About a year or so ago I decided to try my hand at homemade bread. The first yeast bread recipe I made was the “Oatmeal Sandwich Bread” from Good To The Grain by Kim Boyce. It couldn’t have been a better choice for a beginner like me. I followed the recipe to the letter and produced a beautiful loaf with great structure, crumb and flavor. That initial success opened a whole world of baking bread for me, and I’ve explored it with fervency. Since then, I’ve made my own whole wheat english muffins, tortillas, hamburger buns, and multi-grain bread.
After reading a post from the blog Life, In Recipes and learning more about the nutritional benefits of freshly ground flour, I also started grinding my own flours. I’ve been trying to find a local resource to buy grain in large bulk, but in the meantime I buy from the small bulk aisle at a local grocery store. To grind the kernels quickly and easily I use my Vitamix blender with the dry grains container.
After a bit of experimentation with different types of bread, I decided to try to make a whole grain version of a favorite breakfast bread we used to buy from the store. For the base I made a half recipe of the “Oatmeal Sandwich Bread” with freshly ground flours, added freshly ground spices and a mix of dried apricots, dates and pecans, and sprinkled the finished dough with sugar. For a guideline on when and how much fruit and nuts to add to yeast bread I consulted How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. With great resources like these, my success was nearly guaranteed. The result is a breakfast bread I think you’ll look forward to waking up to.
Whole Grain Breakfast Bread with Apricots, Dates & Pecans
(adapted from Good To The Grain by Kim Boyce)
1-1/4 cups regular whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (regular slow cooking, not instant)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup warm water (between 109º and 115ºF)
1-1/2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1-1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/4 cup medjool dates, finely chopped
1/4 cup whole pecans, finely chopped
1 tablespoon organic sugar
•tip: If possible, grind your own flour and spices for the best flavor and texture
Very helpful, but not absolutely necessary, equipment:
Pizza baking stone
Cast-iron skillet or lid
Metal watering can with long spout
Using your mixer bowl as the container, add the warm water, using a thermometer to test for the appropriate temperature, stir in the molasses, and add the yeast. Let sit until it becomes foamy on top. In a separate bowl, add flours, oatmeal, ground spices and orange zest and mix together until blended. Add melted butter and mix, using your hands to work it throughout the flour mix. Add flour mix to yeast mixture in mixer bowl. Stir together to combine well. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes to develop the dough.
After 30 minutes, add the salt, and using a dough hook, mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. If the dough is too sticky and sticks to the bottom of the bowl instead of moving around the bowl, add flour, one tablespoon at a time, until dough releases and begins to move around the bowl. After 6 minutes, remove dough from mixer bowl and use the windowpane test (take a very small piece of the dough and create an opaque “window” by stretching it very thin without tearing the dough) to see if the gluten is properly developed. If not, knead by hand on the counter a little more until developed sufficiently. Roll dough into a ball and put in a large buttered bowl. Let rise until dough doubles in bulk, about one hour.
In the meantime, chop apricots, dates and pecans. When chopping the dates, you can use a little flour sprinkled on them to keep them from sticking together into one big clump as you chop. Mix apricots, dates and pecans together in a covered bowl and set aside.
Towards the end of the dough’s first rise, prepare the oven. Put a baking stone on middle rack in oven. Put a cast iron lid or skillet filled with oven-safe stones on a rack in the lowest position in the oven. Fill a Pyrex measuring cup with 2 cups of water and set aside. Get metal watering can with long spout ready by placing beside oven. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
After the dough has risen for the first time, remove from bowl. Take chopped apricots, dates and pecans and pour them out on a small area of the counter. Place dough on top of fruit and nut mixture and gently knead and fold it into the dough until it is incorporated fairly evenly. After this shape the dough into a boulé. Gently flatten dough into a rectangle. Fold up all corners to the center and crimp to seal. Turn dough over, pulling the skin under to tighten the surface, and use your hands to rotate into a ball. Dough should be a tight, round shape. Place dough on a piece of parchment paper, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar to coat completely, cover with plastic, and let rise for 45 minutes, or until dough increases by about half its size.
During the last few minutes of the second rise, heat two cups of water in the microwave and pour into watering can. When dough has finished the second rise, remove plastic wrap and slide a pizza peel underneath dough and parchment paper. Lift onto center of baking stone in oven. Pour water into cast iron pan with stones to create steam. Close door and bake for 10 minutes. At the end of ten minutes, use the parchment paper to rotate loaf 180 degrees. Bake for another 10 minutes, until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you thump the underside. Place on cooling rack and let rest until completely cool. Slice thickly, spread with butter, and enjoy the moment.
Makes one approximately 8-inch round loaf