Sometimes if you want something, you just got to make it yourself. For Laura Davis, this is one of those times. By Laura Davis
Sometimes if you want something, you just got to do it yourself. Cracked wheat bread is one of my favorite types of whole grain bread and only on a rare occasion can I find it in my area. So I either have to be satisfied with the occasional find or learn to make it yourself. Then so be it, I’ll make it myself.
Yeast breads can be time consuming and a bit intimidating, but not necessarily difficult. I would recommend working with a well written recipe a couple of times to get the hang of the process. I find it easy to fit into my schedule when I am spending a day at home.. Some people like to work breads totally by hand and some like to utilize their trusty stand mixer. I do a combination. I mix it and start the kneading process in a stand mixer and finish it by hand. This works for well for me and I can clean a little while the kneading process gets started.
Cracked Wheat Bread from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger is a yeast bread recipe that I make frequently. I love the nutty, slightly tangy flavor with a touch of sweetness from honey and molasses. It makes an excellent loaf for slicing or shaped into rolls for dinner. This bread has a lovely crunch to it especially when toasted which is how I have it in the morning with jam.
Cracked wheat soaking in water to soften. Bulger is a good substitute.
Bulghur can be substituted for the cracked wheat in this recipe. What is the difference since they are both essentially cracked wheat? Whole wheat berries cracked in their raw form is called cracked wheat. Bulghur is partially hulled whole wheat kernels that have been soaked and steamed, dried and then cracked. Bulghur has a longer shelf life because of the precooking than cracked wheat. Even though they sound very similar they are not necessarily interchangeable in all recipes. Both of these products can be found in your natural food section or in middle eastern markets. Both grains are a very nutritious and high in fiber.
Personally, I would recommend that everyone try to make at least one yeast bread at home. Odds are that it won’t come out perfect the first time but will be delicious anyway. There is a certain satisfaction to making homemade bread and the aroma seems to summon everyone to the kitchen for that first warm slice with butter. Once you get the hang of it you will wonder why you were ever intimidated by bread making. It probably won’t be exactly like bakery breads (they have expensive equipment and experienced bakers) but the results can be delicious, healthier and easier on the wallet. What is better than good honest homemade bread?
In a bowl, place cracked wheat or bulgur in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Let sit for 1 hour to soften.
In a small bowl, place water, yeast and a pinch of sugar. The water temperature is important. If it is too hot then the yeast will die and if it is too cold then the yeast will not activate well, if at all. I used a thermometer at first and now I can tell by feel. Allow to stand for 7 to 10 minutes. The yeast is alive if bubbles start to emerge which will build up to a foam covering the surface of the mixture. This process is called proofing the yeast.
Combine the buttermilk, molasses, honey and butter in a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl (I use my mixer with the paddle attachment) mix together the whole wheat flour, salt and sesame seeds. Stir in the milk mixture and stir until smooth, about 3 minutes. Strain the cracked wheat and add to the flour mixture until combined. Add the flour ½ cup at a time until the dough pulls from the side of the bowl and forms a ball. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook if using the electric mixer.
My method is to knead the dough in the mixer for about 3 minutes and turn out the dough and finish kneading by hand but you can knead the dough in a stand mixer for 4 to 5 minutes until a springy soft ball is formed.
Or if kneading completely by hand, place onto a floured board or work surface, adding a tablespoon of flour as needed to keep from sticking. Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and springy, but still tacky. The dough should spring back when gently poked with your finger.
Place in a bowl with a tablespoon of light olive oil or safflower oil and coat the dough ball with it. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a slightly damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise at room temperature for about 1½ hours until doubled in bulk.
Gently deflate the dough by just pressing down on it. Form into 3 round loaves or divide in half for two 9 X 5 greased loaf pans. If making rounds place on parchment paper or lightly greased sheet pans. Brush the tops with melted butter and loosely cover with plastic wrap. The second rising, also called proofing, should take about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the loaves into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The loaves should be done when tapping them your finger sounds hollow. Remove bread from the oven and place on bakers wracks to cool. If making loaves, remove from the pans and cool on racks.
The original amount of yeast in this recipe was 1½ tablespoons and the dough seem to rise too much and fall during the cooking time. I reduced the amount of yeast and saw no difference. I use bulk, jarred yeast but If you only had one packet of yeast containing 2½ teaspoons of yeast, then that is what I would use and I am sure it would work out well. I have not reduced the yeast to that amount yet, but that is the standard in many double loaf recipes.
Also, beside using too much yeast in a recipe, allowing the dough to rise too long can cause a slight collapse during baking, such as the case with my loaves. Distractions are my undoing.
This is proofing the yeast. This is how you know the yeast is active and alive before you make your bread dough with it.
This is also called proofing. It is the final rise of the dough before baking.
Laura Davis is the author of the blog Sweet Savory Planet and has a life long culinary passion with southern roots originating in her home state of Alabama. She has a degree in nutrition from University of Texas at Austin.