Dark, grainy breads, somewhat dense and immensely filling are among the things I miss the most about living in Norway and Germany. In Europe, you can go into any grocery store and pick up one of these beauties, or, better yet, zip by one of the bakeries on every street corner for amazing selections of breads with whole grains, seeds, rye, oats, barley, millet, or wheat. Or, if you’re in the mood for something lighter or sweeter, there’s ciabattas, baguettes, or wheat rolls, raisin breads and “julekake” and “voerterkake” in Norway, and rolls, pretzels, and croissants are all proudly displayed in the glass counters. In Norway, we eat bread for breakfast and lunch; in Germany they eat bread for breakfast and dinner–the third meal of the day usually consists of something hot.
Here in the United States, most breads are soft and squishy, and nearly all of them are made with some form of dairy or lactic acid, making them impossible for me to eat. Therefore, whenever I have a chance, I make my own.
Contrary to popular belief, making bread is not hard or time consuming, but it does require me to stay home for several hours as the breads need a little TLC every hour or so until done. The following recipe makes two loaves of gloriously dark and grainy bread, but it’s more of a base recipe as I throw in whatever grains I have in the pantry and change up the types of flour based on my mood that day. Today I used rolled oats, millet, black sesame seeds, and Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal, but I have used rye, barley, quinoa, or a number of other grains and seeds before.
To make the bread a little heavier, I sometimes switch out some or all of the bread flour with whole wheat flour or rye flour. Depending on the combination of grains and flours used, I do find I may need to adjust the amount of flour added in the second step: I just make sure the dough ends up a bit sticky but doesn’t stick to my fingers before the first rise. The sky’s the limit with this recipe.
Ingredients for the sponge
2 1/2 tbsp yeast
3 C warm water
2 tbsp honey
1 C grains
1 C bread flour
2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C oil
1 tsp salt
4 C bread flour
Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water, then add honey, grains, and the flours for the sponge. Whisk together, cover, and let ferment for about an hour or until doubled in size.
Add the remaining ingredients and knead for 7 minutes. Let rise, shape two loaves into loaf pans, and let rise again. Bake at 425 degrees F/220 degrees C for 30-40 minutes.