The weather wasn’t that great this past weekend so the idea of spending some time reading Ron Chernow’s book on Ulysses S. Grant and baking bread while my husband put up some shelving seemed like a good idea. I wanted to make sandwich bread and none of the recipes I looked at got me excited so I decided to experiment. I wanted a bread that was flavorful, had some bite to it and would make wonderful toast; I came up with this cracked wheat bread with fried onions. While you could make fried onions, I bought mine from nuts.com. They also are available at most grocery stores.
This is a heavy dough and since I have arthritis in my hands, I find that I no longer can do all of the mixing and kneading by hand that I once did so I use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Feel free to go at it by hand if you want a good workout. I am not vegan and do not keep Kosher, so I used butter and dairy milk in the recipe. However, if you wish to keep this vegan, I see no reason why you couldn’t use unsweetened non-dairy milk (my personal preference is for soy but any other creamy non-dairy milk should work) and a non-dairy buttery spread.
The cracked wheat bread made incredible toast slathered with fresh butter, but it would be equally great with smushed avocado on top. However you decide to eat this bread, you can’t go wrong. It is the perfect slice – crunchy, moist, great crumb and full of flavor.
Cracked Wheat Onion Bread
Yield: Two 9 x 5-inch loaves
1 cup coarse cracked or bulghur wheat
2 cups of water
1/3 to 1/2 cup of fried onions
1 cup of milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsulphured dark molasses
1.5 Tablespoons Kosher salt
2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups of whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground
3+ cups of bread flour
1 Tablespoon neutral oil, butter or ghee for the bowl plus more for the bread pans
- In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the bulghur wheat and 2 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot tightly and cook for 12-14 minutes. The time might vary according to the cracked wheat you use. It is done when the water is absorbed and the wheat is fluffy.
- Turn off the heat and add the butter, salt, milk and molasses and stir through well. Allow to cool until the mixture is just warm.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast, 1/3 cup of warm water and one teaspoon of sugar. Mix lightly and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until the yeast has eaten the sugar and the mixture is foamy.
- Add the bulghur wheat mixture and stir through with a heavy wooden spoon. Add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Now add 2 cups of the bread flour one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. The mixture will likely still be quite wet. Start adding more bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture starts to resemble dough. As the dough gets heavier, you can mix in the flour on the lowest speed of the standing mixer, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- Start kneading the dough once it is no longer too sticky and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl as an intact dough. I use the second lowest speed on my mixer for this. Add flour as needed about 1/4 cup at a time so that the dough will pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. I cannot give you an exact amount of flour to use since humidity and different brands of flour will lead to different amounts. The dough will be soft, but should not be sticky. I kneaded it for 11 minutes with the standing mixer set on Speed 2. I added flour in small amounts so that as the dough kneaded it came away cleanly from the bowl. After 11 minutes, I turned the dough onto a lightly floured counter and kneaded by hand for about 2 minutes. The dough should feel warm, supple and “alive.” Roll into a large ball or disk.
- Coat a large bowl (I use the one from the mixer to cut down on dishes!) with about 1.5 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel that was rinsed in warm water and rung out or use plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled – about 1 to 1.5 hours. This dough proved to be very fast-rising in my apartment which I usually keep on the cool side.
- Coat 2 bread pans generously with oil, ghee or butter. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form each half into a shape to fit the pan. Some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle and then tightly roll the piece up from the short end, pinching the dough along the seam at the bottom. (I don’t personally find that makes my crumb any better than when I simply shape it with my hands into a fat oblong. I then pull the two ends under and pinch the bottom seam.) Place the dough into the prepared pans seam-side down and cover lightly. Allow to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pans. This only took about 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Allow the oven to continue heating unopened while the dough has its second rise. When the dough has risen, place both pans in the oven side by side with a couple of inches between the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the breads are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon or your knuckles. Turn the breads out onto a rack. While the breads are still hot, brush them with some butter, ghee or oil. Allow to cool completely. The bread will last for a week or it can be wrapped well and frozen. This bread is a real winner.