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Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

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This is yet another variation of my 100% whole wheat bread recipe…and a delicious one at that. This does entail an extra step (sauteing the onion and sweet potato until caramelized) but it’s worth it. After cooled, they are added to the dough while being kneaded and they melt into the dough offering a soft texture and subtle flavor. Anyhow, the recipe is below.
Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

Makes 2 loaves

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium sweet potato, diced

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3½ cups water, divided

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup honey


Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet then add the diced onion and sweet potato. Sauté for five or ten minutes, or until caramelized.
Add ½ cup of the water to the pan. Simmer until the water evaporates completely and the sweet potato is very soft. Transfer to a plate to cool, using a spatula to include the olive oil as well (as this becomes part of the bread). 
Separate some of the remaining ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Add the caramelized onions and sweet potato along with the oil in which they were cooked. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Whole Wheat Rye…and that’s all

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Whole Wheat Rye Bread

Makes 2 loaves

4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

2 ¾ cups water, divided

2 cups rye flour

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup dark molasses


Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine the 4 cups of whole wheat flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the 2 cups rye flour and remaining ¾ cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, caraway seeds, olive oil, molasses, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes (if the dough is too slack or too firm adjust it’s consistency with more flour or water), then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Le Pain d’Ezéchiel (bis)

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I haven’t posted this recipe in a while, but it is still my favorite bread, and is in fact still the #1 reason people visit my little blog. To read my views on this bread, click here. For pictures of it being made and additional directions, click here.

Whole Wheat Ezekiel Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves
12 cups water
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons red beans
2 tablespoons spelt berries
2 tablespoons lentils
2 tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
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cooked beans and grains
½ cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
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4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups cooking liquid
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1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
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.
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Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained grains with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
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After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

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.

Urban Simplicity.

Bread!

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I made this bread tonight. Made the preferment while I took a nap after work, mixed the dough before I went to the health club, and baked it while I ate dinner. Beautiful, delicious, and easy to make. And it is, of course, made with 100% whole wheat flour. Honey-oatmeal. I’ve posted this recipe–and variations of it–before but not in a while. It’s one of my favorites and one I make often so I thought I’d re-post it.

Whole Wheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity

Thoughts on the Parable of the Leaven…a story within a story

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So if you’ve been to this blog before you know that I like bread. A lot. I enjoy eating it, of course, but I also enjoy making it. I’ve often said that bread makes itself, that we merely provide the correct conditions and guide it along; I am really fascinated by its process. I’m also really interested in the history of bread and roles it has played throughout civilization and especially religion. Bread is in fact mentioned hundreds of times in the old and new testaments. But what I’d like to touch on here is the Parable of the Leaven (sometimes called the Parable of the Yeast). This is mentioned in both the Gospel of Matthew 13:33, and in the Gospel of Luke 13:20-21.

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsof flour until it worked all through the dough.”

But before I go any further let me say this (as I’ve said on a few occasions)…I read the bible as almost entirely metaphor. I believe there are stories and teachings in it that can aid us even today in 2013 if we look close enough, but sometimes it is a difficult process…I know it is for me. I am not here to try to preach or tell you what this means, just simply to say what I feel (because I can guess, but I do not know what it means…I can only guess and translate it to my life).

This said, lets look at the word parable. It comes from the Greek, parabolē, which we’ve interpreted as a sort of story or analogy. But it’s original meaning is a bit different. The word parabolē is actually a phrase; two words, meaning to “throw” or “toss” (bolē) “next to” (para), so loosely this can be taken as the story or meaning is next to or within the story. Hmmm…

Now lets look at the leaven itself (this is where it gets really interesting). But first I have to say a few things about yeast. It is a naturally occurring living organism; a form of fungus, actually. It is relatively dormant until provided the correct conditions. Mainly, the correct temperature, moisture, and food (the carbs and sugars in flour). When it has these three conditions it eats. More specifically it feasts, and on a biblical scale (yes, I see the pun here). As it feasts it gives off gases (don’t we all), mainly carbon dioxide but also ethyl alcohol. As these are released they form pockets of air or gas in the dough, and as the yeast continues to eat and give off gas these pockets or bubbles grow, sort of inflating the bread. This is how it rises. But ok, enough about the science of it, back to the leavan…the biblical kind.

