I’ve posted recipes for this bread–or variations of it–in the past on numerous occasions, but the two most popular are here and here. Those two posts, in fact, draw the largest amount of visitors to this blog everyday (through search engines, I imagine). Yup, I can carry things on my bike until I’m blue in the face, and talk about quotes and all things spiritual…but the topic that gets the most hits are my recipes for Ezekiel Bread.
This post is a little different in that I made the bread at home (opposed to at work in a commercial kitchen), and I did not use any refined (white) flour; just whole wheat. And for that reason the recipe is slightly different than the others (a printable recipe follows the pictures). This one, I believe, is more true…refined flour was unknown in biblical times. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this post I also wanted to offer some of my personal views on Ezekiel bread and its recipes in general (I know what you’re thinking…here he goes again, up on his little soapbox…but hey, isn’t that why people write blogs in the first place).
Many people know–but some may do not–that the original recipe, vague as it is, comes directly from the Bible, in the Book of Ezekiel.
That’s it; that’s all it says. But I’m getting ahead again.
A couple years ago I dropped off a loaf of this bread–still warm–to a store that bakes their own bread (a few friends work there). After I left I had heard how a couple of them said that while the bread was delicious it was not really Ezekiel bread because real Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted grains and contains no flour. This did not surprise me because I had heard comments like this before (read them, mostly, on the Internet). I have to wonder how someone would have such a definitive opinion on this recipe from just one sentence. Here it is again:
Before I offer further views I first have to say that I read this recipe the same way I read the Bible; I read the Bible with a metaphysical view and am intrigued by it’s mystery (and even sometimes overwhelmed), but view it mostly as metaphor. In short, I am not a literalist and truly believe that most if not all of the Bible is open to interpretation (and yes, I realize that some may say that I’m going to hell for this proclamation, so here’s another one…I don’t believe that hell exists). Now I’m really getting off point.
This said, I can see how someone could interpret the above sentence to say to sprout the grains before making bread with them…but then again, it doesn’t actually say that. There is no mention of adding water to the jar to sprout the grains or even how to make a sort of dough…but just to use them to make bread for yourself (and I have neither the time nor desire to expound on all the metaphors of bread in the Bible). But if a person were to add water the grain would eventually begin to ferment (and leaven) given the amount of time Ezekiel is told to lie on his side in the desert. And as far as using flour in this recipe…umm, I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure that flour is made from wheat, spelt, and barley; three of the main ingredients.
Nobody that I know of would want to take this recipe to the literal extent. After giving Ezekiel the recipe, instructing how much of it he should eat each day, and how long he is to lie on each side in the desert, God tells Ezekiel to cook the bread over human excrement, to which Ezekiel pleads that he be allowed to use animal dung instead of human waste. Thankfully God agrees. I’m still trying to figure out the metaphorical or mystical reason behind this; surely it is not literal. The Book of Ezekiel is, of course, a record of a series of visions recorded by the Prophet Ezekiel. Thus in my view there is no way to tell what the actual recipe was or is.
As aforementioned, like most (or all) of the Bible, I believe that this recipe (sentence) is open to interpretation. The recipe that follows is my personal interpretation.
What’s slightly different in this recipe (opposed to previous versions where I used some white flour) is that rather than using a loose pre-ferment (French poolish), I used a firmer one, more like an Italian biga. And I also incorporated the autolyse method with the remaining flour (meaning I soaked the whole wheat flour to soften it). Anyhow, here it is in words and pictures; a printable recipe follows. It’s a simple recipe…basically, put some beans and grains in a pot and make bread for yourself.
Start by boiling the grains in logical succession to insure that they are thoroughly cooked without completely dissolving. If too much water evaporates add more to the pot (you’ll need some of the cooking liquid for the bread recipe. by using the cooking liquid you are utilizing nutrients that may have been leached out of the grains during their cooking).
After all of the grains are soft, strain them–reserving the liquid–and allow them to cool off (refrigerate them if necessary). Beautiful, aren’t they?
Make the pre-ferment with the cooked grains, whole wheat flour, and a portion of the cooking liquid.
Allow the pre-ferment to rest for at least an hour or two ( I let it ferment overnight). Then, in a second bowl, combine the whole wheat flour with some of the remaining cooking liquid (do not add yeast or anything else to this at this point…this is the autolyse method I referred to earlier). The flour-liquid mixture only needs to rest for an hour or so.
Next, combine the pre-ferment with the flour-liquid mixture, along with a bit of honey, olive oil, salt, and an additional pinch of yeast. Knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test.
Place the dough in a bowl or rising bucket and allow it to rise once or twice. I slowed its fermentation by placing it in the refrigerator for six hours, but you can still see it’s rise…it almost popped the lid on the bucket.
Portion and shape the dough. Place it into pans and allow it to rise.
Bake the loaves for 30-40 minutes and then let them cool before slicing. You can see the nice open crumb and specks of grain. It is not necessary to grind the grain because most of it sort of mashes into the dough as it’s kneaded. It is as delicious as it looks. This bread makes excellent sandwiches and toast. Some say that it is nutritionally complete.
This post and the pictures may make it seem like this is a difficult or overly complicated bread to prepare…it’s not. It is as simple as any other bread with just a couple extra steps (mainly cooking the beans and grains). If you look at the recipe and break it down into steps or stages you will see that it is rather simple. I encourage you to try it…you will be glad that you did.
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons red beans
2 tablespoons lentils
2 tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons sea salt
3 teaspoons instant yeast
Boil the grains in the water in logical succession according to cooking times: first the white and red beans (about 60 minutes), when they are soft add the, spelt berries, lentils, and barley (about 30 minutes); lastly, add the millet and bulgar (about 10 minutes). The key is that after each addition the previous grain must be soft enough so that when all of the grains are in the pot they will all be equally soft; undercooked grains (especially the beans) can really ruin this bread. And as the grains cook add more water to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of the recipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it’s evaporation). After the grains are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the grains are cooled drain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.
Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.