An Easy Hack for Fragrant, Light Textured Whole Grain Bread

An Easy Hack for Fragrant, Light Textured Whole Grain Bread

Bread is the most elemental of foods. Grain, water, salt, and some busy little yeasts to do the heavy lifting. Depending on your level of commitment, it can take days to craft a great loaf. True artisans nurture starters for decades, and slowly ferment their doughs to the peak of perfection.

Or, you can be as lazy as I am, and hack the process down to a few minutes of mixing. Yes, this takes the foresight to start a day ahead and leave the dough overnight in the refrigerator, but you can also get lazy on day two and leave it in there until you feel like baking it.

Yes, whole grain bread devotee that I am, I do like getting my bread fix without fuss, sometimes. Slow breads are fantastic, when I have my act together. Like everybody else, I have to budget my time.

Throwing together this flatbread is honestly as easy as making biscuits. I started out with a bag of Montana grown white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat is nutritionally the same as hard red winter wheat flour, but has a paler pigment in the bran. It’s really kind of beige. It’s also a little lower in gluten than regular wheat.

My other inspiration was a package of Za’taar that I picked up in a fantastic store, La Bouffe International in Portland. Made by a women’s cooperative, the Canaan Fair Trade Delicacies za’atar is moist and deep green, unlike many powdery zataar blends. It’s Palestinian, so it is mostly thyme, unlike many za’atar blends that are heavy on the oregano. It is spiked with sumac and roasted sesame seeds, and tossed with olive oil and a touch of sea salt.

Worth seeking out!

Worth seeking out!

So, I lazily retrieved my ingredients and set to the brief task of measuring and stirring. I spent more time arranging the stuff for this photo than making the bread. It gave me time to reflect.

Whew, almost broke a sweat!

Whew, almost broke a sweat!

I didn’t invent refrigerated dough, it’s been around for years. Back in the day, when I baked in a restaurant, we used to make big batches of pizza dough and keep them in the cooler for a few days, taking out what we needed each day. We only started doing it because we had leftover dough one time, and discovered the happy accident of improved flavor.

Little did we know, the slow fermentation of a stay in the fridge was improving the dough. The yeasts were chilled down to slow-motion speed, allowing them to keep reproducing and breaking apart the components of the flour, making the dough more digestible and creating new flavor compounds. When working with whole wheat flour, this is especially helpful, as there are some bits and pieces in the bran and germ that are thirsty, as well as some bits of bran that act like little knives in the mix, slicing up the gluten fibers that make the dough hold an open crumb. A little time for the flour to soak and get chewed on by microorganisms is a good thing, when it comes to whole grain breads.

Who says whole wheat breads are heavy?

Who says whole wheat breads are heavy?

So, there is little more to do but chill and then pour it out on the pan. I know, you may have expected folding, or kneading, or even some shaping. But because we want to save all the bubbles that developed in the fridge, it’s best just to gently tease the cold dough into a round and let it warm up on top of the pre-heating oven.

It’s a cheater’s way to bake, but hey, I am all about a shortcut that still give me hot, airy fresh bread. Whole grains are so tasty and good for you, anything that makes it a possibility to have a herby flatbread, hot out of the oven on a weeknight, is fine with me.


Za’atar Bread

Serves 4

4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sesame seeds and more olive oil, for pan
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons za’atar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

The day before baking, combine the flour, salt and yeast in a 2 quart storage tub or bowl. Stir in the water and olive oil to make a sticky, soft dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight and up to 3 days.
The day of baking, take the cold dough out of the refrigerator. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
Spread a bit of olive oil on the parchment, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Pour the dough on the sesame and gently form into a round. The dough will be cold and sticky. Use your fingertips and try not to press or cause the dough to lose all those great air bubbles. Let rise for about an hour. You can check on the temp by sliding your hand under the pan, if it is still cold, let it sit longer, on top of the stove as the oven heats up. Preheat the oven to 400F.
When the dough is warm and , drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges of the bread are browned and the bottom is crisp. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

 Fava Bean Salad

1 14.5 ounce can fava beans

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

10 grape tomatoes, sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Drain and rinse the beans, place in a bowl with the parsley and tomatoes. In a cup, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt and cumin, pour over the ban mixture and toss to coat.