So many interesting alternative flours have become more generally available—particularly here in New York, where upstate growers are offering their own milled grains—that it’s been time to experiment with using them in bread. We’ve discovered a great base in the Master Recipe for Sandwich Bread from The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated (1999, Boston Common Press), substituting a half-cup of an alternate flour for the total amount of bread flour in the recipe.
Starting with the chestnut flour left over from some dessert experiments, and then moving on to buckwheat flour, and even chickpea flour, we’ve come up with some loaves yielding a depth of flavor that is great for sandwiches and, thickly sliced, makes a helluva breakfast toast. The slightly nutty taste and aromatic nature of these breads isn’t for everyone, but it’s spurred us on to keep trying other different flours.
For the honey called for as a light sweetener and to feed the yeast, using a good, full-flavored variety (other than the cheaper, watered-down supermarket brands) also adds intriguing taste notes. We’re lucky to have had a Tuscan chestnut honey to pair with chestnut flour, and an intriguing avocado honey from Stepladder Creamery in California, obtained at the Oakland, California farmer’s market last summer. Having never seen avocado honey before, we had to try it when the vendor said it was harvested from bee hives kept among the avocado trees.
Come to think of it, it’s really great on a toasted slice of that Different Grain Bread.
Tips from the recipe:
- The dough is very soft and can seem a bit sticky. Resist the temptation to add more flour while mixing and kneading. As long as the dough can be handled without sticking to hands and surfaces, it’s fine.
- We used a stand mixer with dough hook to mix and knead, but the dough can be kneaded by hand. Heed the advice to not add too much flour.
- The amount of sweetener has been reduced from the original Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which calls for 3 tablespoons honey. While the bread is by no means sweet, we prefer to cut down sugar when possible.
- The Cook’s Illustrated method uses a second, empty loaf pan, heated in the oven and filled with hot water just as the bread goes into the oven. The process creates a burst of steam that helps develop a nice crust. But the bread also came out fine the time we forgot that step. As always with bread, be ready to roll with it.
- Brushing the loaf with a bit of melted butter about 10 minutes before end of the baking time adds a nice gloss to the top, as this bread can look a little dull.
Different Grain Bread
(Adapted from The Best Recipe,by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)
Makes one 9-inch loaf
- 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
- 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 package (or 2 1/4 teaspoon) dry yeast (recommend Saf brand instant yeast)
- 3 cups bread flour (plus extra for work surface)
- 1/2 cup alternative flour (chestnut, buckwheat, or other)
- 2 teaspoons salt
Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven reaches target temperature, maintain heat for 10 minutes and then turn off oven.
Mix milk, water, honey and butter in a 1-quart measuring cup, checking temperature with thermometer. Sprinkle yeast over top.
Mix flour and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn mixer to low-speed and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and satiny, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 10 minutes.
Dough has been kneaded enough when it cleans the sides of bowl while kneading. As a further test, pinch off a bit of the dough and stretch it. Gluten in the dough has been developed enough when the piece can be stretched to a “windowpane,” thin enough to almost see through. The dough will be a bit sticky, but if it is too wet, add a sprinkle more of bread flour and knead 2-3 minutes more.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface, using a scraper on the sides of the bowl if needed to release it. The dough will feel a bit tacky; knead on floured surface about 15 seconds to form a soft, smooth ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl with a neutral-flavor oil (vegetable or canola). Place dough in bowl, rubbing it around the bowl to lightly coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel (or both); place in warm oven and let rise until dough doubles in size, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and gently press into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and 9 inches long (use the loaf pan you plan to use as a handy guide). With long side facing you, roll dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of pan. Cover with plastic wrap or towel and set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, rising to the top edges of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and place an empty loaf pan or cake pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil. Uncover dough and place pan in over. Pour heated water into empty loaf pan and close oven door. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour. Loaf is done when a thermometer inserted into center of loaf read 195 degrees. Alternately, turn out loaf and check bottom. It should be lightly browned and have a slightly a slightly hollow sound when tapped.
Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack.