Rustic Pumpkin Seed Bread

Well, the rainy season has officially arrived. This was the scene on my street last week:

And this is the scene on my street this week (intentionally out of focus to emphasize the extreme dreariness):

I won’t complain. I spent several hours in my kitchen yesterday baking bread, mixing granola, and formulating cookie recipes to feed the hungry treat monster who lives with me. Not too long ago I mentioned that I had a wonderful bread recipe to share and after testing it once more yesterday, I am finally ready to post about it – Rustic Pumpkin Seed Bread:

[This is, admittedly, an older photo of the same bread. I was too lazy to photograph my finished loaf yesterday - or, uh, too busy devouring thick slices spread with homemade strawberry jam!]

This loaf is really simple to make because you don’t need a bread pan. You just shape the dough into a round (or oval) and bake it on a cookie sheet. It’s rustic because of  whole grains, pumpkin seeds, and the addition of molasses. The end result is a crusty exterior and a soft, chewy interior with pumpkin seeds flecked throughout. Thanks to the molasses and pumpkin seeds, you get a nice dose of iron! Try it with your favorite bowl of soup for the perfect dreary day meal.

*If your home is colder this time of year, try turning your oven on at the lowest setting for a minute or two. Turn off the oven and let your dough rise inside for the perfect draft-free, cozy environment!

Rustic Pumpkin Seed Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 cup warm water
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
Additional pumpkin seeds for sprinkling, if desired (about 1/4 cup)

  1. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup water, yeast, and sugar. Set aside until frothy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if you plan to knead by hand) stir together flours, salt, oat bran, and pumpkin seeds.
  3. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir in the additional 1 cup of water, oil, and molasses.
  4. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until a dough comes together. When it gets too difficult to stir, knead it with the dough hook on medium speed (or by hand on a well floured surface) for about 6-10 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky, but easy enough to handle.
  5. Oil the bowl you mixed the dough in, shape the dough into a ball, and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl and set in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1- 1.5 hours.
  6. Once the dough has risen, line a cookie sheet with parchment and dust generously with cornmeal. Punch the dough down, and shape into a round or oval loaf. Press the additional pumpkin seeds onto the top of the loaf (or roll the entire loaf in a variety of seeds for more texture). Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees once the dough has doubled in size (make sure to take out your dough if it is rising in there!).
  8. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until it is dark golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy your rustic bread with a nice bowl of piping hot soup, like this Potato Rosemary Soup from Vegan Soul Kitchen!

“E” is for Eating Bread

Lately soups, stews, and chilis have been dominating my weekly meal plans. I look forward to the chilly, rainy weather all year because it means cozy dinners and skies thick with clouds. I don’t meet too many people who share my love for gray days, but I do meet plenty of people who love a good bowl of soup served with homemade bread. My passion for baking isn’t just about satisfying my sweet tooth – a warm, crusty loaf of bread straight from the oven (and slathered with dip or vegan butter) can’t be beat on a cold night. Here are a few of my favorite homemade bread (and one magically delicious roll) recipes:

  1. Rye Bread
  2. Dangerously Seedy Potato Bread
  3. Thyme Flatbread
  4. Whole Wheat Bread
  5. Coconut Mango Rolls

The Bread Snarfers

I am pretty confident that Tim and I could eat an entire loaf of freshly baked bread in a span of 24 hours. Obviously we aren’t that crazy, but over the weekend we came close to devouring not one, but two loaves of homemade bread. If it weren’t for all the healthy seeds and flours used to make the bread, I’d probably feel guilty for overindulging. But hey, we are dipping the bread in soups – it’s not like bread is the only component of our meals! That would be bad.

Last month, I shared several bread recipes with you. I have one more for the recipe files: Whole Wheat Bread.

This loaf is rolled in a medley of healthy toppings: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, golden flax seeds, oat bran, and wheat bran. I’m sure that sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds would be lovely too. The recipe is adapted from “Baking: Easy-to-Make Great Home Bakes” by Carole Clements.

Whole Wheat Bread

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup warm water, divided
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon unrefined sugar
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup wheat germ, optional
2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil (or oil of choice)
2 Tablespoons agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1/4 – 1/3 cup mixed toppings (seeds, oats, bran, etc)

Directions:

1. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together 3/4 cup water, yeast, and sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl) combine flours, wheat germ, and salt.
3. Add yeast mixture, remaining 1 cup of water, oil, and agave (or maple syrup) to flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. When you can no longer stir the dough, use your stand mixer or your hands and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Shape into a ball.
4. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil and place dough in bowl. Turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
5. Grease a standard-sized rectangular loaf pan (9″ x 5″) with oil and set aside.
6. Punch down dough, knead gently a few times, and shape the dough into a loaf that will fit into your loaf pan. Roll the dough in your toppings and place seam side down into prepared pan. Place in a plastic bag (making sure to fill the bag with air) and tie the bag shut. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour. Mine rose incredibly high and I feared it was going to collapse, so keep an eye on your dough!!!
7. During the last 30 minutes of rise time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
8.Once the dough has risen well above the rim of your loaf pan, place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. The loaf should be golden on top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow to rest in pan for several minutes before transferring to a rack to completely cool.

