Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Hearty Bread

I'm not baking bread as often as I used to. Lots of things getting in the way of it, but mostly it's because Sweetie asked me to not tempt him with warm bread quite so often...he has no resistance to bread hot from the oven but wants to continue to fit in his clothes.

Still, I have a sourdough starter and it seems a shame to waste the 'toss off' that comes with feeding it. Before I went to LA I used it to make some pizza dough, which I then froze. One day soon I'll make pizza for dinner, but for now the calories are held at bay.

I fed it again a couple of days ago and decided that it had been a long time since I've made a hearty, seedy bread. If I give half of it away then Sweetie and I can still have some and feel virtuous at the same time. After doing a half-feeding of the toss off (1/2 cup each all-purpose flour and water, instead of a full cup of each), I let that sit in the fridge over night. The second day I fed the mixture with a feeding of 1 cup graham flour (Bob's Red Mill brand) and 1 cup water. It made for a soupy mixture since the last time I fed the starter I added extra water knowing that it would be well over a week before I could feed it. The reason I mention this is that I started with more hydration in the dough than usual. If you have 100% hydration starter, you won't need as much flour for the bread.

The graham flour mixture sat on the counter for about 20 hours before I started the dough and it was nice and bubbly, plus there was a great yeast fragrance, but I knew I would be adding a lot of things needing a bit of extra lift, so I whisked in 1 teaspoon active dry yeast.

In a bowl I mixed together dark rye flour, flax seed, all-purpose flour, and salt. These were added to the sourdough mixture using my stand  mixer and the dough hook, letting everything come together and finishing with some all-purpose flour to stiffen the dough a bit. Once the machine kneading finished, I did some more on a floured board. The dough was just a bit tacky, so I used my bench scraper to lift the dough up and over for kneading.

After kneading a few minutes, I flattened the dough out into an oval, then sprinkled on 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup of Salad Toppings, a mixture I found at Costco that contains pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Rolled up the dough, folded the ends over, then flattened it again to allow for the remaining 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup Salad Toppings to be worked in. More kneading until all was evenly distributed, then into the rising container for a few hours to rise. I like to spray the bottom and a bit up the sides of the container with spray olive oil, then turn the dough in it to coat surface of the dough with oil. Probably not necessary, but I like the dough to stay soft on the surface and that takes care of that.

After the dough doubled in bulk, I turned it out on a floured board, punched it down, used the bench scraper to cut it into three pieces, then weighed them so that they were each about 14 oz. Rolled each into a snake shape and put them, lined up, on a baking sheet. After braiding them loosely, I covered the braid with a clean tea towel and let it rise. All that was left was preheating the oven, painting the plait with beaten egg, and baking it until golden.

This makes a hearty bread. It has a fairly fine grain and is studded throughout with seeds, nuts, and the occasional cranberry piece. I served it with dinner and one guest described the variety of flavors and 'lots of musical notes', but they all work well together. This is not a sweet bread since the proportion of cranberries in the Salad Topping is small. It has lots of seeds, which is lovely, and makes great toast.

I had a couple slices today for lunch as Avocado Toasts with some smoked salmon on top. Yum!

Hearty Seedy Braid
my own creation

1 cup sourdough starter, plus about 2 tablespoons water if your starter is 100% hydration
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1 cup graham flour
1 cup water
1 cup dark rye flour
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional (about another 1/2 cup or so)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup mixed sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten

Take the 1 cup sourdough starter and put into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together the all purpose flour and the water. Whisk into the sourdough starter until well combined. Leave on counter, uncovered for 2 hours, then lightly cover and refrigerate.

The next day whisk together the graham flour and the water in a small bowl. Add it to the sourdough starter mixture and let sit, uncovered, on the counter until the next day.

The next day, whisk together the rye flour, flax seeds, all-purpose flour and salt in a medium bowl. Put the sourdough mixture into a stand mixer bowl. Attach the dough hook to the mixer. Stir about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the sourdough mixture with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Put the bowl on the mixer base and start up the dough hook on low speed. Slowly add the remainder of the flour mixture. If needed, add additional all-purpose flour as the mixer kneads the dough for at least 8 minutes. When kneaded, dough should clean the sides of the bowl and be tacky but not sticky.

Remove the dough from the dough hook and bowl onto a lightly floured board or clean work surface. Knead the dough a few turns, then flatten into a large oval or circle. Sprinkle half the pecans and half the seed mixture over the dough, roll up jelly-roll fashion and flip end up over the log. Press down to flatten the dough again, sprinkle on the remaining pecans and seed mixture, roll up again, then knead until the pecans and seeds are well distributed in the dough.

Oil lightly a rising container. Place the dough in it, then turn dough over so that all is coated with oil. Flatten the dough in the rising container, cover with a clean shower cap or with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place to double in bulk.

When dough has doubled, turn out onto a lightly floured board or work surface. Using a bench scraper, cut into three pieces (weigh if necessary to keep about the same weight), then roll each piece into a snake shape. Place the three snakes next to each other in a baking sheet, braid loosely, tuck ends under, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until about doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When braid has almost doubled, use a pastry brush to paint the plaits with beaten egg. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown. When you tap the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow. Cool for at least 10 minutes on a rack, then slice and serve.


  1. This looks and sounds amazing, and I love that you only have to wait 10 minutes before slicing!

  2. We were just mentioning the other day how, with the schedule we're on now with fruit shakes in the morning and being gone until well in the evening that bread has gone out of our menu - which would be such a shame, if it were true! We promised ourselves that when the weather turned and it was soup time, we'd be back with the bread and cheese. For now, we can deal with it as a seasonal food... and here's hoping MY clothes fit better; Himself is a mere shadow of his former self, much to my disgust (men just lose weight faster).

  3. Karen, that's all the time Sweetie gives me. This time I let it cool in the oven a bit before putting it out, so it was actually cooler, but most times, he just slices into it while still hot.

    Tanita, I know what you mean about guys and weight loss. Hoping all our clothes fit better!

  4. Marian5:47 PM

    Sounds wonderful! Maybe I will eventually try my hand at sourdough.