I haven’t been a very good Babe, a Bread Baking Babe that is, these past couple of months. I had very good intentions of baking last month’s Pretzel Croissants, but its been an unusually hot summer so far and not the best time to be working with laminated dough. The thought of melting and pooling butter, sticky dough and greasy Pretzel Croissants were too much for me to contemplate and I sat that one out.
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.
But the saying goes “better late than never” so here I am with this month’s BBB bread which is an adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s Wild Rice And Onion Bread. The kitchen for this month was Karen of Baking Soda, and this was the bread she chose for us to bake. I’ve made a Rice Bread before and love the texture and softness that cooked rice gives that bread, so I thought I would try this one too mostly because this bread is made a little differently and involves an overnight slow rise in the fridge to develop flavour.
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.
Wild Rice, Onion Cranberry Bread
(Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday)