When last I attempted a Reinhart bread, it was a transitional loaf. Reinhart's recipe was a 50% transitional loaf, and I made up a little table to show how the recipe could be adjusted to make virtually any percentage of whole wheat. It was then that I realized that I could use various whole grain flours in it, I didn't have to stick entirely with wheat flour. That, in fact, is the concept behind Reinhart's Struan bread.
I have been a little sidetracked lately from my goal of working my way through Peter Reinhart's book, 'Whole Grain Breads'. One of the reasons is I have been playing with the fun and easy recipes, and different methodology of Jim Lahey's 'my bread'. However, to be fair, none of Lahey's loaves are 100% whole grains, which is my main interest. I intend to try some 100% recipes in the crockpot/Dutch oven someday. But in the meanwhile I am still searching for that Whole Grain Bread recipe that I really really like. So I will keep coming back to Reinhart's book.
Another reason I have been procrastinating doing the next loaf: the Struan is a multigrain bread, and it really has no set recipe, more of a formula. I think that the original idea behind Struan is to use up some leftovers -- if you have some brown rice that no one ate the night before, or if you have some oatmeal porridge that wasn't devoured at breakfast. Unfortunately, we seldom have leftovers such as these in our household. But the idea is, you use what you have on hand. Well, I have a lot on hand. I have whole grain rye, and wheat, and lots of other things I can toss in it, like buckwheat or quinoa or millet or oats or rice or amaranth and flax and sesame … (and these are just the whole grains, I have many other flours from grains besides).
I recently used some of that whole rye kernel in a 100% rye bread recipe by Ojakangas, cooking it and then letting it sit to room temperature, and I found that was a little time consuming.
I thought that to do the Struan properly, ideally I would have to cook a few of my whole grains, and then let them cool to room temperature before using them. And I knew it was going to be tricky to get the correct weight based on the cooked grain. In other words, it was going to be somewhat of a process. I thought. And I knew that I would end up cooking all of the grains I had, mixing them up haphazardly, and end up with far too much to use. And at this stage, I didn't know what grains might taste good together. I started to make lists based on what Reinhart says, of which grains you should cook, which ones you should mash, which ones you could soak, etc. He does give a few guidelines, but nothing is set in stone. Whoever tries this recipe will find that they have this unbounded freedom. That's great in one sense -- the sense of adventure and exploration -- but in another sense, you might, like me, feel a little rudderless and directionless.
Perhaps all bakers are like this at one point, during their inventions. Yes, one of the goals is to go for taste. But there are other reasons why you might combine various grains. For ease of baking is another reason. Yet another reason, and one that interests me, is for optimal health: one grain might contain a certain amount of protein, a complement of amino acids that are necessary in the human diet; others might contain oils that are beneficial or even essential. Yet others might contain more fibre, and still others might have vitamins and minerals that are better assimilated by the body. What is the perfect optimal whole grain recipe? On this, Reinhart and everyone else is silent. No one knows. Certainly wheat gets used an awful lot simply because it is versatile, and it gives excellent baking results based on the amount of its gluten that no other grain has in quite the same way. Wheat has a lot going for it: energy in the form of calories from carbohydrate, protein galore, fibre certainly, especially in these whole wheat breads, oils (when the flour is freshly ground), and tons of vitamins and minerals. And of course, it contains a lot of exorphins, which (as if everything else wasn't enough) keeps us coming back for more. Is it any wonder that I am constantly jacked up on wheat bread?
When I was looking over Reinhart's struan recipe again, I realized that if I just wanted to try the recipe out, I already had some multigrain flour at hand. In fact, I had used some just the other day in my first trial of Lahey's bread.
So I decided to try yet another experiment: an experiment with my time. What do I mean by this?
I mixed up the soaker and set it aside. Reinhart says to use it in 24 hours, or refrigerate it. You are to take it out of the fridge 2 hours before use, like the biga. The biga has to be refrigerated, and I think this is to slow down the yeast until you get them to room temperature when you are adding all the other ingredients. It is as if you are waking them up and saying "here is some new food, go to it." This was going to be the only drawback for my schedule. If I slept late tomorrow, I likely wouldn't get it baked. I very rarely do sleep that well during the day however. As long as I remembered to take it out of the fridge when I first woke up, it might work out okay.
I guess what I should have done was to take the biga out of the fridge before I went to sleep. That would have made more sense, but it would have meant that it was out for longer than 2 hours, while I slept.
I went to sleep just before 0900, awoke at 1330 and realized that I hadn't had enough sleep yet. I laid there until 1400 when I decided to get up and take the biga from the fridge. Was the reason I hadn't slept long because I was thinking about baking the struan? If so, that must mean I am one crazy exorphin junkie.
At 1530 I mixed the ingredients and set the loaf to rise. I would only give it 45 minutes, doubled or not. Otherwise there wouldn't have been enough time to make the whole loaf.
Then I shaped it into a batard at 1615. The loaf would again sit until 1700. I would bake it for 40 minutes or so; I began preheating the oven at 1630.
At 1700 I popped the scored batard onto the hot stone, and had some supper.
At 1720 I turned it 180 degrees, and at 1740 it was done.
Voila. It is possible to make a struan bread when you are working nights. If you shorten the sitting, rising and proofing times to their absolute minimum. And if you only get 4 1/2 hours sleep. And if you don't walk the dog.
Even then, the results were unspectacular. I ended up with such a blond loaf, probably a symptom of the high wheat bread flour in the multigrain dough. The scoring of the loaf I did was pointless: the loaf rips apart wherever it wants. Perhaps this is a symptom of its not being properly risen or proofed? Or a function of the wetness of the loaf? I'm not at all sure.
This is one recipe that I will likely return to, again and again, since it requires experimentation with endless variables of grain. What I am suggesting is, that even though I have done the recipe once, here, and think that I can stroke it off the list of Reinhart breads that I am going to be making as I work my way through his book, I will have to revisit this recipe, this formula, again and again to try different grains in different consistencies, until I find one that works for me and my family.
When I get a chance I will edit this blog entry to include the table of various grains that I was beginning to work on by hand when I hit upon the idea of using the pre-mixed multigrain flour (which I admit is essentially cheating). For the table, I was using a lot of information that I found in Peter Pritchford's book, Healing with Whole Foods, and elsewhere. That book uses a lot of information from the Oriental traditions about food and healing. Kind of a struan of information from various places. I will have to expand this table anyway, based on my own experiences, needs, likes and dislikes, and the availability of wholesome, fresh ingredients.
Notes to Myself:
- Don't make a Reinhart loaf when you are working. Do it on your days off, when you have a nice leisurely pace and can pay proper attention to details
- Especially don't rush the rising and proofing stages of these loaves.
- Experiment with taking the biga out and leaving it at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, to see if that makes much difference. Will the yeast wake up too early?
- Try the struan with different cooked, whole grains in various combinations. Experiment with different tastes.
- Cook some whole grains separately and describe in words what you are tasting and how you are feeling each time. This is your palette, this is your palate. These are the basic tastes; these are the colours from which you will choose to create an artistic gustatory masterpiece.