The Ezekiel Bread that Almost Wasn't...

In order to explain the title of this post I have to tell a brief story. And the reason I tell this story is that I am a firm believer that good food can come out of mishap, or at least a near mishap. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The above picture is that of my makeshift outdoor kitchen I often use in the summertime, lest I heat up my teeny indoor kitchen. Two days ago--in the evening--I decided to start a batch of Ezekiel Bread. I hadn't made it in a while and thought I'd boil the beans and grains outside, then let the dough rise and ferment overnight in the fridge. I had the pot at a low simmer while doing yard work and went to the front yard and talked with a neighbor for a while. To cut to the chase...I forgot I had the beans simmering (at this point I had just red, white, and garbanzo beans in the pot; no grains).

More than an our later I sat down at my computer with a glass of wine to check my blog stats and email, and I noticed that I had another comment on the Ezekiel bread recipe. And as I'm sitting there thinking about how of all the posts that I make on this blog, nearly 80% of new visitors still find their way here through that recipe. I've mentioned this before, and am grateful for it, but I do hope people stick around and find something else they like as well. And this is what I was thinking about when I remembered the beans cooking on the stove in the back yard.

Shiiitt!!! I yell, startling my two pugs as I start running for the back door. My computer, where I was sitting is in the very front of the house and the outside stove is in the very rear. And as I sprinted towards the back door I could smell the faint aroma of caramelized beans (burnt, I thought). By now it was night and I had to take a flashlight with me. When I got back there I could hear the pot sizzling (not a good sign), but to my surprise I caught the beans at the precise moment before they went from caramelizing to burning. I quickly carried the post in the house and added more water to it, sending a plume of bean-infused steam into the air. I had to scrape stuck beans from the bottom of the pot, then added the remaining ingredients to finish cooking (and for these I set a timer).

After the beans and grains were cooked I cooled the liquid quickly by adding some ice cubes to it so I could make the starter and autolyse to work over night. After mixing whole-wheat flour for the autolyse, I realized that I didn't have enough whole-wheat flour to make the pre-ferment with the beans and grains (egad!). So I made it with unbleached bread flour (that's it pictured above, fully active the next morning). 

Anyhow, what I'm trying to say--I suppose--is that most the time things aren't perfect but they usually work out. Often people tell me this recipe looks complicated or laborious when it's really not. If you read it and break it into steps you'll see that it is not difficult or complicated at all. I do hope you try it. The slice pictured at the bottom of the page is the one I ate for breakfast this morning...and yes it was delicious. And I'm not sure if it is because of the series of mishaps with this particular batch, but it seemed to taste especially delicious.

Whole Wheat Ezekiel Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves
12 cups water
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons red beans
2 tablespoons spelt berries
2 tablespoons lentils
2 tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
cooked beans and grains
½ cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups cooking liquid

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
3 teaspoons instant yeast

Boil the grains in the water in logical succession according to cooking times: first the white and red beans (about 60 minutes), when they are soft add the, spelt berries, lentils, and barley (about 30 minutes); lastly, add the millet and bulgar (about 10 minutes). The key is that after each addition the previous grain must be soft enough so that when all of the grains are in the pot they will all be equally soft; undercooked grains (especially the beans) can really ruin this bread. And as the grains cook add more water to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of the recipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it's evaporation). After the grains are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the grains are cooled drain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.

Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained grains with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it's job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.

After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

If you'd like to read additional posts with many variations of Ezekiel Bread recipes and pictures, click here. If you wonder why I boil my beans and grains--rather than sprout them--read this post specifically.

Urban Simplicity.