Serve with soup if you must, just don’t spill the soup first:

Oooooooops!!!

 

Jammin’!

The word  jammin’ reminds me of a college professor I had my junior year. He taught computer programming and every time a student answered a question correctly, he would gleefully shout “Jammin’!”. In fact, I think he shouted that word any time he was happy, which was often. The title of this post is twofold: (1) I quit my job a week ago and couldn’t be happier about the decision – it was impulsive and unplanned, but needed to happen; and (2) It’s berry season and I’ve been busy making jams!!! Jammin’!!

While I am feeling mighty insecure financially, I have some plans brewing… Hopefully I can share them with people soon… We shall see!

And now, it’s jam time:

Tim and I went raspberry picking a few days ago – a total luxury on a weekday morning – we were the only people in the raspberry field! We didn’t pick our usual 20+ pound haul, but we did pick enough to last us several months (I hope!). A majority of the raspberries have settled cozily in the freezer and our bellies. The remaining bunch made a nice batch of jam. It’s maddeningly hot in Portland and preparing jam makes a tiny kitchen even hotter, but I don’t care. Homemade jam is pretty much a necessity if you live with Tim. What seems like enough to feed and army usually lasts a day or two. That’s a slight exaggeration, but Tim is the biggest jam-snarfer I know. To be fair, he does help with the process by obediently stirring jam on the stovetop and making spaceship noises as he lowers the jars into the canner (and again upon their removal). I am convinced our jam is better as a result.

Anyways, the very first time I made jam I used a recipe printed in my local newspaper. It has become my favorite recipe although I have adjusted the sugar amount slightly (I know this is a no-no, but overly sweet jam masks the flavor of the fruit and I’ve never had any troubles using less sugar). Here is a link to the recipe. I replace the butter in the recipe with Earth Balance (and sometimes don’t even add that because it isn’t necessary). If you have never made your own jam before, you should try, it’s fun and rewarding!

So far this season I have made both strawberry and raspberry jams. Up next: blueberry, cherry, peach, and apricot! Mmm! And, what goes nicely with homemade jam? Homemade bread!

This is a basic whole wheat bread that I rolled in a bunch of seeds. Warm weather is ideal for bread baking because the dough rises like crazy (and quickly too!). Tim and I ate PB&J’s with homemade jam, homemade peanut butter, and homemade bread. Living on a new food budget isn’t so bad!

Enjoy your weekends! Now that my schedule is more open I hope to post more often. Fingers crossed!

Review Time!

Several months ago I was contacted by a representative from French Meadow Bakery and asked if I wanted to review some of their products. I was happy to oblige!

French Meadow Bakery sent me some coupons (thank you!!) for their products and I decided to try a few of their breads. The first bread I tried was the 100% Spelt Bread.

This loaf only has three ingredients: organic whole spelt flour, filtered water, and salt. I’ve always been bothered by loaves of commercial breads with huge lists of unrecognizable ingredients – why would bread need corn syrup and whey? It’s mighty baffling!!!

I enjoyed the taste of this bread very much; it reminded me of sourdough bread. Unfortunately, the French Meadow breads I tried are sold frozen. It was really difficult to separate the slices and the first few attempts resulted in broken pieces of bread. Once thawed, the bread isn’t soft enough to make a sandwich with so I ended up toasting the slices instead. It’s wonderful toasted and spread with nut butters or avocado (or jam, or hummus, or Earth Balance, or cinnamon & sugar, or agave…) . The whole grain kept me full until lunch, which was nice (must be all that fiber and protein!!). I was disappointed by how expensive the bread was – at my grocery, it was $6.99 for one loaf. The loaf is very small and the slices are tiny. That seems to be a feature of frozen breads and I am not sure why.

The second loaf I sampled was the 100% Rye with Flax Seed. This loaf also has a very clean ingredient list – organic stoneground rye berries, organic flaxseed, filtered water, and salt. The slices are larger, but very thin. Flax seeds add a lovely texture and the rye flour provides a pleasant tang (also similar to sourdough, like the spelt loaf). When I toasted the bread, the slices curled a bit, but that didn’t bother me once I slathered them with avocado or dipped them in soup!! This loaf is also filling, thanks to the wholesome ingredients. It was less expensive than the spelt variety, but still more than I would spend for the amount of bread in the package. Between the two loaves I tried, this was my favorite.

French Meadow Bakery has a very extensive variety of breads. They have breads to suit pretty much everyone on the planet!! Gluten-free? Check! Vegan? Check! Yeast-free? Check! Organic? Check! All of their breads are clearly labeled with allergy information which makes choosing the right loaf very easy. Plus, the simplicity and quality of ingredients is impressive. I just wish the loaves weren’t frozen. I am not a big fan of frozen bread. It’s okay for toasting, but for sandwiches, I prefer fresh, soft bread. The price is steep (at least where I live). I noticed on their website that the prices are much less expensive though. If you can’t find French Meadow products near you and want to try them, I suggest visiting their website.

I still have some coupons left and would love to pass them along to a few lucky readers! If you want to enter, just leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of bread. I’ll choose two winners next Saturday, June 5th. Yay!

Thank you again, French Meadow, for the coupons!