Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today's Dough: Cracked Wheat


One of my favorite books as a child was one of beautifully-illustrated nursery rhymes.  The binding was cracked and the corners had been rubbed down to the paperboard; some of the pages were torn and some were creased.  But opening it: I pored over the colorful pictures and read about a gray and white cat in a skirt that danced with an elegantly-attired owl (The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat…), Jack tumbling down a hill, his pail of water spilling out behind him, or blackbirds with their heads poking out from a pie (Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?).  There was also a list of “chores” for each day of the week: Monday was for washing, Tuesday for ironing, Thursday for marketing, etc.  And although this concept appeals to my obsessive need for control and order - my weeks lack such rigidity and the myriad of tasks on my To Do List spill chaotically throughout the week.  The best laid plans…

Except maybe for Sunday.  I look forward to Sunday.  It’s the one day of the week for which my plan is no plan.  The day starts later than the other six and there are pancakes or waffles for breakfast.  There is no workout.  Yoga is optional.  I may or may not vacuum out the car.  I might get around to doing the laundry.  It’s the perfect day to tie on the apron and putter in the kitchen.  No tug of other obligations distracting me from the ingredients being mixed together in the bowl. 

Today I’m baking up two loaves of cracked wheat bread.  The dough is easy to work with, soft and fragrant with molasses.  As it bakes, the earthy smells of yeast and wheat fill the kitchen.  It's difficult not to cut into a loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. 

It’s a particularly lovely Sunday here: there is a soft, cool breeze from the north, the sun is diffused by a sheer skim of mare’s tail clouds and from my studio windows I can see the cows grazing in the pasture, tails lazily switching.  In case you are also enjoying a relaxed Sunday and are in the mood to bake, I include the bread recipe below.  It comes from New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant and the only changes I've made were to “veganize” it.

Cracked Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves

½ cup cracked wheat or bulgur
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup vegetable “butter” spread (like Earth Balance)
3 tsp. salt
¼ cup molasses

1 tbsp. dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water

1 cup almond (or soy) milk
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached bread flour

In a saucepan, cook the cracked wheat or bulgur in the 1 ½ cups of water for about 10 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed.  Stir as needed to prevent sticking.  Add the “butter” spread, salt and molasses. 

In a small bowl, proof the yeast in the warm water.  Lightly oil two 8 ½ x 4 ½ bread pans.
Place the bulgur wheat mixture in a large mixing bowl and add the almond (or soy) milk.  When the mixture is lukewarm, add the yeast and stir.  Add the whole wheat flour and beat well.  Stir in bread flour until the dough is stiff enough to knead.

On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking.  This will remain a very soft dough and should feel slightly tacky.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.  Punch dough down and knead for about a minute.  Divide in half, shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled bread pans.  Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 30-35 minutes.

(If this recipes sounds good, please visit my Vegan Recipes page for delicious entrees, sweets, salads and breads.)

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