Thursday, February 4, 2010

So-Seedy Nut Bread

I know bread is the big bogeyman right now, but I love it. Wheat is rich in folic acid, fiber, and tons of vitamins and minerals; whole-grain bread has been proven to reduce cholesterol and minimize the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Bread has been "the staff of life" throughout most of human history, and - let's face it - everybody loves to eat it!

The problem is that supermarket "bread" is often just a conglomeration of processed flour, stripped of all its nutrition and taste, mixed with unrecognizable chemicals and preservatives. The last time I bought a loaf of bread, for a culinary emergency when I didn't have time to bake, I didn't use it all and the last few slices sat on the counter for almost a month before I reached for them again. They were still soft. Ew!! Not even the slightest bit stale and no mold! That's not food - if mold spores and microorganisms don't want to eat it, you shouldn't either.

Artisan bakery bread can be found to purchase, but it's expensive. A much better solution is to bake your own. Breadmaking is a great way to work through stress, with all the punching and kneading and shaping. If you have a bread machine, you can let it do the initial mix and kneading, but you should still pull it out to shape and rise in a regular loaf pan; that square loaf you get with a bread machine is unweildy and makes an awkward sandwich.

Here's my favorite bread recipe. It's loaded with seeds and nuts for extra protein, fiber, and heart-healthy good fats. Try it toasted with butter and/or jam, but also try it with meats, cheese, and/or veggies for a big Dagwood sandwich. It'll keep you full for hours and hours, unlike the soft white stuff in the plastic bag. Enjoy!


1 1/3 c warm (not hot) water or whey
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/3 c unbleached white flour
1/2 c ground flaxmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp active yeast
1/4 c sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or a combo
1/4 c chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, divided
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp milk or soymilk

Bread Machine Method: Pour water, olive oil, and honey into machine. Sprinkle over the flours and flaxmeal to cover the water, add salt to the corner, and make a little well in the center to pour the yeast into. Once you've added the yeast, turn the machine onto the dough cycle and let 'er rip, checking in a few minutes later to make sure it's kneading everything together and not knocking flour balls up against the walls of the machine like mine does sometimes.

When the raisin beep goes off, or when there's only five minutes left in the first knead cycle, pour in all the nuts and seeds EXCEPT for 1 Tbsp hazelnuts.

Without a Bread Machine: Stir the water, olive oil, and honey together until well-mixed, and then carefully stir in the yeast. Let it sit in a warm place until it bubbles up (about 5-10 minutes). Mix the flours, flaxmeal, and salt together in another bowl and add the yeasty water; stir gently with a fork until it just starts to combine together, then start kneading it in. As it takes on a doughy consistency, you might want to transfer it to a countertop or table to keep kneading.

Mix and knead with your hands for 10 or 15 minutes, working it well, then spread it out thin and sprinkle the nuts and seeds on top (except for the reserved 1 Tbsp hazelnuts). Keep kneading until it all comes together evenly, another 5 or 10 minutes, then ball it up and put it in a clean bowl. Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise half an hour.

Either Way Resume From Here: Take the 1 Tbsp reserved hazelnuts and chop them up very, very finely or run through a small food processor. Set aside for later.

When the dough cycle or that first rise is finished, take out the loaf and punch it down (this means kneading it for a few minutes until it collapses a bit). Put it in a bowl, cover it with oiled plastic wrap, and set it in a warm place for half an hour. Come back and punch it down again, then shape it into a loaf to fit a well-oiled, floured loaf pan. Put it in the pan, cover it with the oiled plastic wrap again, and let it rise another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

Brush the top with the milk (you might not need all of it). Make a couple of small slashes in the top with a sharp knife, and sprinkle the finely-chopped hazelnuts over the top. Put it in the oven, and quickly pour a splash of water onto the oven floor; it'll make a big whooshing steam cloud, so shut the oven door quickly to keep all that steam in. This gives the bread a nice crust.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the top looks nice and the bottom sounds hollow when you knock on it. Let it cool on a wire rack before you slice into it and enjoy. Make sure you have friends or at least one loved one at home with you while you bake this bread, because it smells fantastic and you'll want to share a slice of the fresh hot bread with someone who will ooh and ahh all over it with you!

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