When I worked at Allegro Hearth Bakery, I always had bread. As part of our work perks, we could leave with one fresh loaf after each shift. Farm grain, country seed, brioche, honey sesame… there were so many options. I had bread for breakfast, bread at lunch and bread at dinner. Toward the end of my time there, I had to go on a bread fast because I needed a break from all the bread! It was only temporary of course. There are too many fond memories and wholesome feelings linked to bread to ever become an atkins aficionado.
When I left the bakery, I definitely noticed a loaf-sized hole in my life! I’d return to the bakery as a customer or try the other bakeries’ breads I had ignored for months and months, but it was a while before I would attempt my own bread from start to finish.
I had kneaded and shaped thousands of breads and rolls, but the process had been very compartmentalized. One person made the doughs. A group of us cut and shaped the doughs into rolls, boules and loaves while discussing YouTube videos, music, travels, etc. Then the head baker would stay very long into the night and early a.m. and command the giant oven. On different days, I would work the very, very early a.m. shift turning those rolls, boules and loaves into the wholesale orders and customer requests. Each person had a place in the bread chain, and each bread was the result of a group effort.
Thus, it took me a while to start incorporating bread into my baking habits, but my first plunge in quite some time gave me, myself and I just the bread-baking confidence I had needed.
Eight-Grain Whole Wheat Harvest Bread
Adapted from “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet
½ cup Bob’s Redmill 8-Grain Hot Cereal Mix (not instant)
½ cup boiling water
1 cup plus 2 Tbs warm water
1 teaspoon pure cane sugar
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup local wildflower honey
2 ¾ cup St. Vincent Gristmill (local) Unbleached All Purpose Flour
¾ cup St. Vincent Gristmill (local) whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
Make the cereal mix: Pour the cereal into a medium bowl. Add the boiling water and stir to blend. Let the mixture stand for 20 minutes.
Mix, Rest and Knead the Dough
Pour the warm water into the bowl of a mixer. Add the sugar and yeast and whisk by hand to blend. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling.
Add the cooled cereal, honey, flour, whole-wheat flour and salt. Knead the dough on low for 2-3 minutes.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading.
Knead the dough by hand until the dough is firm and elastic.
Rise the Dough: Lightly oil a bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap or the towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 35-45 minutes (longer if the room is cold).
Punch Down and Shape the Dough: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expose some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape. Shape into a round, taut loaf.
Proof the Dough (Second Rise): Lightly cover the dough with the towel and allow to rise until it is almost doubled in size, 20-30 minutes.
Prepare the Oven: Place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Be sure to allow the pizza stone to preheat for 30 minutes.
Bake the Loaf: Dust the top lightly with flour. Slash a pattern in the top of the boule.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.