all the senses seem to be involved.
    I have found a pretty good homemade 100% whole grain bread recipe that has never failed me (so far!) and that can easily be mixed up with different flavors (herbs, pepper, etc). Don’t know where I found it, but I do love it:

    2-3 Tbsp honey
    2.5 to 3 cups whole grain bread flour – I’ve used wheat, spelt, triticale, rye…. but I’d start with plain 100% whole wheat bread flour.
    1 Tbsp yeast
    1 cup water
    1 cup yogurt
    1.5 tsp salt

    Combine 0.5 cup flour, yeast, honey, and water. Stir, let sit 10 minutes.
    Mix yogurt, salt, and 2 cups flour. Add the yeast mixture, and stir slowly until the dough pulls away. Add flour as needed here at this stage, slowly – it should be a relatively sticky dough. Flour the board and your hands generously, and knead 5 minutes, adding a bit more flour if needed. Cover, let rise 1 hour or until doubled.
    Deflate. Here, if you are making rolls (as I usually do) divide into 8-10 rolls, pulling the sides under so that the top of the roll is stretched/tense, then pinch the seams underneath. If you’re not doing rolls, just put into a loaf pan. Cover, let rise 25 minutes.
    Preheat the oven to 375*. For rolls, bake about 20 minutes till just golden (don’t overbake!). If a loaf, until it comes clean with a poke and you can “thump” the bottom.

    If you want mix-ins like herbs, garlic, etc. then you can add those when you are stirring the whole thing (after adding the yeast mixture).
    Seriously, I have always been yeast bread challenged, and this works so well. I think it might be the yogurt that gives it the lightness that is often missing from 100% whole grain wheat breads at home.
    If you try it, let me know how it goes.

  2. Chris @ Beyond Ramen March 4th, 2009 2:02 pm

    I’ve also been wanting to make my own bread, but admittedly with bread flour instead of from wheat berries. Keep it up and eventually you’ll succeed! Jeffery Steingarten has a wonderful chapter regarding his own bread saga in The Man Who Ate Everything that might be useful to you :)

  3. [...] herself with local wheat berries, Laurel turned them into whole wheat flour and made bread. Dense and full of texture and taste, it was just the thing with scrambled eggs and sauteed greens. [...]

  4. [...] greens, corn, hothouses of basil, and a field of red durham wheat, the source of several loaves of bread and focaccia at our [...]

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