Darling Sister:

I can’t begin to tell you what an absolutely wonderful time we had on our vacation to Europe. We walked everywhere, climbed anything that was climbable, and ate everything we laid eyes on. While we were in the Netherlands, I was enchanted by bruin brood, a deeply dark brown wheat loaf that’s soft like wonder bread, rolled in oats, and absolutely fantastic.

I’ve been trying to come up with a perfect loaf, and thus far I’m six recipes in and definitely not at bruin brood just yet. However, I stumbled across two whole wheat bread recipes that are pretty darn fantastic. Firstly, if you have eggs and milk in the house, I recommend making Smitten Kitchen’s Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread, using buttermilk for the milk and adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the flour. It came out swimmingly as written, and we baked half the recipe on the spot and left the other half to ferment in the fridge, yielding a flavorful, tender, complex loaf mid-week.

If you are low on eggs and milk but still want a brown bread, here’s my new go-to recipe, adapted from An Oregon Cottage.

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Soft Brown Bread

In the bowl of your mixer, combine:

  • 2 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of instant dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat or ‘white whole wheat’ flour

Set this aside and let it get good and bubbly, about 20 minutes in a cool kitchen. Then add:

  • 1/3 cup neutral oil (vegetable oil, not olive oil)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

With the paddle attachment, you can mix by machine at this point to get everything combined. If you’re dish-averse (like me), just use the bread attachment – holding it in your hand – to mix the contents together. Then hook the bread arm up to your mixer and add in:

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose flour (you can use all wheat flour, but I think the all purpose gives your bread a little extra softness, which is what I was going for)
  • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten if you can find it (gives the dough more ability to rise; I found it at my local Nob Hill in the Bob’s Red Mill rack)

Mix all that business together on low speed. At first it will be a hot mess, but after 5 minutes or so it will start to come together. After 7 to 9 minutes you’ll have a fairly smooth, resilient dough that has cleaned the sides of the bowl for you (how nice!) and makes you feel proud to look at (seriously, you’ll be very impressed with yourself at this point).

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This is Smitten Kitchen’s oat and wheat bread dough, but you get the idea. Seriously you’re going to be bursting with pride at this point.

Ease your dough onto the counter, and slice it in half with a sharp knife. Form each half into a loaf by patting it out into a rectangle, and folding it burrito style (roll the lower edge up 2/3 of the way then fold the ends toward the center and roll the rest of the way) and dropping it into a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise until it crowns the bread pan by about an inch, which could be an hour to 90 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 toward the end.

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from left: just rolled, rising, risen!

Bake for 30 minutes, remove from pans and thump the bottoms to make sure they sound “hollow” (the sign of a done loaf). Rub the crusts with a little unsalted butter to help them stay soft. Cool on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying!

 

 

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