Sometimes the oddest stuff turns to surprising success, and my latest bread experiment turned into the best bread yet, although the dough was initially so runny that it threatened to flow off the countertop and onto the floor.
It started with a random purchase of soft wheat berries at a food store that was actually open on Labor Day, and ended, after an internet search and a few moments of panic, with a dark, moist and chewy bread.
My recipe came from East of Eden Cooking and looking over things I wondered briefly if a missing dash could have caused the sloppy mess. The recipe calls oddly for 11/3 cups of water (3-2/3 cups?). Could that have been 1-1/3 cups? Or was it the fact that I knead by hand and the recipe wants a machine? Or because I skipped the whole grain wheat cereal, and added a cup of smelt flakes instead? (I also substituted coconut oil, my fat of the moment, for butter, so that also added moisture.) Or did I just not read the recipe properly? It does tell you to add flour one spoon at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Anyways I kept pouring in flour until my mess was firm enough to handle (probably an extra cup by the end of the story), baked my three loaves for about twice as long as the recipe says and love the results. Definitely one to make again.
Here, with grateful thanks to Deborah at East of Eden, is what I did.
2 cups soft wheatberries
3-2/3 cups warm water
4 tsp dried yeast
2/3 cups coconut oil
2/3 cup honey
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup flaked smelt
Soak the wheatberries overnight and then cook them for about 45 minutes until tender. You will need 4 cups of cooked berries — I had enough left over for a small lunchtime salad. Chop the berries roughly in a food processor.
Mix the yeast with the water and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so. Mix in the oil, honey and 2 cups of the flour, along with the cocoa, nutmeg and salt. Add the rest of the flour and then the wheatberries and knead until it comes together into one smooth, glossy ball. This took a long time, and I’d guess I added another cup of flour as I kneaded things.
Allow to rise until doubled in size.
Punch down, divide into three bread tins and rise again.
Bake for something over an hour at 350F. (Recipe says 35-40 minutes, and I think I could have baked this one another 20 minutes without doing any harm).
Moist, chewy, very very delicious, and the sweetness and the cocoa turn it into the perfect pairing for virtually any type of cheese.