Why are so many people terrified of working with yeast? If your yeast is fresh and your water is a warm, it’s a slam dunk! I made three lovely loaves of multi-grain bread today, and the house smells like heaven. One loaf is almost gone, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you understand that there are only two of us living here. I just want to make it clear (ahem) that I only ate one piece. ‘Nuff said.
The following recipe is actually very easy. The only time-consuming part is preparing the whole grains. I used four different grains: spelt, wheat, rye, and oat. If you bite into any one of those, you’ll see why you have to soak and cook grains before using them in a bread recipe, unless you like a whole lot of crunch. It’s not difficult – you just have to plan ahead.
If your grocery store has a bulk food section, or carries specialty flours and grains (like Bob’s Red Mill) in small packages, that’s perfect. Otherwise, make a trip to the closest natural foods market and pick up a variety. Keep any unused grains in the refrigerator. (I mix mine all together and put them in a zipper storage bag to take up less space.)
Making bread is like making cookies; there’s a lot of room for improvisation! If you want to use just one grain, that’s fine. If you want to skip the nuts and seeds, no problem. I added a handful of chia seeds to my dough at the last minute, because I’m really trying to use them in everything right now. I ordered three pounds, and that’s a lot of chia seeds! They tasted and looked wonderful in the bread.
If you don’t have quite enough yeast, use what you have. It will just take a little longer to rise, which is actually a good thing. The longer it takes for bread to rise, the more flavorful it is. Sometimes I put mine out in our fruit room (kind of like a root cellar – nice and cool) all night and bake it in the morning.
The only thing I’ve done that has made the bread inedible – to me, at least – is to forget the salt. You can cut back on it if you like, but some salt is necessary. One of the reasons I make our bread is because of the enormous amounts of sodium in store-bought bread. Check out the label on the bread you have right now. Pretty scary, isn’t it? Excessive salt is often used to disguise the fact that their bread has no flavor! I’m not even going to go into all the chemicals you’ll see on most bread labels, or the fact that they may be using GMO products. I’ll save that for a future rant.
Flavor, texture, and using wholesome ingredients are all good reasons to make your own bread, but one of the most important reasons to me is cost. Occasionally I’ll get lazy and pick up a loaf of bread at the store, but am always shell shocked. A good organic bread can run $5.00 or more. I figured that the bread I made today cost a little over a dollar per loaf; you can’t beat that!
So, without further ado, here is my Multi-Grain Bread recipe.
CHEWY MULTI-GRAIN BREAD
(Recipe makes 2 large loaves or 3 small ones)
1 cup mixed whole grain (I use oat groats, spelt kernels, rye berries, and wheat berries)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons (or 2 packets) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup chopped seeds and nuts of choice (pumpkin, sunflower, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
1 tablespoon salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
In a medium pot, bring grains and water to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 1 hour. Bring the grain back to a boil, turn down to low, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until very tender. If your whole grains aren’t very fresh, it could take longer – up to an hour or more.
Drain the grains, reserving the liquid. You’ll need 2 ½ cups. If you don’t have enough, add water to make up the difference. If you have a stand mixer, this is the time to use it! Attach your dough hook. If you’re doing this by hand, get out a heavy wooden spoon. Pour the liquid into a large bowl.
Add the molasses and sugar. Cool the liquid to 100-115 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should feel warm to the touch, but not hot.
Add the yeast and stir to mix. Leave it alone for 5 minutes. It should look a little foamy. (If not, the yeast may not be fresh. Hopefully you have a backup package or two.)
Add the oil, the wheat flour, and the grains, and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes (or if you’re doing it the hard way, beat with your wooden spoon until your arms ache.)
Add the seeds and nuts and the salt. On low speed, gradually add the all-purpose flour. It will be a thick dough, but should still feel a little sticky.
Knead for 5 minutes with a stand mixer and dough hook, or 8 minutes by hand.
Here’s where “They” always say to put the dough into a greased bowl. I hate to do dishes and see no reason to dirty another bowl, so I just leave it where it is and cover it. I’ve never noticed a difference. Let it rise until double – approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
If you are using bread pans, grease three of them generously. Separate your dough into thirds. On lightly floured surface, form it into loaves. I simply put each piece of dough down, flatten it down a little, and roll it into a log shape very snugly. Pinch the ends and place it in one of the bread pans. If you’re making round or oval loaves, shake some cornmeal onto cookie sheets, shape the loaves, and set them on the cornmeal. Make sure there is some cornmeal surrounding the dough, because it will spread a little bit.
Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel and let it rise until almost doubled – about 45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 400 F. If you want a crispy crust, put a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven now. By the time the bread is ready to go into the oven, it will be nice and steamy, which gives bread a nice crunch.
Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes. This will vary a little, depending on the size of your loaves. Look for a loaf that is a rich brown on top, with sides that aren’t anemic when you turn them out of the pan. Remove from the oven, take out of the pans, and cool on a rack. Don’t cool bread in the pans or the sides will be soggy.
Brush with butter if desired. Admire. Take pictures. Cut off a heel, slather it with butter, and eat it before anyone else can!