I feel like my family goes through phases where we crave a certain kind of bread, then it switches to completely the opposite.
First, everyone craves a really sour sourdough. Then a really hearty whole wheat. Back and forth.
Right now, as you might be able to guess from the title of this post, we’re in a whole wheat, whole grains phase. And Peter Reinhart’s multi-grain struan is just the thing to satisfy that craving.
This is the bread that put Peter Reinhart and his bakery, Brother Juniper’s, on the map. He resurrected an old Scottish bread typically made for Michaelmas, the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. As St. Michael is the guardian of the harvest, it makes sense that this bread is loaded with grains- oats, wheat, corn, rice, and bran.
Reinhart puts it this way: “Struan is not merely bread– it is bread that represents the essence of bread. In our everyday consumption of bread we tend to forget or lose sight of the reality of what bread is. So a bread ritual, a harvest fair, dedicated to the archangel of the harvest whose name means ‘like unto God,’ is a way to tune into this deeper reality.”
It’s heady stuff to be sure, but this is a heady type of bread. The bread smells amazing even as an unbaked loaf, so you can imagine how heavenly it smells as it comes out of the oven.
You will need:
7 cups of all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup cooked polenta
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup wheat bran
4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup milk and 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
2 to 2 1/2 cups water
1 egg white and 3 tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds for decoration (optional)
Step one is to make the buttermilk if you don’t have it. Pour the tablespoon of vinegar into 3/4 cup regular milk and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour. You can help the process along by adding a tablespoon or two of plain yogurt or sour cream.
In a very large bowl, mix together your uncooked grains (polenta, rolled oats, wheat bran) and your flour, salt, yeast, and brown sugar. If you don’t have brown sugar on hand, you can add a teaspoon of molasses to regular white sugar and combine them using a fork.
Add the cooked rice, honey and buttermilk and mix. Add one cup at a time of the water until your dough is well-hydrated and starts forming a ball.
I don’t usually knead my bread, preferring to let the dough do the work for me. But this bread has a lot of large obstructions (all the whole grains) to proper gluten formation. Also, it has a ton of yeast. So, it help the gluten formation and speed the process along, I did knead this bread a little bit. Sprinkle some flour on your counter and, using a bit of force, push your dough down and away from you with the palms of your hands. Then pick the dough back up, shape it into a ball again, and repeat the process. At first, the dough will stick to the counter. But the more you do it, the dough should start sticking more to itself, and will pick up any dough stuck to the counter. Once your counter is free of dough and it’s all sticking together in a ball nicely, return your dough to the large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
When your dough has doubled in size, divide it into three more-or-less equal pieces. Right after you cut them, let them rest for five minutes so the gluten relaxes a bit. Then shape them into balls and either pop them into a banetton or put them on pieces of parchment paper and cover with an overturned bowl.
I chose banettons, although this means I won’t be able to decorate my loaves with seeds.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F with a dutch oven inside.
If you decide you want to use poppy or sesame seeds to decorate, whisk together the egg white and a splash of water. Brush your loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle the seeds on top. The egg white will act as a glue to adhere the seeds.
When the oven is ready, place your loaf inside and bake for 25 minutes with the dutch oven covered. Then remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes or so.
You can see from this picture that the holes were not very big. You might even be able to see some of the grains in the crumb.
This loaf is delicious because it’s the right balance of hearty grains and sweetness from the honey and brown sugar. It’s perfect in the morning toasted with jam or butter.
- Combine flour, oats, wheat bran, polenta, brown sugar, salt and yeast in a very large bowl.
- Add brown rice, honey and buttermilk. Stir to combine, then add water, one cup at a time, until the dough is well hydrated.
- Knead the dough on a lightly-floured surface until it sticks to itself well and is smooth and not sticky.
- Return the dough to its bowl and let rise in a warm place for about one hour until doubled in size.
- Divide dough into three balls, then let rise one more hour either on pieces of parchment or in banettons.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with a dutch oven or heavy baking sheet inside.
- Bake your loaf for 25 minutes with the dutch oven lid on, then 15 minutes with the lid off.
- When bread is finished baking, remove it to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.