The beginning of autumn and spring can be similar. I find myself walking and feeling pretty much the same at both times. The food I cook and bake these days reflect that. From a pasta salad to a chicken curry, anything goes. There´s no definitive feel to the days. Though I´m looking forward to those cold mornings, when it´s barely daylight and the kitchen feels like a refuge, silent and cozy, before the day begins. What I refer to as `cold´ can feel like a joke to those who endure real cold many months a year. Our cold is a little bit below zero, and only a few weeks (at the most) during the winter. The rest is above zero weather. But, since habit makes the person, we wrap ourselves in scarves and coats and complain. Then you see northern hemisphere tourists walking around town in a light sweater, happy that the fall lasts all winter long.
Bread baking is ideal for this time of year. It rises happily in the allotted time and I can go on with other things. Yeast can be a tricky thing sometimes, but making bread usually involves little real hands-on time. So I feel you´ll be getting a few yeast recipes in the next weeks. A good time to try a whole lot of new flours and seeds I had never worked with. Or almost never.
I already tried millet and loved it. Now I´m using buckwheat flour for the first time. I tried it in crepes, while travelling, once. But never with cinnamon and maple syrup. So I was intrigued with this recipe. The flavors from the different ingredients unify; there´s not one that shines above the rest, they complement the whole bread. Of course the buckwheat stands a bit out, but in an understated, almost sweet way. I loved it toasted with a slice of sharp fontina cheese and homemade elderberry jam, a gift from a friend.
BUCKWHEAT BREAD WITH CINNAMON AND WALNUTS
from The Pleasure of Whole Grain Breads, by Beth Hensperger
Note: Buttermilk is almost unknown here, so I substituted whole milk powder. The original recipe uses pecans and walnut oil, but I used the walnuts I already had and vegetable oil; since it was the first time and didn´t know if I would like the bread, I used what I had. But I think walnut oil should be very interesting to try.
4 to 4 ½ cups bread flour
1 ¼ cups light buckwheat flour
¼ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup dry buttermilk powder
1 ½ Tbs cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast or 1 Tbs instant yeast
1 Tbs salt
2 cups hot water (120ºF)
1/3 cup walnut oil, vegetable oil or unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup chopped walnuts
In a large bowl using a whisk or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer (my choice) fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup bread flour, buckwheat and whole wheat flours, buttermilk powder, cinnamon, yeast and salt. Add hot water and beat for 1 minute, until creamy.
Add the oil, maple syrup and walnuts and beat for 1 minute longer.
Add the remaining bread flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing on low speed until a soft, shaggy dough that just clears the sides of the bowl forms, switching to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.
Knead with the dough hook, or by hand on a lightly floured surface, for 3 minutes, adding flour a Tbs at a time if needed to prevent sticking. The dough will remain sticky. Do add too much flour.
Place in a lightly greased deep container, turn once to coat top, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room tº until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Grease the bottom and sides of two 8-by4-inch loaf pans.
Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Pat each portion into a rectangle and roll into a loaf shape. Place the loaves, seam side down, into the prepared pans. (I made one whole loaf and 10 small rolls). Press lightly with your knuckles to even out the dough.
Cover loosely with clean towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled and puffy, about 1 hour.
About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400ºF.
Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make 3 diagonal slashes down the top center of each loaf.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the tops are deep brown and the loaves sound hollow then tapped with your finger. Remove loaves from pans and let cool on wire rack.