Struan Bread, a Powerful Loaf

struan loaf

This incredible bread recipe came to me through Baking with the American Harvest, a beautifully laid-out baking journal, published bi-monthly by Cindy Mushet, during the early to mid-nineties.  This was before the popularity of blogs and what internet now offers with its vast information on food.  1

Back then, she originally mailed out a one-year subscription (six issues) from her base in Santa Monica, California, for $24/year; later it became four issues for $18 a year.  Each of these editions came printed on stiff, rich Manila paper with snippets of historical images scattered throughout; the recipes were tried and true, written in their timely context.  (While this creative lady was publishing this unique newsletter, I was placing food in the midst of its social/cultural history for popular magazines and educational journals.)

When examining my files recently, I discovered two letters from Ms. Mushet, dated the winter of 1994-95, in which she was responding to my request for her back issues, featuring a two-part review of chocolate (for my inspired version of one of these recipes, see chocolate scones).

This correspondence delighted me, for she was congratulating me on finding a fun and unique niche in the food industry, with my catering of events featuring historical foods.  This is my version of dinner theatre, in which the audience partakes, by eating the documented ailments, while I dressed in period costume use third-person to relay the full impact, of what Ms. Mushet refers to as “anthropological adaptations”.  (For more on my early business, see About, Serungdeng Kacang, Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco, Scottish Oat Scones, and Cocoa Bread,)

Blogging changed the world!  On-line publishing replaced hard-copy journals and newsletters, such as the above.  After a slow start, blogging spread rapidly during 1999 and the years following.  Wikipedia states that the early part of the second millennium marked the role of blogs becoming increasingly more main stream; it was then that politicians, political consultants, and news services began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming.  (Many believe that Watergate played the initial role in this development.)  Today, blogs are used effectively in many diverse fields, with food not being least among these.  2

In my blog entry today, I share Ms. Mushet’s struan bread, which she declares is legendary Scottish harvest bread, originally published by Peter Reinhart.  In my version of this, I like to use freshly ground flour which greatly enhances this staff of life, but is totally optional.  I also give detailed, foolproof instructions for the mess-free mixing of the dough in a food processor, followed by the kneading of it by hand, with little or no flour on a counter top.  Clean, clean, clean!

This bread is a winner, with everything but the kitchen sink in it; for among its grains, it calls for cooked brown rice, uncooked polenta, oats, and wheat bran, along with much more.  It often graces my larder, which is always stocked with fresh, homemade bread.  Enjoy!

References:

  1. Cindy Mushet, Baking with the American Harvest, 5 volumes (Santa Monica, CA: Cindy Mushet, 1992-1997).
  2. https://en.wikipedidia.org/wiki/Blog#Origins
  3. https://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Mushet/e/B001JSDHFW

optional grinding of flour with a Kitchen Aid attachment

Struan Bread  Yields: 1 loaf or 20 small rolls.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hr.

3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast  (Costco carries 2 lb packages of Red Star Active Dry Yeast; this keeps a long time in a sealed container in the freezer; it’s best when warmed to room temperature.)

1/4 tsp sugar

1 3/8-1 1/2 c tepid water, 110-115 degrees

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1 c unbleached white flour  (Optional: may grind 2 1/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 3 1/2 c fresh flour.)

1/4 c uncooked polenta

1/4 c rolled oats (Organic is only slightly more expensive in bulk; best price is at our local Winco.)

1/4 c brown sugar, packed

1/6 c wheat bran

1 tbsp poppy seed

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is sold cheaply at Costco.)

1/4 c cooked brown rice  (May freeze individual 1/4-c baggies of leftover rice ahead of time, to thaw as needed.

Spay oil and oil, of your choice, for oiling a 13-gal plastic bag, used in raising bread

  1. proofed yeast

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see above photo).

  2. Place 1/4 c lukewarm water (110-115 degrees) in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until creamy, foaming, and nearly double in size, for about 10 minutes (see photo).
  3. When yeast is proofed, place flour and all dry ingredients, as well as rice, in an 11-cup-or-larger-food processor; blend well.
  4. Add proofed yeast and 1 1/4 c tepid water to flour mixture. (Fresh-ground flour, however, only calls for 1 1/8 cups of water, as this is a coarser grind, not absorbing as much moisture.)  Turn machine on and

    dough after initial kneading by food processor

    knead for 35 seconds; turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes (see photo).  This resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat, and too much heat will kill the yeast.

  5. After resting for 4 minutes, turn on the processor again; knead dough for 35 seconds more (see photo below). Take out and knead by hand for about 8 minutes, or until satiny smooth, minus the lumps from the grains; see

    dough after second kneading by food processor

    bottom photo for dough before and after kneading by hand.  (As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse and dry them as needed to facilitate easy kneading.  Store-bought flours are a finer grind; therefore they absorb the moisture more readily and won’t be so sticky.  Much moisture is absorbed while kneading by hand-this is especially true with freshly ground flour.  Ideally it should be firm, but supple when finished.  These instructions should be foolproof, but IF needed, do the following: if dough remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead.  If, however, it is very stiff-too stiff to knead easily-place it back in processor, and knead in 1 tbsp water.

    dough before and after final kneading by hand

    If called for, which is unlikely, repeat this step until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile; CAREFULLY rest dough, so as not to overheat.  When hand-kneading is finished, it should be firm, smooth, not sticky.

  6. Place prepared dough in a 13-gal plastic bag, in which several tbsp of oil have been evenly distributed; let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes. (Only if using freshly ground flour, punch dough down and let rise it for an additional 30 minutes, to make lighter bread with this coarser flour).
  7. Punch dough down and form loaf-or rolls-and place in a bread pan sprayed with oil.  Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed with oil.
  8. Let rise until doubled, for about 50-60 minutes.  Important: 30 minutes into the rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake.
  9. When doubled, bake loaf for 27-30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom (rolls will take 20 minutes).  Cool on rack.  Enjoy this power-packed bread!

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread

Following is a family recipe for the best Irish soda bread and information on soft and hard flour, as well as details on what happens to gluten in the the kneading process.

There are two varieties of wheat flour: soft and hard.  This recipe uses the soft whole wheat pastry flour, with low-gluten content; cake flour, which is the other soft flour, is even lower in this mixture of plant proteins.  Hard, all-purpose, or bread flour is the other variety, which is high in gluten.

All wheat flour contains two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which combined form the gluten.  When dough is initially mixed, these proteins are mangled and knotted together in a relatively unorderly fashion.  Kneading lines these up; bonds are developed between neighbors; thus, gluten chains form, creating the surrounding substance within which the dough can develop.  In this way strength and structure are established, which trap gases and allow the dough to rise; this process is critical in producing a good loaf of yeast bread.

Unlike yeast bread, such manipulative action is minimal in its soda counterpart, providing for little  gluten development; its soft flour, being comparatively low in these proteins, produces a quick bread with its own appeal, which is a fine, tender crumb.  Being fast to prepare, it must be eaten with haste as well, as it becomes stale swiftly.

Irish soda bread has simplicity and a basic composition; it is leavened with the rapid-acting chemical baking soda, and as it has been said, brief mixing minimizes its gluten development.  This luscious loaf may be enhanced by adding either raisins or currants (see Mor Monsen’s Kaker, 2017/11/27, for the history of currants).

It is an understatement to say that my mother Pat, who now resides in heaven, loved her Irish heritage while sojourning on earth: I grew up, during every March, with a month’s worth of corned beef and cabbage.  On St. Patrick’s Day itself, sometimes there were scrambled eggs colored with green food dye, or toilet bowl water tinted likewise, and always a mandatory wearing-of-the-green.  (She would have to dash in the bathroom to revive the toilet water following each use.)

Mom will always be remembered by all, for her passion for green; year-round she favored this color in her clothing, home decorations, and above all God’s splendid paintings in nature.

I am honoring her during her month, by sharing our family’s recipes for Irish Soda Bread and of course, corn beef and cabbage, which will be next week’s entry.  Irish soda bread is a quick bread, traditionally made without fat; it generally calls for soft flour-made from soft winter wheat berries-which is marketed as whole wheat pastry flour.

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 521-523, 537-538, 549-550.

https://www.thespruce.com/the-science-of-kneading-dough-1328690

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_flour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneading

http://www.sodabread.info/history/

bread with Kerrygold butter from Ireland

Irish Soda Bread Yields: 10-12 servings.  Total prep time: 45-55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 25-35 min.

3/4 cup milk  (Alternative milks will do, or may purchase buttermilk.)

8 squirts from plastic lemon ball, for souring milk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is high quality; may grind 1 1/3 cup organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 2 cups fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s, or more inexpensively, in a 10-lb package at Costco.)

4 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 cup raisins or currants  (Currants available in bulk at upscale grocers, such as the national chain New Season’s.)

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. cutting butter into flour until mealy

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, begin to do so now with 1 1/3 c soft winter white wheat berries; wait to preheat oven with this option.
  3. Sour milk by placing it in a medium bowl, squeezing about 8 squirts from lemon ball over surface; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar, with a fork.
  5. Cut 3 tbsp softened butter into flour mixture, until mixture is mealy and butter is well incorporated (see above photo).
  6. dough after kneading for 1 minute

    Stir in soured milk and raisins or currants.  Knead dough gently for 1 minute,  flouring counter and hands to keep dough from sticking.  See photo.  (Note: if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let dough sit in bowl, covered, for 45 minutes before kneading, to absorb excess moisture present in the coarser fresh-grind.)

  7. Form into a round loaf and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  With a sharp knife, cut an X on top of loaf about 1/2-inch deep.  Optional: dot with softened butter (see photo below).
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and there is a hollow sound when tapped on bottom; see top photo.  Cool on rack.
  9. loaf ready to be baked

    This is best served with imported Irish Kerrygold butter-this treat is available many places, but the best buy is at Costco, when in stock.