Bran betters things, in my experience. It aids digestion, adds some extra vitamins to a loaf of bread, and yet it doesn’t weigh the bread down like a heavy wheat flour. This bread has a lovely balance—it is robust and delicate at once. Went great as toast to accompany all the weird international soups I’ve been making to survive the winter. More weird soup posts forthcoming. All this to say, I think the Portlandia catchphrase this season, instead of “put a bird on it,” should be “put some bran on it.”
Adapted from the Italian Baker
1 cup sourdough starter
2 2/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp EVOO
5 ½ cups bread flour
2 cups bran (YEAH!)
2 ¼ tsp salt
Stir sourdough and water together. Add oil. Sift the flour, bran and salt together in a separate bowl and then slowly, slowly, with a wooden spoon, add the flour to the diluted starter. Stir and knead on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes. The dough will be sticky all the way through, thanks to the bran. Crashing the dough, that is, slamming the dough ball down on the counter like a caveman (my favorite part) will help the gluten to develop around the hunks of bran. I wish I had a video of this part. Looks like an anger management session.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 ½ hours until doubled.
This will be a massive hunk of dough. You can either separate it into two loaves, or, you can have one massive loaf (what I prefer). Shape into an oval loaf, and then take your floured hand and karate chop down the midline of the oval—what I mean by karate chop is to press a hemisected line with your vertical hand into the dough, so that it looks like lips. Let rise on a heavily floured peel, cover with a towel, and let rise for 45 minutes.
Bake on a stone at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake 25 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.
Because fresh bread smells so good to wake up to, sometimes I foolishly embark on bread baking in the wee hours of the morning on purpose such that I have to set my alarm to ring at odd intervals during the middle of the night to transition the dough from first to second rise, to proofing and into the oven. With this dough, somewhere around 3am when the bread was baking in the oven, during the second temperature adjustment, I didn’t hear my alarm and however long it took my subconscious to alert me that my bread was in jeopardy, I finally awoke in a panic. No idea how long it was in there. It tasted great anyway, so either I got lucky and woke up shortly after the alarm finished, or this is a resilient and hearty country bread that can bake at 375 for much longer than 25 minutes and still taste wonderful.
Resilience, hmm. A Minnesotan virtue I could never have known until having lived through their winters. Hearty folk. Minnesotans must be made of bran.