Introduction: Seven Layer Seven Grain Bread
I absolutely love bread, and the more whole grain/nuts/seeds/etc there is in it the better.
I also love sandwiches, but they do present a few inconveniences:
- you are committed to one size sandwich - 2 slices of bread plus filling - or multiples thereof, unless you go to the trouble of making a half sandwich
- every time you want a sandwich you need to drag out all of the ingredients, which tends to make me slack off, so I end up with boring, simple sandwiches
- many sandwiches are better toasted, which adds another level of inconvenience
So I invented a bread with sandwich style ingredients baked right into it. It's already nice and toasty on the outside, and you can cut whatever size piece you want from it. I used 7 grain cereal to give it a pleasant texture, and added a whole lot of herbs and vegetables to keep it interesting. There's an almost infinite number of things that could be included between the layers of bread.
Step 1: Ingredients
1 tbsp honey
1 1/4 cups water just a bit warmer than bathwater
Bottled water is better than tap (because chlorine kills yeast) and water from boiling potatoes is better than bottled water. I used water from boiling potatoes.
1/2 cup steel cut 7 grain cereal
Other numbers of grains would work as well, this is just my preference.
1 packet bread yeast
1 packet rapid rise bread yeast
Keep your yeast in the fridge to make it last longer.
2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing
2 cups (or more, depending on humidity) white flour
Unbleached is better, but any white will do. Don't be tempted to replace it with wheat flour or you'll bake a brick, (though you could get away with replacing half a cup or so).
1 tsp salt
This is what I used, but you can put almost anything into it, as long as it's something you would be willing to eat before baking (what I mean is that deli meat is okay, but raw turkey is not).
pepperoni (I used what was left in a package which was enough for one layer)
2 roma tomatoes
shredded mozarella and parmesan
fresh savory, basil, tarragon, and thyme
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
salt (sea or kosher salt are best) and pepper
Slice the tomatoes and onion as thin as is reasonable, slice the garlic as thin as possible. Thoroughly wash the fresh herbs and pull the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems.
Step 2: Make the Dough
You can do the next few steps in an electric mixer or by hand. If you're doing it by hand don't be afraid to use your hands to mix it as it turns into dough.
Mix the remaining water with the honey in the mixing bowl.
Sprinkle the packets of yeast over it. Leave it for 5 minutes to get foamy.
Add the soaked cereal and mix.
Add a cup of flour and mix in completely.
Add the salt. Never let salt touch yeast directly. Salt + yeast = death.
Keep adding flour and mixing until you have a nice looking dough. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
You can choose to let the mixer do most of the kneeding, or you can do it by hand.
The goal when kneeding bread is to go from a rough mix to a nice smooth dough.
Sprinkle a little flour on a smooth surface - my kitchen came with a wooden cutting board in the cabinets that's perfect, but a nice clean counter or table works just as well. Place the mixed together dough on that surface, then sprinkle a little more flour on top. The flour prevents it from sticking down.
Push the heels of your hands down onto the dough, then use your fingers to pull the far edge of the dough toward you. Fold it about in half and repeat. Turn it 90 degrees fairly often. I've included a short video to give you a sense of what I'm talking about.
You'll know when you're done because the dough will be smooth and soft, and almost a little bit like it's 'alive'.
Step 3: Layer the Bread
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
I used a springform pan so I'd be sure it looked pretty in the pictures, but i basically fell out of the pan so any cake pan that's 8 to 9 inches in diameter should do.
Roll one piece out until it's just bigger than the pan you plan to bake it in.
Place it in the bottom of the pan and push around the edges until it fills the bottom and comes up on the sides just a bit.
Cover this bottom layer of bread with the pepperoni, garlic and onion.
Roll out another piece of the dough, as round and close to the size of the pan as possible.
Brush a little oil over the bread. Layer in the tomatoes and dried rosemary. If you're changing the recipe add any of the dried herbs you're using here, the tomatoes will help hydrate them and release more flavor. The oil is brushed into this layer because when tomato is heated with oil it releases more lycopene, which you probably already know is really good for you.
Roll out another piece of dough and layer it in.
Cover this one with the shredded cheese and fresh herbs. I don't have an exact quantity on the cheese I used, it was enough to make a substantial layer over the bread, probably around a cup total.
Roll out the last piece of dough. Place it over the cheese, and tuck the edges down in to reduce how much the cheese can come in contact with the pan. Cheese touching the pan may overcook and burn.
Brush the top of the bread with a bit more oil, then sprinkle it well with the salt, pepper and a bit more rosemary.
Step 4: Rising and Baking
Place the pan in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the microwave because it tends to be warm and draft free, but due to the metal pan this would be a bad idea if someone is likely to come along and mess with it.
Traditionally you want your bread to double in size, but between the 7 grain cereal and filling layers it won't rise that much. You want it to rise about 50%, in my case, about to the top of the pan.
Once it's risen that much (probably 1 to 2 hours) preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bake it for 35 minutes. It should be golden brown on top, and will probably have pulled away from the edges of the pan a bit.
Step 5: Enjoying
Let it cool for a few minutes, then pull it out of the pan. Be careful when cutting into it because there is a layer of melty cheese.
I prefer it warm from the oven and with a bit of dipping oil on it, but it's still very tasty cold. Keep it in the fridge after it cools.
It's a great snack by itself, and it's really wonderful with a salad for lunch or with spaghetti for dinner. I know it'll keep nicely for 2 or 3 days, but it's never remained uneaten for longer than that in my house....
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