A Recipe for Struan

Peter Reinhart's signature bread--and the basis for great toast---is an ancient harvest loaf from the isles of Western Scotland.

 
The term harvest bread indicates that there are many ingredients and always more than one kind of grain. The primary grains of Europe, where until the 20th century Michaelmas was celebrated as one of the major Christian feast days, are wheat, rye and oats. Most likely, the original struan breads were rather heavy with these grains, and more valued as symbolic gratitude bread than a culinary treat. My version, however, eliminates the rye and lightens the loaf so it can be enjoyed as a daily bread--one that children love (Michael is the guardian angel of children). It includes five grains but the dominant one is high-gluten bread flour. The gluten in the wheat flour is the key to a tall, airy loaf, enveloping the other ingredients into its web-like protein structure and providing the elasticity and extensibility for a good expansion.

Mise en Place

Makes 1 loaf
2 1/2 cups high-gluten bread flour (unbleached, if possible, available at most natural food stores and also in supermarkets, where it is labeled bread flour)
3 tablespoons uncooked polenta (coarse cornmeal)
3 tablespoons rolled oats (or instant oats)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons wheat bran
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 1/4 tablespoons active dry yeast dissolved in 4 tablespoons warm water)
3 tablespoons cooked brown rice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup buttermilk (low-fat or whole milk can be substituted)
Approximately 3/4 cup water (room temperature)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (for the top)

Mixing

Mix all the ingredients, including the salt and yeast, in a large bowl, stirring to distribute. Add the cooked rice, honey and buttermilk, and mix. Then add 1/2 cup of water, reserving the rest for adjustments during kneading. With your hands squeeze the ingredients together until they make a ball, adding more water as needed, until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the dough ball. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the ball out of the bowl and begin kneading. Add additional water or flour as needed.

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