Musings

Cast one’s bread upon the water

My bread and butter. The greatest thing since sliced. Know what side one’s bread is buttered on. To break bread. Man cannot live by bread alone.

There are a number of sayings with bread in them. Including cast one’s bread upon the water, which I had never heard of but quite like — apparently it means to act generously because it is the right thing to do, not because you expect a reward (Collins).

My Red River Cereal Bread
My Red River Cereal Bread

I know this is supposed to be a blog about writing and weird things, but bread has been on the minds of a lot folks lately — or, more accurately, the potential lack of bread. Am I the only one who finds this funny, given the anti-carb sentiment of recent years? I guess it’s one thing to choose not to have something versus being unable to have it. And bread is such a comfort food, and one of those things many of us don’t give much thought to, even though bread in some form another seems almost universal, whether it’s flatbreads, wafers or yeasted domes.

Despite being someone who makes a lot of things from scratch (including tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi), I haven’t been a regular bread maker until a few month’s before COVID-19 appeared on our collective radar. I started making bread every few weeks after I visited my parents at Christmas. For some reason during that visit, I was reminded of the bread my mom had made when I was younger: Red River Cereal bread.

I don’t know why that stuck in my craw — I don’t think she’s made it for years, and certainly hadn’t made any when I was there — but I wanted that. Grainy and nutty and hearty.

For some reason, I didn’t ask my mom for her recipe. I guess I just figured Google could answer my question. And it came through…sort of. I found this recipe, which I made once as is.

But cooking the cereal dirties a pot, and I’m lazy and hate to do unnecessary dishes. So I adjusted the process: instead of cooking the cereal, I let it soak over night. It seems to work fine.

The other change I make is to use old fashioned yeast and proof it with the water and a little sugar. I like to know my yeasties are happy before I commit to make bread with them. However, I might need to investigate non-yeast breads — given panic-buying and more people experimenting with making bread, the beasties are hard to find.

And now for my recipe (which is probably the recipe of someone else in the ‘verse).

Red River Cereal Bread

This makes two standard loaves.

The cereal

  • 2/3 cup raw RRC*
  • 1 c water

Soak the cereal overnight.

The bread

  • Soaked RRC, excess water drained
  • 1 1/3 c warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 T + 1 tsp active dry yeast 2 tsp active dry yeast****
  • 2 T maple syrup or brown rice syrup**
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 T oil
  • 1 T pumpkin seeds
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1 1/3 c whole wheat flour
  • 4 c all purpose flour (or a mix of AP and bread flour)
  1. Mix the yeast, sugar and warm water, and let proof for 10 minutes or so.
  2. Add all the ingredients except the all purpose flour to a bowl and mix well.
  3. Add 3 cups of the AP flour, switching to mix by hand at the end.
  4. Remove it from the bowl and knead the remaining flour in until the dough is soft and not sticking (sometimes it doesn’t take all the flour).
  5. Cover and let rise in a warm location until double, about 1 hour.***
  6. Meanwhile, grease some loaf pans if you plan to cook it in a pan (I usually do since I want sandwich sized pieces).
  7. One doubled, punch down then form into loaves. Cover again and let rise again until double, about 1 hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

*If you don’t have Red River Cereal — I think it’s a Canadian thing — Sunny Boy or some 7 grain cereal should work.

**You could probably omit the maple or brown rice syrup. I might try that next time.

***I use my oven with the light on as a proofing chamber. You just need to remember to take it out before you turn to oven on to bake the loaves.

EDITED to reduce the amount of yeast. This always seemed like a lot to me, and I think I’ve always reduced it. In these days of yeast being hard to find in stores, I just made another batch with 2 tsp yeast (plus some failed sourdough starter — that’s a tale for another day — and it worked fine. More than fine actually.

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