Struan bread

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Anyone who is into bread baking will have heard of Peter Reinhart.  He is the author of seven very popular bread baking books.  His first, Brother Juniper’s Bread Book, was published in 1991.

When the first edition of Brother Juniper’s Bread Book was published, Peter Reinhart was living in a semi-monastic community of Eastern Orthodox Christians running a restaurant and bakery called Brother Juniper’s Cafe.  The most popular item at the café was this Struan bread.

In his book, Peter advises:

“On the eve of the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, also called Michaelmas, a wonderful custom used to take place in western Scotland.  Each family member baked breads called Struan Micheil, which were made of all the various grains harvested during the year.”

Brother Juniper’s Struan is made from wheat, corn, oats, brown rice and bran.  It is moistened with buttermilk and sweetened with brown sugar and honey.

I have been wanting to make this bread for ages but was always put off by the ½ cup of cooked brown rice in the ingredients.  Who has a ½ cup of cooked brown rice in their fridge?  Then, the other day, I took stock of myself.  ‘How hard is it to cook some bloody rice?’, I thought.  I cooked one cup and used the left over to make a great rice salad.

This bread sure does taste good.  But, better still, is the aroma that filled the kitchen when it came out of the oven.  Warm bread always smells divine but this was the best smelling bread I have ever come across.  It took all my willpower not to have a slice.  I think it must have been the caramelised honey and sugar, mixed with the usual yeasty aromas.

The next time I make this bread, I am going to convert it to a sour dough (stay tuned for the post).  That was always my intention but I wanted to, initially, make it as written, just to know the original.  It is certainly a great bread and I love the fact that there is lots of fibre in it.  It is less sweet than you would imagine with the sugar and honey, but there is a sweetness to it.  It is lovely fresh and as breakfast toast.

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups bread flour
  • ½ cup uncooked polenta
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • cup wheat bran
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs* + 1 tsp instant yeast or 3 tbs* active dry yeast
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • About 2 cups water (I used a bit more)
  • 3 tbs* poppy seeds for the top
  • 1 egg, mixed with some water for the egg wash

*These are 15 mil tablespoons.

  1. If using active dry yeast, put the yeast in 4 tablespoons* of lukewarm water and let it stand until it bubbles.
  2. In your mixer bowl or, if making the bread by hand, in a large bowl, combine the flour, polenta, oats, sugar, bran, salt and yeast.  Whisk together to mix.
  3. Add the brown rice, honey, buttermilk and the water (leave a bit aside and add it when you are kneading. The exact amount of water you will need will depend on a lot of factors, including the absorption rate of the flour you are using.)  Mix the ingredients to combine.
  4. Knead for 7 minutes in an electric mixer or 12-15 minutes if you are kneading by hand (Adjust the water as necessary).  Peter explains that this dough takes longer to knead than most because of all the grains.
  5. Spray a clean bowl with oil and put the dough into the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with oil and water.  Set aside for about 1 hour – until it has doubled in bulk.
  6. Divide it into 2 or 3 loaves.  Put each loaf into a greased bread pan, seam-side down.
  7. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle the poppy seeds on top.
  8. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with oil and water.
  9. If you have them, line your oven rack with a ceramic tile or pizza stone.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  10. Allow the loaves to rise until the dough mounds over the tops of the pans.
  11. Bake for 45 minutes in your preheated oven.  The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  I found that my bread was getting too brown on top so I took them out of the pans after 30 minutes and baked them on their sides for the last 15 minutes.

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26 thoughts on “Struan bread

  1. glenda. I absolutely love the sound of this bread!!! I will definitely try it and reference you. I love that it has br. rice and bran and oats1!! it would go nicely after toasting with butter or labneh and chillies!!! I just need to get the bread flour. polenta!
    Glenda on a v different note you once asked about using rice flour in my arabic desert muhalabiye.. I just use corn starch in it. It is a lovely desert esp with mastic resin added.

    • Hi Lara. I was just interested whether the were two ways to make Muhalahiye or whether they were a similar but different dessert. I always used Claudia Roden’s recipe and she uses rice flour. I think I will try your version next time and do a compare and contrast 🙂 Enjoy the bread.

  2. Brown rice freezes really well Glenda, so next time you cook some make extra and freeze it. Then when you want to make the loaf all you have to do is defrost the rice. I do agree with the comments on the yeast; it does seem like a lot. My normal ratio is 1 tsp/ 500g (approx) and it always works well.

  3. Think we’ll just call in one day to try it at your place. Can you imagine the mess I would make in the van trying to cook this!
    Heard Saturday was a fantastic night missed you all. Xx

  4. Interestingly enough, despite all the cookbooks I’ve accumulated over the decades, I have not heard of this writer. Your Struan bread sounds absolutely delicious, Glenda.

  5. Sounds delicious, but it seems like an awful lot of yeast for just 3 loaves. Have you tried it with less yeast, and a longer rising time?

    • Hi Cea. Yeah it sure is a lot of yeast. These old recipes use much more yeast than we would today and, because of that, it all happens very quickly (especially for someone who is used to sourdough). I haven’t tried it with less, but off course you could. I just wanted to make it as per the recipe before I started playing around with it. Next time I am going to make a sourdough version.

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