White Whole Wheat Rosemary Bread

I was trying to hold off on posting another bread recipe considering this post is on the heals of this post, but I couldn’t resist. This bread is so good! Seriously! I’m so proud of myself for succeeding in baking not one, but two different kinds of bread!

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Ok, enough exclamation points. In the process of baking this bread, I have learned all kinds of things about flour. I’m no expert yet, but I do know that the amount of protein in your flour will determine how ‘doughy’ and delicious your bread is. Basically, you need that little protein known as gluten to form the structure of the bread. Also, to activate the gluten, you need to knead. After a good five minutes or so of kneading, your dough will become less sticky and sort of elastic – that’s because the gluten is activated!

Ok, so which flours contain gluten? The wheat ones, to start, though the protein content varies. Whole wheat flour has a ton of gluten, all purpose flour has less. Some manufacturers make ‘bread flour’, which has even more gluten than whole wheat flour. One thing to note here – regular white flour is apparently lighter than wheat, which is why white breads are often fluffier – the light weight makes it easier to rise. BUT, there is a solution – white whole wheat. This flour is milled from the soft winter wheat berry instead of the more traditional red wheat berry. It is just as nutritious, but it is lighter and has a milder flavor – ie, it’s delicious!

So, after learning all these things, I started experimenting. The first loaf I baked is the one I’m posting here – it turned out the best, though I can’t quite figure out why yet. More experiments and perhaps a control group are needed. My friend Caroline sent me this recipe, and I modified it just a bit to accommodate all the flours in my pantry. My version is below.

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White Whole Wheat Rosemary Bread
adapted from Caroline’s recipe

1 1/2 cups room temperature water
3/4 tbs salt
3/4 tbs yeast
3 tsp rosemary, plus a few extra to sprinkle on the top
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I have King Arthur’s brand for all my flours)
1 1/4 cup bread flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vital wheat gluten (this could probably be omitted, but I used it, so it’s posted)

Preheat an oven to 350.

Dissolve the yeast and salt in the water and let sit for a few minutes or until the yeast gets kind of foamy. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients and mix to form a ball of dough. Spread some flour out on a clean surface and knead for five to ten minutes. The dough should get less stick and sort of springy. Put the ball of dough in an oiled bowl and let rise for 4 hours. I usually just let it rise overnight.

When the dough doubles in size, form it into whatever shape you want, or use a bread pan. Just for vanity, make some slits in the top of the bread using a knife and sprinkle some extra rosemary on the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, then rip a chunk off and enjoy!

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Irish Soda Bread

Two weekends ago, I was hosting a St. Patrick’s Day brunch – nothing special, just a little something to load our stomachs before a day of drinking green beer. Originally we were just going to scramble some eggs, buy some bagels, and call it a morning. Of course, nothing is that simple with me. I woke up that morning with a brilliant idea – I could make Irish Soda Bread! Now, to be clear, I have never, ever baked anything in my life. Somehow, I knew that Irish Soda Bread did not require the lengthy amount of time most breads need.  I didn’t know why and I didn’t care why, but I knew I could pull it together before my friends arrived.

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A quick internet search brought me 101 Cookbooks (does this surprise you?). The recipe looked amazing, and I happened to have bought spelt flour a few weeks ago. I know, I know, for a girl who doesn’t bake, that is a rather esoteric flour to have on hand. BUT, here’s my little confession: I have been wanting to bake bread for a few weeks now. I was in the flour aisle at this nice little gourmet grocer at one time and was mesmerized by all the whole grain flours. I bought some – intent on making bread – and so it came to be that I happened to have spelt flour (as well as bread flour, white whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, and all purpose flour) on hand.

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I learned that the key to this bread is timing. See, the rising agent in this bread is not yeast; it is the product of a chemical reaction that occurs between the buttermilk and baking soda (hence the name – soda bread). That product is carbon dioxide, and when the buttermilk and baking soda react together (almost instantly), the carbon dioxide bubbles start to rise – you want to get this bread in the oven ASAP at that point, so it can work its wonders while it is baking. You also don’t need to knead this bread, though a little bit up front will help spread the ingredients evenly in the dough (I did not do this for one of the loaves I baked, and I could taste some pieces were a bit more baking soda-y than others).

Anyway, it’s a really good bread that comes together quickly, is super easy for all you non-bakers like myself, and tastes great. We ate it slathered with butter and strawberry preserves. A couple days later, I dipped it in soup. And then, when it was pretty stale, I dried it out and made it in to breadcrumbs. It’ll stay fresh for a couple days if it’s wrapped properly, and we found it tastes best after a quick zap in the microwave to warm it up.

Spelt and Seed Irish Soda Bread

adapted from Heidi Swanson

*Note: I also made a version with whole wheat flour (just swap out the spelt flour for whole wheat). This is referred to as Brown Irish Soda Bread.

big handful each of different seeds – I used what I had on hand, which was sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and flax seeds
2 cups spelt flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 400° – the oven needs to be fully preheated before the bread goes in. Prep the pan you will be baking the bread on – I baked mine on parchment paper on the pizza stone that is always in my oven; so I readied some parchment paper to be placed on the stone.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Adjust the amount of seeds if you like – they do not affect the chemistry of the bread. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk. Mix together quickly. If you think the dough is too dry, add a splash more of buttermilk, but this amount worked perfectly for me. Knead it for just a minute or so, just to ensure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

Form the dough into a large ball, then cut a large, deep ‘+’ into the top of the ball. This, I believe, is what makes the bread Irish :). Sprinkle the top with more seeds, then bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes.