Monday, September 24, 2007


Best Blog Tips

For Canadians out there, whose Thanksgiving celebration occurs in only two weeks (!) (and Americans who are thinking well ahead!)), here is the recipe for the harvest bread that I pictured on last year's Thanksgiving blog:

Photo by Fireweed
Bread has had a spiritual significance throughout the ages, and is a potent symbol of the harvest. In the Anglican (Episcopalian) church, for instance, a pretty harvest bread such as this one might be part of the "Harvest Home" service. It certainly makes a lovely centerpiece for a Thanksgiving celebration. This recipe makes two, so you can keep one for the centerpiece and eat one!

Printable Recipe

Makes 2 loaves

This bread is not only nutritious and delicious, but it also makes a spectacular centerpiece! It's not hard to make-- honestly! This can be made ahead and frozen, well wrapped. You can shape the dough as I have suggested, or do it your own way and get creative!

1 1/2 cups soymilk or other nondairy milk
1/3 cup vegan buttery spread-- try my homemade palm-oil-free recipe (or you can use oil instead)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup medium bulgur wheat
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp. dry active baking yeast (or 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast)
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped fine (you don’t want big chunks because that makes the dough hard to roll into thin “ropes”)
2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups unbleached white flour
(NOTE: Use the all-purpose version of both if Canadian; bread flour if American-- Canadian AP flour contains a higher level of gluten than US AP flour)
cornmeal to sprinkle on baking sheet
soy or nut milk for glazing

Scald the soymilk (you can do this in the microwave, in a Pyrex measuring beaker or glass bowl, for 1 minute on 100% power) and then add the vegan buttery spread or oil, syrup, salt, and bulgur wheat, mixing it in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Allow this to cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in the warm water in a cup until bubbly. Add the dissolved yeast, walnuts, and the whole wheat flour to the milk-bulgur-etc. mixture. Beat until smooth. Add the wheat germ, and then add unbleached flour to make a knead-able dough (it can be a little sticky—that’s better than too dry).

Kneading and Rising-- you have 4 options:
1.) If kneading by hand: Turn out the dough onto a large square of baking parchment and let it rest (covered by a clean damp towel) while you clean the bowl. Knead vigorously, adding a little more white flour as necessary, but use as little as possible to avoid making an overly-stiff dough, for about 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, elastic and relatively non-sticky, but moist, dough. Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2.) If kneading by stand-mixer with dough hook: Add unbleached flour until the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl while it kneads. Knead for 8-10 minutes. Turn the machine off. If your bowl is big enough (a Bosch, for instance), you can just place the cover over it and let it rise in the same bowl. If there is not room for it to rise, place it in a larger oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

3.)You mix and knead and rise the dough in an automatic bread machine according to your machine's directions(use the Dough Cycle), but you’ll have to use only half the recipe.

4.) You can also make the dough in a food processor,
but again, unless you have a large processor, you’ll have to make only half the recipe, or do it in two batches. After the dough forms a ball on the blade, process for 30 seconds. Place the dough in an oiled bowl (with room to double), cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half . Keep the half you are not working with covered with a damp cloth or a plastic bag while you work on the other half. Avoid handling the dough too much prior to rolling it out— that may make it tough and hard to handle. If this happens, just cover it and let it rest for 10 minutes or so to “relax” the gluten.

Dough rolling technique: I use an unfloured kitchen counter top and form the ball of dough into a rough sort of cigar-shape. Then a I roll with splayed fingers from the middle outwards. If the dough breaks, just pinch it back together. If one end is thicker than the other, gently hold the middle of the rope down with the splayed fingers of one hand and roll the thicker end with the splayed fingers of the other.

Photo by Fireweed
To make one loaf, turn one half of the dough out onto a large working surface sprinkled with flour. Divide into 18 equal pieces. Roll two pieces into 12” long ropes. (I use a small retractable carpenter’s measuring tape for measuring .) Twist the two ropes together (starting in the center) and set them aside, covered by a damp tea towel or plastic wrap.
Roll 4 pieces into 18” ropes. Place one 18” rope lengthwise on the center of a greased baking sheet, which has been sprinkled with cornmeal, bending the top third of the rope off to the left at a 45 degree angle. Place the other 18” rope on the sheet next to and touching the first rope, but bend the top third off to the right. Repeat this using the other two 18” ropes, placing them so that they are touching.

Roll the remaining dough (from the half you are working with) into 15” ropes. Arrange them on top of and around the 18” ropes. Spread out the ropes a little at the bottom to form the base of the “sheaf”. Drape the twisted 12” ropes around the center of the loaf by “tying” the sheaf together, tucking the ends under gently on either side.

Cover loosely with a large plastic bag and let the dough rise again for about 40 minutes, or until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Turn the baking sheet so that the top section faces you. On each rope (or “stalk”), use kitchen shears or scissors to snip the dough above the “tied” part of the “sheaf” and give it the appearance of wheat. Snip 2/3 of the way through the dough at a 45 degree angle to the top of the dough. Repeat at 1/2” intervals. This will create little pointy shapes that make it look like wheat.

Photo by Fireweed
(This picture is just to illustrate the method-- obviously, I am snipping a "wheat stalk" on its own, not as part of the formed loaf.)
Paint the entire surface with the soy or nut milk and bake for 25 minutes. If the ends of the stalks seem to be browning too much, cover them with foil. Remove from the baking sheet, using spatulas, while still warm. Cool on a rack.

NOTE: you can make "wheat stalk" breadsticks with this dough, if you like-- bake separated by an inch or two until golden brown, which will only take about 15 minutes. You can stand the "stalks" up in a glass vase.

Photo by Fireweed


Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Wow, that is a truly gorgeous way to shape bread!

Silvia said...

Wow, I have never seen anything like that! Very interesting. The pics came out very nice. I can see myself making this bread the next time I want to impress someone! Who would not be impressed to see a loaf of bread like that!

VeggieGirl said...

my goodness, this is truly the most spectacular wheat bread I have EVER seen!! what a work of art!! sounds delicious, as well :0)

Carrie™ said...

What a wonderful idea! It would be perfect on a Thanksgiving table (it seems so early this year, doesn't it - 2 weeks!!) Thank you for the recipe and the helpful photos.

Alisa said...

Aw Bryanna, that looks marvelous! I hope you don't mind, I am going to borrow one of the photos to feature this post in our featured September blog posts. The theme is actually "how-to's" so this is awesome. Just the photo though, it will link to you for recipe and how-to. Just need to let people know about this awesome post!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Thanks, Alisa-- I'm honored!

The Little Vegan said...

That's *almost* too beautiful to eat!

The Veggie Cookster said...

Wow, I'm so impressed! It's beautiful!!!!!! :)