Ravensgard BadgeRavensgard slow-rise multi-grain bread

© Chimene des CinqTours / Patricia R. Dunham, May 1995

\ This recipe has its roots in the French Country Bread recipe in the Feb/March 1995 issue of Fine Cooking magazine. The following instructions assume some basic familiarity with bread making; this is probably not a recipe for an absolute beginner. The current version is approximately:

A. Make a sponge (damp yeast starter) of:

2/3 cup warm water (105-115 F)
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1/4 cup Stone-buhr 7-grain cereal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon whole wheat flour

Mix ingredients thoroughly in a medium-size bowl; let proof for 4-16 hours. Cover the bowl while it's sitting and the yeast is working; keep it out of drafts and temperature changes as much as possible. When finished it should look (like it has been) bubbly and should smell yeasty.

B. For the bread:

In a larger bowl, combine the sponge and:

3/4 cup water
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar + 1 T. water (originally this was 1 T. Honey)
1 teaspoon yeast
1/4 cup cereal
3 cups unbleached bread flour (approximately, slightly less may be needed)

Knead about 5 minutes. This is a damp dough, but works nicely. When finished kneading, the dough should spring back when pressed with a finger. A bit more flour may be added when kneading if necessary, but try to keep it down.

(Additional rises are possible early in the process, if you wish, or if timing problems require.)

Let rise at room temperature 2-3 hours or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator in a lightly greased bowl.

If the dough has been refrigerated, let it come to room temperature. Shape loaf and set to rise on baking surface (whatever you're using), until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

The baking surface(s) I use are Superstone ceramic cloches (WONDERFUL things; the ones I have were Christmas presents (bought here in Eugene); I have both the original round/beehive and the more recent baguette-loaf shapes). These easily simulate period bread baking conditions*. I place the shaped loaf (previous step) on a sprinkle of cornmeal in the base section for the rise (and put the lid on to prevent drafts). When risen, I remove the cloche lid and rinse the interior with water and replace it. This produces an initial "steam" treatment for the crust. Oven temperature of 375 for about 30-40 minutes. In cloche, the crust will be a beautiful golden color. Loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

IMPORTANT. Just before the bread goes into the oven, make sure to slash the surface of the loaf with something -- sharp knife, razor, even snipping with scissors. There will be more expansion of the loaf when the heat hits, and the crust will tear explosively if not given a route for rapid expansion via the slashes. (This happened to the loaves I made for the housewarming.)

(The original baking instructions -- non-cloche -- indicate: 450 for the first 15 minutes, and spritz the oven walls with water from a spray bottle every few minutes for the crust effect; then finish at 425 for 30-35 minutes. The one time I tried these times and temperatures with a cloche, I got a blackened rock; hence the cooler and shorter figures for cloche baking.)

This should produce a moist, chewy loaf with an interesting multi-grain content which is nice for a period feel (rougher flours with multiple ingredients). The Stone-buhr cereal contains cracked wheat, oats, bran, rye, corn meal, flax seed and hulled millet. The corn meal is the only non-period ingredient in the whole thing.

The steps can be done at long or short times, and the possibility of extra rises makes this a recipe that can be very flexible -- or drive you crazy trying to figure out how to fit it into the work-a-day world... 8-)

* See Karen Hess' discussion of reproducing period baking conditions in modern applicances, esp. pp 19-20, Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. Eugene Public Library has a copy & so does Chimene; and in spite of the title, the editor Hess dates the contents to ca. 1575-1625 (!)

UPDATES to 7-grain recipe, March 2008.

A. For about a year now I have been making hamburger buns out of this stuff, to avoid all the icky in commercial hamburger buns (HFCS, partially-hydrogenated oils & so forth). We eat a LOT of hamburgers at home!

Basically, use the kitchen scale (setting on grams will help), to divide the dough as evenly as possible, first into 4 lumps, then each of these into 3 lumps. You end up with a dozen hamburger buns for each batch of bread.

Originally I formed buns by rolling lumps very flat, in a somewhat rectangular shape. For about the last month, however, I have been doing them "manchet-style" and it's much easier and produces a lighter bun.

"Manchet-style" means, make your lumps, then form each one into a ball and simply flatten with the hand. It takes a couple of squashes for them to hold the roughly circular shape (roughly 3.5 inches in diameter, very roughly one-half inch thick). Make sure you turn each one at least once so both sides are well-floured. Final step is to take a good sharp knife and, while gently pressing the center down, so the edge holds a nice round profile, slash clear around the bun, on the "equator".

Arrange on edged cookie sheet, 3x4. These will rise in about an hour (yes, quite a bit faster, probably because of the slashing!). Bake at 350 for about 16-20 min, depending on your oven. I also use parchment (re-use), because all my cookie sheets are getting mungy and otherwise I get odd rust spots on the bottom of the buns. Un-aesthetic. Parchment prevents this, and sheets can be used 6+ times.

B. I also have to report, I've started cheating! Using our 2-pound bread machine. It may be all psychological, but it makes doing the volume required a lot easier.

Make the sponge. Let it stew for the regular minimum 4 hrs (or longer).

Then finish the dough in the bread machine on the "Dough" setting. (Add the rest of the ingredients, let the machine mix and deal with the first rise.)

Still use regular yeast, NOT bread-machine yeast.

About the only change I have made for the machine is to add one tablespoon butter; I think the bread machine likes this, since it's in most of the recipes, probably makes the dough-ball move better in the bucket.

Have also added an additional one tablespoon of water on the honey substitution, so that is now 2T sugar + 2T water.

Have fun!

Last updated 9/8/09.

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