Navara Rice, Caramelised Onion & Cranberry Bread
Once again, I had planned to make this month’s bread way ahead of the 16th of the month deadline but unexpected but welcome guests, some laziness, the old excuse of a hot summer, and college applications for our daughter all made sure that I missed the deadline.
Peter Reinhart’s notes for this bread from his book Artisan Breads Everyday –
“The recipe calls for wild rice, but it can also be made with brown rice or a combination of wild and brown rice, or any other cooked grain. At Brother Juniper’s, during the holiday season we even added parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and black pepper, which made for a wonderful bread for stuffing turkey. Note that it only takes about 1/4 cup of uncooked wild rice to make 1 cup (6 oz, by weight) of cooked wild rice; still, if you’re going to cook wild rice especially for this recipe, you might as well make a bigger batch and freeze 1-cup packets for future use—or have it with dinner!
This version uses the overnight fermentation method. The yeast is added directly to the bowl, not rehydrated with the warm water and buttermilk. You can use either dried or fresh onions, and you can form the loaves into any size or shape. Dried onions are about one-tenth the weight of fresh onions and will absorb water from the dough, while fresh onions will leach moisture back into the dough. If you use dried onions, don’t rehydrate them before adding them to the dough, but do be aware that you may have to add an extra 2 to 4 tablespoons (1 to 2 oz) of water while mixing.”
We don’t get wild rice here, though we have any number of local rice that would work well in this bread. I had some Navara rice that my aunt gave me during my last visit to Palakkad and that’s the rice I used.
Navara (Oryza Sativa) is deep red and has been cultivated in the Palghat region for more than 2,000 years but in the last 40- 50 years it has come close to extinction because of non-availability of pure seeds, low yield and high production cost. This rice is native and endemic to Kerala and grown mostly in the Palakkad region of the state.
Navara rice has medicinal properties and is used extensively in Ayurveda but it can be cooked and eaten just like any other variety of rice. This rice is known to be rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and minerals like iron and zinc.
I halved the original recipe and then reduced the yeast to 1 3/4 tsp since 1 tbsp seemed a little too much for 3 cups of flour given that it was a dough that needed an overnight rise, even though it would be a dense bread. I replaced the buttermilk with yogurt and also decided to throw in some chopped cranberries into the dough. I just didn’t like the idea of raw onions in my bread so I pan fried them till they were a nice golden brown.
Even though I missed the deadline, I thought I could still have the dough kneaded and the bread baked and posted a day late as it’s a pretty easy bread to make. Throw everything into the food processor, knead it well and then some, stick in the refrigerator overnight, take it out and let it come to room temperature, shape the bread, let it rise and then bake it.
I did all that, shaped the dough into rolls and then kept it for the second rise and then forgot all about it! By the time I remembered my dough, it had risen into something scary. So I deflated the dough and stuck it back into the fridge for another overnight rise, since Peter Reinhart suggests you can leave this dough in the fridge for up to 4 days before baking it.
The next day I baked my bread, this time making sure I didn’t forget anything and I must say this is a pretty forgiving dough. The dough rose perfectly and baked just right.
My shaping skills with this bread do leave much to be desired, but other than that this bread has a lovely crust, a chewy texture and the cranberries added a nice touch of sweet to it.
Serve this bread plain with soup, make hearty sandwiches with it, or just have it buttered with hot tea. It also makes good toast the next day, and I think it might also prove a good bread to make French Toast with.
- Put all the ingredients except the milk/ egg wash into the food processor bowl. I don’t have a stand mixer so I usually knead bread dough in the food processor. Run the processor on slow speed until you have a sticky, coarse and shaggy dough. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Knead again on medium speed until you have a slightly sticky dough that is soft and supple. Add water or flour as needed to reach this consistency. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface and knead by hand for 2 to 3 minutes, adding a little flour to prevent the dough from sticking. The dough should still be soft and a little sticky but you should be able to form it into a ball.
- Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic/ cling wrap and refrigerate it overnight or up to 4 days. Remember the dough will rise so make sure you use a large enough bowl. (If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days, you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)
- When you are ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to rom temperature (about 2 hours). Shape the dough into one or more sandwich loaves using 28 ounces (794 g) of dough for 4 1/2 by 8-inch loaf pans and 36 ounces (1.02 kg) of dough for 5 by 9-inch pans; into freestanding loaves of any size, which you can shape as bâtards, baguettes, or boules; or into rolls, using 2 ounces (56.5 g) of dough per roll.
- When shaping the dough, use only as much flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Grease your baking/ loaf tins or sheets and place the shaped dough in/ on them. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until increased to about 1 1/2 times its original size. In loaf pans, the dough should dome at least 1 inch above the rim.
- After the dough has risen, brush the tops with milk or egg wash and bake at 180C (350F) till the bread is a deep golden colour and sounds hollow when tapped.s. The total baking time for loaves should be 45 to 55 minutes, and about 20 to 25 minutes for rolls. Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.
I made 4 small baguettes.