Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cooking School: Multi-Grain Bread

I love multi-grain bread. I'm not talking about the kind that you buy in the supermarket, bagged and sliced next to the white bread. I'm talking about the hearty, flavorful kind that you can get on a sandwich at a really great cafe. It's the kind of bread that is invariably paired with a "California style" sandwich, the one that always seems to include tomatoes, avocado and sprouts. Of course, there might be other things on it, too, but such a sandwich is mostly about the bread.
I have wanted to make multigrain bread for a long time. I started with a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website and went from there. After a few substitutions and eliminating the sunflower seeds because I don't care for nuts in my sandwich bread, my multi-grain loaf was finished. And it was everything I could have hoped it would be.
The bread was hearty with an oaty, nutty flavor. It was moist and very substantial, but that is a trait that you want in a bread like this, since it can stand up to any filling. It can even stand up to a total lack of filling and be satisfying! The crust is thick and crisp, really excellent.
One of the things that really makes it work is the vital wheat gluten in the recipe. The gluten allows the bread to rise better, creating a lighter product. The "multi grains" in the bread have either low or no additional protein in them, so adding the gluten, which is extra protein, means that you are going to have a less-dense, more tender loaf. If you don't have vital wheat gluten, you can buy some from the Baker's Catalogue or look for it at a natural grocery store. If you do not use it, you bread will still taste good, but it will be on the dense side.
I love this loaf. It makes fantastic sandwiches and unbelievable toast. The only thing that I would consider changing is its size, to make a larger bread, because I definitely want more.

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread
1 tbps active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole rolled oats
2 tbsp powdered skim milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tbso vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup flour and mix well. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic, 4-5 minutes, adding an extra tablespoon or two of flour, if necessary. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled, 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Gently deflate dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a loaf by rolling like a jelly-roll and tucking the ends underneat the dough. Pinch seam together and place, seam side down, in greased loaf pan. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise until about 1/2 inch above the top of the pan, approximately 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.
Bake loaf at 350F for 40 minutes, until dark gold.
Turn out from loaf pan and let cool completely before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf.