Sunday, October 5, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 5: Struan

Last week we celebrated Michaelmas (the feast of St Michael and All Angels) on September 29. As this festival is very close to the autumn equinox for those of us in the northern hemisphere, it has absorbed many seasonal and harvest-related aspects. There are also other fun culinary traditions, such as eating "deviled" food (e.g., Devil's Food Cake) to be sure that you give the devil his due on the feast of the angels!

My favorite Michealmas food is struan, a mixed-grain bread originally from Scotland. We make it every year, but I ran out of time last weekend, and had to postpone for a few days. In some places, the celebration of Michaelmas runs past the day itself, for a week or even a month. Thus, I'll say that for my baking purposes, we are still in Michaelmas season.

The baker and cookbook author Peter Reinhart is responsible for reviving struan within the larger baking community. For many years at Michaelmas, I have made the recipe he gives in Brother Juniper's Bread Book - more recently in my own veganized form. The original recipe is posted all over the internet if you search for it, but the book is well worth buying. I have had it since its release in 1991, and it remains one of my favorite bread books - thoroughly stained and marked up. In Peter's recent whole grains bread book, he gives a 100% whole grain version of struan, but I have not tried it yet. (However, everything I have made from the new book has been fabulous.)

Struan was originally made with the products of the local harvest. Thus, I like to use some local items like sorghum molasses and grits in my version. I have also veganized Peter's recipe, which calls for buttermilk, honey, and an egg wash. Even if Michaelmas is not part of your cultural or religious traditions, I encourage you to try struan. It is a wonderful autumn bread, and makes the best toast on earth. You can find ways to incorporate ingredients from the local harvest of your bioregion - grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, syrups, etc. To get you started, here is my version:

7 c. bread flour
1/2 c. uncooked grits
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. wheat bran
4 t. salt
7 t. instant yeast
1/2 c. cooked brown rice
1/4 c. sorghum molasses
1 t. cider vinegar - add vegan milk (today I used hemp) to make 3/4 cup
approx 1 1/2 c. water

small cup of dark coffee with a big spoon of sorghum stirred into it
poppy seeds

Mix all the dry ingredients (including the yeast) in a large bowl. Then add the brown rice, sorghum, vinegar/milk mixture, and 1 cup of the water. Add more water as needed until the dough comes together. Knead for approximately 15 minutes. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Punch down risen dough, and divide into 3 pieces. Shape each into a loaf and put in greased pans. Brush the tops of the loaves with the coffee-sorghum mixture (a great substitute for an egg wash, which I learned from the talented L) and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Allow to rise, covered, for another hour or so. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, and then cool on racks.
(Obviously, the camera is back home. I added a photo to the hot pepper jelly post also. This week's DIY challenge is tortillas, and I hope to get to them soon!)


Veg-In-Training said...

The bread looks fantastic. If I have time next week, I would love to make it with the sorghum you sent. Is instant yeast different than the packets?

JohnP said...

Three packets should be fine! Enjoy!

Bex said...

wow, thanks for the backstory. I didn't really know any of that. I'll give the Struan a try.

Anonymous said...

It looks amazing! I really suck at bread, but I may have to try this!

JohnP said...

You should pick up one or more of Peter Reinhart's books. He gives very detailed yet down-to-earth guidance on bread-making. His books have been an immense help to me.

vegan said...

Dear JohnP,
How did you get to be so very awesome? Just a quick question from a fan.