By Cassie Johnston
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Snowed in and looking for a way to pass the time? Might I suggest baking some bread?
We make a lot of bread in our house. I’d say, in the average week, we make at least two loaves. Which, considering we’re only two people, is quite a bit of bread to get through in seven days (I’m thankful that bread freezes well). We’ve tried a lot of bread recipes, but this recipe has skyrocketed to the top of our must-have list.
Not only is it absolutely beautiful—beautiful enough to serve to company, even—but it’s absolutely delicious, too! The crunchy seeds add such flavor and texture and the combo of ingredients makes a tender, chewy and light bread, that just happens to be 100% whole wheat. With a little touch of salted butter, this bread is the perfect friend to a warm bowl of soup. Which just happens to be exactly what we had for dinner last night. Which just happened to be an absolutely perfect dinner to go with the really unfortunate March snowfall we had last night (c’mon, Spring!).
Interestingly enough, even though we bake a lot of bread, I don’t tend to post a lot of bread recipes. I guess I just don’t feel all that confident in my baking skills. I’ve always said I’m a cook, not a baker and to this day, I struggle with the exact, precise chemistry that is baking. Measuring is hard.
I guess this bread is helping me change my lack of baking confidence, because I swear, it turns out incredible each and every single time I make it. It’s pretty much foolproof. I could probably forget to put the yeast in and it would still be delicious (okay, maybe not).
The real superstar of this bread is the crunchy seed and grain mixture that is on the crust. I honestly change it up every time I make, but my favorite combo so far has been the one that’s photographed here—a mixture of oats, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, millet, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds and fennel seeds. All the other seeds rock, but the caraway and fennel seeds add so much flavor and punch to the bread.
Instead of just sprinkling the seeds on the top, each roll of the braid is coated in the seeds, then the bread is braided, and then it has a second rising time. By doing this, it means there is a really beautiful and crunchy swirl of seeds that goes through the entire middle of the bread. The entire loaf of bread is a nice balance between rustic and graceful beauty, and I think the thin swirl of crunchy, old world grains and seeds in the middle of the fluffy loaf of bread is just another example of that.
Before I spill the beans on this recipe, I do have to mention the butter in these photos for no other reason than I’m totally proud of it. I made it myself! I’m not sure why, but there is something about making my own butter that is really exciting to me. I’ve only done it once before, and that was in 8th grade ag class (country school) where the whole class shook a Tupperware container with cream in it for 30 seconds each until it turned into butter. Then we smeared it onto saltines for us to try. I remember it being insanely delicious then, and my own homemade butter is just as good! Store-bought butter just does not compare. Even our crazy expensive, organic, grass-fed local butter doesn’t compare.
To make the butter, I just poured the cream off of our whole milk share we get each week, put it in the food processor until it was clumpy, then I put it in a Mason jar and shook the beejeebus out of it until it was solid. I poured the buttermilk off, added a little touch of salt and ate it smeared on a slice of this hot-out-of-the-oven bread. And then I did it again. And maybe again. It’s hard to say no to a match made in kitchen heaven.
The real superstar of this bread is the crunchy seed and grain mixture that is on the crust.
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I miss being snowed in and baking bread! That was the best part of a storm!
This looks delicious! I’ve never tried making bread before…definitely going to try this one. Thanks!
That’s one beautiful loaf of bread! It’s almost a shame to cut into it.
I am so not a baker! I can hardly make cookies, they usually turn out like weird puffy muffin like things. I too hate the measuring in baking. Cooking is more my style being able to taste and adjust while you cook.
With all that said, I am totally trying this bread out. It look way too delicious to not give it a go!
I am a fan of baking quick breads, mainly because the whole yeast and rising process makes me nervous. But … I did just accidentally buy a ginormous package of whole wheat flour when I meant to get AP flour, and I have a ton of random seeds/grains on hand … looks like I’ve got to give this recipe a try!
Oh dear lordy that looks amazing. I will have to try that. I just love making bread. One of my favorite is a whole wheat bread with walnuts and assorted seeds in it. Another that I love to make is a whole wheat pita bread, labor intensive but so worth making at home. Oh I could go on and on. Bread making is so fun. Oh and the butter, there is nothing like butter you make yourself! I also make my own jams and there is nothing like homemade bread hot out of the oven with fresh made butter and homemade jam. Oh man now I have to get in the kitchen.
