Multigrain Bread

Alte brot is nicht hart.  Keine brot, das is hart.
Translated: “Old bread is not hard.  No bread.  That is hard.”
Old German Proverb

I started this blog to share recipes I’m excited about and I am very excited about this one!  When the invite arrived to participate in a “Handmade Loaves” blog event, I knew this was the one to share.
The idea to develop a multigrain bread recipe was spawned when my favorite loaf went up to $5.99 at the market. Initial investigation revealed that trying to buy all the grains separately could really add up.  For a home cook like me, it made more sense to pick up a good hot cereal mix that contains all the elements.  Not instant, and no sugar or additives. There were many out there, all different combinations, but I settled for Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Hot Cereal mix.  You can pick one with a combination that you like.
I also add this to my granola now too!
It contains whole grain oats, wheat bran, flaxseed meal, oat bran and wheat germ.  Now, if you have these things in your pantry, feel free to make and use your own mix.  To my local friends, I found this at Ocean State Job Lot, but they have it at the Natural Food Store in Niantic, too.  Right before the kneading stage, I added roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, but you could add wheat berries, sesame seeds or even raisins if you wanted.
If you’ve never made bread before, this may not be the recipe to start with.  Not that it’s difficult, just that whole grain breads are less forgiving then their white counterparts.  There are a couple steps that can’t be skipped.  Trust me, my first attempt resulted in two inedible bricks that I had to toss.  When you put a loaf of white bread in the oven, it continues to rise, but a whole grain loaf stays put, so you have to let it rise completely before you bake it.  
Also, after the grains and liquids are combined, they need to sit for 20 minutes to thoroughly absorb the moisture, otherwise you risk adding too much flour, resulting in a dry, crumbly loaf.  Lastly, it takes a lot more effort to develop the gluten in whole grain dough, so I found it needs a full 15 minute vigorous knead.  I’m a proponent of hand kneading, but for this bread I used my electric mixer with the dough hook attachments.  If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, that would be the easiest.  You can hand knead it, but it may not rise as high.  I also drew elements from two of my favorite bread recipes, challah and my Grandma’s rolls, to add richness and flavor that was lacking.
The effort is worth it.  The bread turned out delicious and was great straight up, toasted or for sandwiches; a delicious, just slightly sweet and nutty flavor with a soft texture.  Audrey said it was better than our store-bought favorite.  I will now be making it weekly.  One loaf to eat, one to freeze for later.  Bread baking is really satisfying.  One of my son’s house-mates has taken to it, and once in a while turns out some artisan bread that Curt says they literally could cry with joy while they eat it.  You really can’t ask for more than that!  I hope I can convince you to give it a try!
Multigrain Bread
A recipe by The Irish Mother

1 1/4 cup mixed grain hot cereal mix
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 cups bread flour (plus another 1 or 2 cups for kneading)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packets fast-rise instant yeast (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1 egg white
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Measure cereal mix into a large bowl (or bowl for stand mixer).  Pour boiling water over, then let it sit about 15 mins.  Add evaporated milk, honey, molasses, butter, salt and vital wheat gluten.  Touch mixture.  If it is very warm, but not hot (not over 115 degrees), add yeast.  If it’s too hot, wait a few minutes and do the touch test again.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to proof the yeast.  It should begin to bubble in a few minutes.  In the meantime, in a medium bowl, stir together 4 cups bread flour and 1 1/2 cups wheat flour.

By hand, stir 2 cups of the flour mixture into the wet yeast mixture.  At this point, attach dough hooks to your mixer and start adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough starts to separate from the sides of the bowl and forms a rough dough.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  This is important; it allows the dough to absorb moisture.

Using your mixer with dough hook(s), start kneading dough, adding the sunflower seeds (or wheatberries, sesame seeds, or raisins).   Add 1-2 tablespoons of flour mixture (or extra bread flour) if it looks ragged, or is sticking to the sides of the bowl.  Knead like this 10 minutes.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead five minutes more.

Pour 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a large bowl.  Place dough in bowl, turning to coat with oil.  Cover bowl and place in a warm, draft-free room.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.  

Grease 2 loaf pans.  Cut dough in half and shape into loaves.  If you’ve never done this before, you pat it into a rectangle and then roll up, tucking ends under.  Lightly beat egg white with a fork.  Using your fingers, rub egg white on loaves.  Sprinkle oats onto a clean cutting board.  Roll loaves in oats.  Place seam side down in the pans.  Cover pans with a damp tea towel.

Let rise until double in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.  

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then remove from pans onto cooling racks.  Cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long!)  This bread freezes well. 

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