In biblical times yeast did not look like the spoonful above. It would have been more like the spoonful in the first picture (which today we call a sponge, starter, poolish, or preferment), or the next picture of the ball of dough (which today is sometimes called a biga or in French, pâte fermentée ). Commercial yeast–as pictured in the spoon above–was not available in biblical times (it’s not like they had a supermarket to go to), in fact it was only invented in the last 120 years or so and was likely not readily available for decades after.
Now here’s the fun stuff. The English word leaven comes from the French levain. The French phrase for sourdough is pain au levain (bread with [natural] leaven). This is also where we get the word for the region of the Eastern Mediterranean (where of course, most of the biblical stories originated), the Levant, which means “rising” in French and is used thus because the sun rises in the east. But the word goes back further; it comes from the Latin word levāmen, which in addition to “raise,” it can also mean , relief, alleviation, consolation, or solace. Knowing this–and the meaning of the word parable–offers an entirely different view of this particular parable for me. Lets read it again.
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsof flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Some translations say that the woman mixed a “small amount” of yeast (or leaven) into a large amount of dough. And this is what is often cited when this parable is discussed. But look at the parable again, only this time where it mentions yeast (leaven) replace it with whichever of the original meanings you like…relief, alleviation, consolation, or solace. And she worked it all through the dough.
Wow.
While you’re thinking about that, I’m going to keep typing. I wanted to try this for myself. While I do consider bread making a form of solace for me I wasn’t sure how to mix solace into the dough, so I used yeast instead. And as the parable insinuated, I used a small amount  and let it work (itself) throughout the dough. And in this case, the word yeast could be replaced with faith, I suppose. A small amount of faith, solace, relief, etc can go a long way, and in fact, can work their way through us, sort of creating a heaven-on-earth (ok, now I’m stretching it…but I got you to think).
Anyhow, I did use a really small amount of yeast to make the loaf of bread pictured…I used 1/24th of my usual amount (which was 1/8th teaspoon opposed to 3 teaspoons). It rose, as I knew it would, it just took longer. I mixed it before bed and let it rise over night. After waking and preheating the oven, it probably fermented and rose for about 10 hours…sort of like a sourdough (but not really). Anyhow, there it is below, before risen and after.
I’m going stop now because this is starting to make my head hurt a little. But I can’t halt without one more observation. I really love how Jesus’ parables are spoken in such basic terms and using analogies of such common things of his day. But there is always more within (within us and within the parable). What if the women in the story was our creator and we were the dough…Mother Universe kneading a small amount of consolation, relief, and solace into us and she/he (our genderless Source) wants it to grow and raise (leaven) us up to be full of compassion for one another. What it it’s already within us and we just need to acknowledge it…to allow it to foster (ferment) and grow (rise). Just a thought. Now the difficult part is to let it happen. And that may be the story (each of our own personal stories) thrown next to the story or the story within. At least it’s something to think about.
100% Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 cups water, divided
4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, olive oil, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes roate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Two Breads and Two Recipes

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This is a continuation of this post where I listed a recipe for grissini. As I had mentioned, I am currently reviewing this book (which I highly recommend thus far) and have been testing a few of the recipes…so here’s a couple more. The recipes listed below–though originally derived from the book in mention–were borrowed from BreadBasketCase (click here and here) for the simple reason that I came across them and wouldn’t have to retype them (I am getting so lazy). Anyhow, both recipes are good, but the ciabatta is outstanding. That recipe I followed exactly, but the raisin-pecan bread I deviated a bit by using currants and walnuts (it’s what I had on hand). I like to post recipes that are simple to make (so that people actually make them), and these may seem complicated at first glance but they actually are not. If you read through the (somewhat lengthy) directions you’ll see they are pretty easy to follow.

Ciabatta with Stiff Biga
–From Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman

BIGA
6.4 oz. (1 1/2 cups) bread flour
3.8 oz. (1/2 cup) water
1/8 tsp. instant dry yeast

DOUGH
1 lb. 9.6 oz. (5 3/4 cups) bread flour
1 lb, 3.6 oz. (2 1/2 cups) water
.6 oz. (1 T.) salt
.13 oz. (1 1/4 tsp)instant dry yeast

1. BIGA. Mix the yeast, flour and water until just smooth. The biga will be stiff and dense, and may need a few more drops of water to mix entirely. Cover the bowl and plastic and leave for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature.

2. MIXING. Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the biga. In a stand mixer using a dough hook, mix on low speed for 3 minutes. As the dough comes together, add the biga in chunks. The dough will be quite sticky and slack. Finish mixing on medium for 3 1/2 to4 minutes. The dough will still be sticky.

3. FERMENTATION AND FOLDING. Put the dough in a mixing bowl sprayed with baker’s spray. Fold the dough twice, after one hour and again after two hours. This is where you fold quickly and assertively, adding no extra flour.

4. DIVIDING AND SHAPING. Flour the work surface copiously. Invert the dough onto the work surface and pat out the larger air bubbles. Lightly flour the top surface of the dough. Cut the dough into 3 rectangles, weighing about 18 ounces each. Gently shape into rectangles. Place the dough piece onto floured bread boards (I used floured parchment paper). Cover the shaped dough with baker’s linen and then plastic.

5. FINAL FERMENTATION. About 1 1/2 hours.

6. BAKING: Preheat oven to 460 degrees.
To transfer the proofed dough to a baker’s peel, spread the fingers of both your hands. With a quick, deft stroke, invert the dough piece so that the side that was touching the bread board is now on top. Place one hyand at each end of the dough piece, bring your fingers underneath, and pick it up. Here you will slightly punch the dough for easier transport; there should be wrinkles in the center of the loaf as the transfer it to the peel. [I just picked up the parchment paper and put it on top of a pre-heated baking stone–I’m using his instructions here just to show why I think they’re hard to understand.) Fill the oven with steam, load the ciabattas, steam again, and bake for 34-38 minutes. (I used the steam machine; otherwise you can use either an ice cube or boiling water method to get steam. Hamelmans thinks you should use all three: ice cubes on a heated skillet before the bread goes in, boiling water on a heated pan when the bread goes in, and spritzing with water too). Lower the oven temperature by 10 or 20 degrees if bread is taking on too much color, but be sure not to underbake. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool on a baking rack.

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD WITH PECANS AND GOLDEN RAISINS
–from Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman

Makes two loaves

1 pound (3 5/8 cups) whole wheat flour
1 pound (3 5/8 cups) bread flour
1 pound, 5.8 ounces (2 3/4 cups) water
.6 ounces (1 T) salt
.16 oz. (1 1/2 tsp) instant dry yeast
4.8 oz. (1 cup) golden rains, soaked and drained
4.8 oz. (1 3/8 cups) pecans

1. About 30 minutes before starting, pour warm water over the golden raisins and let them sit for up to 30 minutes to soften. Drain the rains well.

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients except the rains and pecans to mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes (using dough hook if you have a KitchenAid) to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. The dough consistency should be moderately loose. Turn the mixer to the second speed and mix for about 3 minutes more. Add the drained raisins and pecans (the recipe doesn’t say whether they should be chopped, so do whatever you want). Mix on low speed, just until the rains and nuts are thoroughly incorporated.

3. BULK FERMENTATION: Put in large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about two hours. If it’s more convenient, you can put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight.

4. FOLDING: After the dough has been rising for about an hour, take it out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured work surface, pat it out it into a rectangle, and fold it, as if you’re folding a business letter, in thirds, and put back into the bowl.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: The dough can be put into loaf pans or you can make it free-form into a round or oblong shape. Divide the dough into half, and place the dough pieces on a lightly floured work surface. Cover the rounds with plastic and let rest 10 to 20 minutes, until relaxed. Shape into a blunt cylinder just slightly smaller than the loaf pans if you’re using the pans. Otherwise, shape into round or oblong shape.

6. SECOND RISING: Cover loaves with oiled plastic wrap or with cotton or linen towel and let rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hour.

7. BAKING: Preheat oven to 450. If you have a baking stone, put that in the oven and preheat it too. Put the loaf pans on the preheated stone, or on the oven rack if you’re not using the stone. Lower the temperature to 425 after 20 minutes. Bread baked in the loaf pans will take 30 to 35 minutes to bake. Loaves baked freeform will take about 40 minutes.

Urban Simplicity

Parmesan and Black Pepper Grissini

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Pencil-thin breadsticks…grissini. Beautiful, aren’t they? Easy to make, too. These are coated with Parmesan and black pepper making them even more tasty. But you may be wondering why I am making bread with refined flour (opposed to whole wheat). Well, I do now and again. But the real reason is that I just received this book to review for ChefTalk and this is the first recipe I’ve tried. It is a really good book; I recommend it at this point…I’ll post a link to the review when finished. Anyhow, this recipe is about as easy as they come. Simply place most of the ingredients together in a bowl, knead it, allow it to ferment, cut it into strips, roll it in cheese, and bake them. Now all the recipes in the book are not this easy (in fact most are not), but this is an adaptation of the one in the book (of course I’ll eventually make these with 100% whole wheat). I do hope you try these; they are simple to make and additively delicious.

Parmesan and Black Pepper Grissini

Makes about 5-6 dozen

4 1/3 cups bread flour

1 1/3 cups water

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for dusting

black pepper for dusting


Combine the flour, water, olive oil, butter, salt, yeast, and 1/3 cup of Parmesan in the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead the dough on medium for about 8 minutes, then cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for about an hour. Preheat an oven to 375F. Roll the dough into a thin oblong shape and cut it into thin strips. Dust the work surface with a small amount of Parmesan and black pepper; roll the strips of raw dough the cheese and pepper. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled baking sheet; place them close but not touching. Bake the grissini for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Urban Simplicity.

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