09 February 2012

Hard, Soft, Red, White: Multiseed Brown Bread with Fruit

If you were to invite me over to your house and then leave me alone, to chase after some child who is raiding some other child's couch full of animals, for example, then I will eventually end up digging through your cookbook collection. You're welcome to come over and dig through mine as well. They're in the cabinets above the stove.

I borrowed Maud's copy of Avoca Cafe Cookbook (more correctly the Irish version thereof, a couple of weeks ago, because I wanted their baked lamb with cumin, cardamom and coconut milk recipe, thinking it might be similar to a dish I ate in an Indian restaurant years ago.

I cannot resist an interesting bread recipe, so when I saw the lovely picture of round loaves of seeded bread on page labeled “Multiseed brown bread with fruit” I knew I had to try it. Now, as it turns out the picture had nothing to do with the recipe, but I liked the ingredients in the recipe too, so I decided to give it a shot.

The first four ingredients as printed are as follows: plain flour, coarse brown flour, bran, wheatgerm. I read this with my head cocked to one side like the RCA dog. Why would you use half white flour and then add in bran and germ, the things that are removed from the whole grain flour to make it white flour in the first place. It seemed excessively complicated.

I can come up with a plausible (if not necessarily correct) theory about almost anything if given enough time, so while half of my brain was deciding to use white whole wheat flour for the entire weight of wheat ingredients, the other half pondered the weirdness of the recipe.

As I understand it, the reason that soda bread was popular in Ireland is that the Irish climate made it difficult to grown the high-gluten hard red wheat that makes good yeasted bread. The softer (lower gluten) white wheat that grew well in Ireland was ideal for quick breads like soda bread.

Here in the States, where we have Amber Waves of Grain, whole wheat generally means hard red (higher gluten) flour which makes quite nice loaves of yeasted bread when it's handled properly. I don't know what the current state of wheat imports in Ireland is, so I don't know if Irish whole wheat flour is higher gluten like American whole wheat flour is, but that would explain the difference. By using part white flour and then adding in brand and germ the recipe may be trying to mimic softer white wheat. 

Fortunately, most people with access to a supermarket can by-pass all of that by purchasing a bag of white whole wheat flour. It's still whole grain, it's just made from soft white wheat so it has a milder flavor and bakes up more like white flour in quick breads and cookies.

Here's what this bread is: hearty, slightly sweet, whole, delicious. Here's what it's not: sugary, complicated. I've made it twice already this week.

Multiseed Brown Bread with Fruit

Multiseed Brown Bread with Fruit
adapted from Avoca Cafe Cookbook

20 ounces white whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon flax seeds
2 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 ounces raisins
2 ounces dried apricots, chopped.
1 Tablespoon molasses
2 1/2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Butter and flour a loaf pan (or use baking spray, my word, do I ever love baking spray)

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl and whisk together for at least 30 seconds. Add seeds, raisins and apricots. (I don't actually chop my apricots, I cut them with kitchen shears, much easier.) Toss the dry ingredients together to coat.

Drizzle molasses over the dry ingredients.

Pour milk into dry ingredients and stir until flour is just moistened. This is a quick bread, overworking it is bad.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from loaf pan immediately to a wire rack and allow to cool thoroughly (or at least 10 minutes, if you can't possibly wait.)

Serve with butter, or jam, or margarine if you must, but pronounce it margereen, the way Maud does, so it sounds better. Avoca also suggests cream cheese and salmon, or bacon, which sound lovely, too.


  1. You know what it would be most perfect with? Irish butter, like Kerrygold, which is slightly salted. I don't think it needs anything else.

    1. I should try making own butter sometime. I'm sure Kerrygold is the heavens' gift to bread, but it must have a heck a carbon footprint if I buy it here.

      Maybe next week we could put the kids to work on the marble in the mason jar method.

  2. I don't know what the wheat situation in Ireland is either, but I know in the UK, even the whole wheat (they call it wholemeal) flour is from soft wheat unless you get it from a specialty store that imports from the U.S. When I lived there it was also hard to get wheat gluten as a dough additive, too, though the local Tesco's carried 'strong bread flour' that was just plain white flour enriched with extra gluten.



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