Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The art of seeduction

Is that a horrible pun? Probably yes. But technically, though I wish I could, I can’t take credit for it. This is a bread that Whole Foods is apparently famous for, or at the very least, they’re the ones who came up with the wonderfully awful pun.

Two friends and I made this bread for the first time last week, and there is another batch of dough rising on my counter as I type this, only one week later. What can I say, I’ve been seeduced. (Too much? Sorry.)

I’ve always regarded bread as one of the more wholesome things you can make, itself a testament to domesticity, perhaps second only to perfectly trimmed pie crusts and embroidered aprons. It’s almost a culinary right of passage; to have bread-baking under your belt is the driving-test equivalent of adolescence.

I’ve also always regarded bread, like most things that spend the majority of their cooking time in the oven, as being finicky. The first time I can remember making bread was at my restaurant, during my stint in the kitchen. After cutting and shaping the dough, I would have to spray water into the convection oven every half minute, on the half minute, to imitate the steam injection of more schmancy bread ovens. It was all a science: each batch would bake for eleven minutes, no more, no less.

This time around, I had at least two people at any given time, hunched over the open oven with me, trying desperately to figure out if the crust was golden or if it sounded hollow when tapped. There were even frantic text messages thrown into the mix. When you can’t stick a tester in the center, or you aren’t told that it needs exactly eleven minutes, baking can actually be quite terrifying.

After all that, though, the bread came out perfectly sans spray bottles and to-the-minute-timing. I don’t know if it was all the seeds that kept it from drying out or if, like my driving test, my first go alone just needed to be borderline horrifying like some kind of initiation, but I did it. And now, I’m doing it again.

Seeduction Bread

(Adapted from Caviar and Codfish)

½ cup lukewarm water
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ cup honey
2 ¾ cups bread flour (A/P will suffice if it’s all you have)
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup bulgur or cracked wheat
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup cool water
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds

In a medium bowl, sprinkle yeast over the lukewarm water. Mix in honey and let sit for about 10 minutes, making sure that it foams; this is how you know your yeast is alive.

Put flours, bulgur and salt in the bowl of your mixer (you can use a food processor or your hands as well) and mix to combine. Pour the oil and cool water into the yeast mixture and then, with the mixer running, pour it slowly into the flour mixture. Let it run until the dough stops sticking to the outside walls of mixer bowl and it forms around the dough hook. Add a teaspoon or two of water if it’s not sticky enough to form the ball, or flour if it looks too wet. Let the processor run for another minute to knead the dough.

Remove the dough to a greased bowl, making sure all sides of the dough get a little oil on them. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface, and knead it a few times to form a large oval. Sprinkle with the seeds (reserving 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds) and fold in half. Knead the dough so that you distribute the seeds evenly. This will take a little while and be slightly awkward (for fair warning). Just keep going, though, eventually the seeds will stick into the dough and distribute.

Divide the dough into two and form tight round balls. Roll the tops of the dough balls in the reserved pumpkin seeds. Place on the baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake the breads on the center rack for 35 minutes, or until they are “golden and sound hollow when tapped.” I would recommend checking every few minutes after they’ve been in for 25 minutes; my crusts ended up being a deep brown, too, if that helps. Cool before slicing.


Lauri said...

The title made me think for a horrifying second that you had unfortunatley inheireted your fathers pun gene!
So for some one who shies away from oven projects you certainly are diving into the baking mode a lot lately! The pics are was the "crumb"?

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Anonymous said...

This recipe is now my "go to" bread recipe, I've made it approx four times and it is so easy, and so delicious. Just served it with lunch for a friend, she loved it too. I added sesame and poppy seeds and ground, roasted pumpkins seeds - and swapped half the oil for flax seed oil - just gorgeous and I love that it makes two loaves, one to eat - one to share. Thanks for the recipe!