I love baking, but unfortunately I am back in student rez for my masters and my room doesn’t have an oven so I am bookmarking all salivating-worthy recipes for later in the future =(
Cassie, I really love your blog and your perspective on food and like hearing about your adventures in the countryside. It’s very inspiring!
On an unrelated/somewhat related note, I started up my own blog about food policy issues and try to be mindful of others’ work, including only using Creative Commons licensed images, which – if I understand it properly – are free for reuse if they are attributed to the author. Now, your website is CC licensed, but you say that “All photos, recipes, and texts are protected and may not be used or distributed without the permission of the owner.”
I wasn’t planning on using your photos in particular (although they are gorgeous), but would love to understand in order to prevent blunders and using photos of other people against their consent unwittingly – is that part of the “attribution” aspect of the CC license? Since part of the definition of the CC license is “You are free: to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work”, I always assumed that photos under that license were by virtue of that aspect free to use as long as you attribute their origin. But I am new to this so I would love to stand corrected =D Keep up your amazing work and good luck with all that maple syrup!
Mostly, both of those statements together help cover all my bases. The Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (which is what I use) says that anyone can use my work for non-commercial uses just as long as they don’t alter it and always credit me. That being said, the vast majority of people who want to repost my work are commercial (either actual companies or folks who monetize their blog through ad sales, etc.). So the Creative Commons license is for folks who would like to use my stuff for non-commercial use only (which I’m totally cool with). And the line about permission is for folks who want to use my work for commercial stuff. Most of the time, I give people permission to repost my work for commercial use, I just want to make sure I know about it first. :) Make any sense?
i had the same question, and i think it’s because there’s a typo that reads “boil” instead of “bowl.” i have never worked with braided loaves before, so i thought you had to boil the dough like a bagel :)
oops! sorry i meant to comment on the question regarding step three :)
I can’t wait to make this over the weekend!
Hey Cassie! How are ya? I’m gonna make that bread for sure. How long does it take to shake that butter to a solid state?
Yummm! I wouldn’t say I’m a baker, but I love baking! this looks yummy!
This sounds delicious! If you substitute regular milk, do you need to decrease the amount of water?
I think by just a touch. I’d just use a scant 1-1/2 cup and you should be fine. :)
Wow, this looks like the best bread ever! I am so happy to have found this whole grain recipe, with fennel seeds. I’m new at bread but am excited to braid up this loaf with my kids. I’m also 2 weeks overdue with a baby and really needed something tangible to do this morning! Can’t wait for it to rise and bake. Enjoying alot of your recipes actually.
Have a great day! Janie
Looking forward to trying this. Can you clarify step 3 of the instructions please?
Hi Dee: Just spray a large, smooth-sided bowl with cooking spray, drop your ball of dough in, spray the top, and then cover tightly with plastic wrap. Then let the dough rise in a warm area for about 90 minutes. Hope this helps!
Can I use something other than milk, such as plain almond milk? Or remove the milk all together?
I think nut milk would probably work fine. Although, I’ve never tried it, so no guarantees! Baking substitutions are always tricky.
The almond milk worked wonderfully!
How would you suggest storing this bread? We ate some, and then froze the rest. Is there any way to store it so it keeps fresh for a couple of days?
Also, do you have to do the entire process in one shot? Or could you prep the dough and let it rise overnight, and then bake in the morning?
What type of yeast do you use?
Regular dry active from the store. :)
Cassie your loaf looks amazing! I was wondering the same thing in regards to the yeast, so thanks for answering this one. However, as a professional baker, you probably want to update your recipe to specify which type because it makes a very big difference. I use instant and active dry in different recipes for different reasons, but if I were to assume you’d used instant (most people who aren’t too comfortable with bread baking do since it’s a bit less intimidating), it could over-proof fairly easily. It would likely be a very flat and dense loaf if fresh yeast were used. Just wanted to give you a heads up, since you said you weren’t too experienced with baking.
I can’t wait to try this bread! I’ll post back on how it turns out. :)
Can you make this bread without being braided, like in a regular loaf pan? If so, does this change the cooking time at all?
I’m so excited to try this! Do you think I can make the dough in my bread maker? Thanks!
Sure can! Just put it on the dough cycle and the proceed with the recipe for adding the seeds and braiding.
Here is a great copy and paste nutrition info calculator that should help: https://www.caloriecount.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php
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