There’s something unequivocally comforting about spending your entire day tending to the well-being of a couple of loaves of bread. I love the initial excitement of seeing that your yeasted batter has, indeed, risen as it should. I love punching the dough down after it’s risen a few times over. I love kneading the dough until my arms ache and my fingers are so entwined in the dough that it takes a good few minutes to untangle myself. Most of all, I love the smell of baking bread creeping throughout the apartment as the cowboy plays his guitar. The ultimate reward that comes from this fragrant loaf is sitting down to a hearty chunk of it slathered with strawberry-raspberry preserves from my favorite Chicago grocer – The Green Grocer. On bread-baking days I feel a sense of accomplishment that only comes from honest, wholesome productivity.
In between waiting for the dough to rise and then rise again (like a Phoenix!), we spent the good chunk of Saturday gathering our food for the week. A trip to the wondrous Chicago French Market made both of our days. Of particular enjoyment was chatting with the local butcher, Dick McCracken of Fumare Meats, from whom we bought some delicious prosciutto from for Saveur’s “Piselli Al Prosciutto” (Sweet Peas and Prosciutto) from their latest issue – “Classic Roman Food.” The most fascinating piece of take-away knowledge from this indelible resource – did you know that the changing colors of the leaves in the fall in the United States is a result of the acidity of our soil? Sure is pretty… Or that everything from lettuce to turnips tastes ever-so-slightly different from country to country as a result of this? Or that the only place to get a chicken that actually tastes like chicken used to (read The Omnivore’s Dilemna, anyone?) is a place down on Fulton Market that steadfastly refuses to sell to the public?
This bread is SO GOOD… and so good for you! The millet is the star here as it contributes a surprisingly sweet flavor and pleasantly crunchy texture… but lets not forget the flax seed and its nutty aroma! The combination of white, whole wheat, and white whole wheat flours makes for a miraculously light, tender loaf. Can we call this “super bread?!”
Whole Wheat Bread of Millet & Flax Seed
1 3/4 cups millet
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 cup hot water from your tap, for soaking millet
3 packages dry active yeast
2 cups warm water, for dissolving yeast
2 tablespoons raw honey (from your farmer’s market!)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 to 5 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
oil, for coating a bowl and baking tins
1 tablespoon milk (whichever kind suits you)
1.) Begin by soaking your millet in the cup of hot water. Set aside, and dissolve yeast in a large bowl with the warm water. Add honey, white flour, and whole wheat flour. Stir with a spatula until smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size; 40-50 minutes. I’ve found that the interior of my oven with the light on is a reliable source of warmth.
2.) Stir in the oil, salt, millet (and any remaining water), and flaxseed until everything is evenly dispersed. Then, gently stir in the white whole wheat flour gradually (about 1/2-1/3 cup at a time) with your spatula until the dough won’t take anymore flour.
3.) Turn dough out onto a well-floured flat surface, coat your hands in a bit of flour to help prevent “concrete hands,” and knead dough for 5-10 minutes; until smooth and supple.
4.) Oil a large, clean bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn over a few times to coat with oil. Cover tightly, place in a warm place, and let rise until doubled in size; 40-55 minutes. Punch that dough down with your fists, cover, place in a warm place, and let rise until doubled in size; 30-40 minutes.
5.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two standard-size baking tins. Break apart the dough in the bowl into two loaves. Place in tins, put in a warm place (without a cover this time), and let rise one last time until doubled in size; 20-25 minutes. While the dough is rising, make a glaze by beating the egg and the milk together. When dough is doubled in size, slash the top a bit with a knife, brush with glaze, and bake until beautifully golden and crisp on the outside; 50-60 minutes.