whole wheat, oat, and flax seed bread

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a hand grain mill. I wanted to mill my own flour and be able to eat the grain in its freshest-tasting form, full of fiber, proteins and vitamins that are naturally present in the grain. It’s true, milling flour from grain is a little more work. In fact, as I’ve experienced this past couple of weeks, using a hand-operated grain mill instead of an electric grain mill is way more work. Luckily, the hand mill can be motorized with a pulley, which gives me the benefit of having a mill that works with or without electricity. If you want to mill your own flour, I’d highly recommend getting an electric mill or a hand mill that can be motorized. 

I wanted to try making a favorite multi-grain bread with the freshly-milled grains this week. It’s a recipe I found through the website The Knead for Bread. I’ve adapted the original recipe a little, using white whole wheat flour along with the red (regular) whole wheat flour the recipe calls for, and adding 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil instead of only 1 tablespoon. I also lowered the oven temperature setting, since the higher setting of the original recipe resulted in an overbrowned and tougher crust than I wanted. Every oven is different, and having an inexpensive oven thermometer helps ensure accuracy of the baking temperature. Even if you don’t mill your own flour, this bread still tastes wonderful, and works great sliced length-wise for sandwiches or sliced thickly as a side with dinner.

Whole Wheat, Oat and Flax Seed Bread

(adapted from recipe for multi-grain bread on The Knead for Bread website)

the evening before:

1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup cracked wheat
1/2 cup red (regular) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

the next day:

1/2 cup red (regular) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup golden flax seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 egg white
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 cups boiling water

Starting the night before you bake the bread, prepare the starter and the soaker. Mix the starter ingredients together in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. In another bowl, mix soaker ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave out overnight, for a total of 12 to 16 hours.

The next day, combine the starter, soaker, maple syrup and olive oil together in a bowl. For the most thorough mix, use your hands to combine the mixture as it will be very thick. Mix together ground flax seed, salt, and instant yeast. Add to starter/soaker mixture and work in thoroughly. Let mixture sit uncovered for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, take remaining 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and sprinkle half of it on a flat working surface. Scoop the dough mixture onto the floured surface, and sprinkle the other half of the flour on top. Knead the dough well, gradually working in the flour until dough is smooth and elastic, at least 10 minutes by hand, or 6 minutes in a mixer on medium speed with a dough hook. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, a little at a time. Dough should ultimately be tacky, but should not stick to your hands. To test if the gluten has developed properly, I use a technique I learned from Peter Reinhart called the “windowpane test.” Take a little piece of the dough and gently stretch it until it can hold a very thin, translucent layer without the dough breaking. If the dough doesn’t hold together, knead a couple minutes more and check again. Once the dough is sufficiently kneaded, pour a little olive oil in a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area for 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

After dough has doubled in bulk, scoop onto a flat working surface. Cut in half. Take one of the pieces of dough and flatten gently without removing all of the air, shaping into a small rectangle. Fold bottom half to center, and crimp edge to seal. Fold top half to center, then crimp edge to seal. Fold top over bottom, bringing the two halves together, creating a new seam, and crimp edge to seal. Using your hands, roll the dough outward from the middle to create a batard shape that is thicker in the middle and tapers towards each end. Repeat the same procedure with the second piece of dough.

Cut a large piece of parchment paper and lay it on a pizza peel. Place loaves on the parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes. In the meantime, place pizza stone on on a rack in the center position in the oven. Place a cast iron lid or shallow cast iron pan filled with oven-safe stones below on a rack set on the second lowest position in the oven. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

After 45 minutes, beat the egg white with a whisk until foamy. Brush the egg white over each loaf. Sprinkle poppy seeds over each loaf. Score each loaf down the center with a razor blade or sharp knife. Place the loaves, with the parchment paper, on the pizza stone in the oven. Pour 1-2 cups hot water over the stones in the cast iron lid or shallow pan to create steam. (To keep from scalding myself with the steam, I use a metal watering can with a long spout to pour the water over the stones). Close the door immediately.

Bake for 15 minutes, then using the parchment paper, rotate the loaves 180º. Carefully remove parchment paper from underneath the loaves, close oven door, and continue baking another 15 minutes, until loaves are deep golden brown. Bottom of loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Remove to wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves

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