This week, I made Honey Sunflower Bread for a fellow pirate, “Bacon Will” Meister.

I love this bread. It’s super easy to make and the dough is very forgiving. If you’re the type of person whose interest in this whole baking thing is at least 25% to make your house smell incredible (for me, it’s like 60% eating bread, 30% smelling the bread as it bakes, and 10% getting people on social media to love me), this is the bread for you. The end result is a slightly sweet, hearty bread with a soft crust that could make for some excellent sandwiches, or a great breakfast with some butter (or avocado, you filthy millennial).

Dough:

  • 180g Whole Wheat Flour (divided into 2/3 and 1/3, if you’re using my amounts it’s 120g/60g)
  • 180g-250g All Purpose Flour (“AP flour”)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1.5 tablespoons salt
  • .5 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 296g warm water
  • 47g honey
  • 27g olive oil

First up, as always, gather the ingredients: this dough is pretty standard in terms of flour, water, salt yeast (the big four) with the addition of honey and sunflower seeds for some flavor and texture. King Arthur has not contacted me about a sponsorship, so, while I did use their flour, I will not be buzz marketing them by showing pictures of their bags.

Next is a step that will happen in many breads: proof the yeast. Yeast is a living, breathing(?) organism that likes to sleep (me too, yeast) and works best when it has a nice wakeup call. Mix the water (shoot for 100°—hotter could kill the yeast and cooler won’t get it worked up enough) and honey, then sprinkle the yeast over the surface and let it sit for 5 minutes. It’ll get foamy and smell incredible. I might like this smell more than the actually baking bread.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the sunflower seeds up a bit, not too finely. Mix them with 2/3 of the whole wheat flour and salt. Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture, stir a bit, then pour all that goodness into the flour mixture. Stir until fairly smooth.

Add the rest of the whole wheat flour, and about a half cup of the all purpose flour—it’s okay to be approximate here. Add AP flour as needed until you have a shaggy, sticky, angry ball of dough forming. Turn it out onto a clean, (AP) floured surface and start kneading.

This dough is sticky. As you work, it will hungrily consume all of the flour you put on your surface, as well as the flour on your hands, and possibly it will reach into your flour container and eat from there. Keep feeding it flour as necessary from the amount you set aside earlier, but don’t go much higher than that maximum I noted in the ingredients list. After 10-15 minutes of kneading, it will still be sticky. But significantly less so. Just a little sticky. And it should be smooth, firm, and friendly, with a nice elasticity.

Oil a bowl, put the dough in there, turn it to coat, and then cover the whole jawn loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let it sit for 60-90 minutes (or less, if it’s 85°), or until doubled in size. Perform the finger dent test when you think it’s done.

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently deflate it. (Science-y Note: As dough rises, the yeast is producing carbon dioxide, which is trapped between the gluten molecules in the dough, making the dough grow. Sometimes, you want a longer rise time to develop more flavor, but if you allow too much CO2 to build up it will overwhelm the poor gluten network, which will fall apart, turning your bread into a loose, runny mess. This is called “overproofing.” Deflating the dough allows for a longer rise without letting the dough overproof.) Divide into two equal pieces and shape. If you want sandwich bread, toss it into a loaf pan. I opted for a boule here (the big loaf is for Will, the little loaf is for me). Place them on a piece of parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel for 60-90 more minutes (temperature depending.)

I highly recommend baking in a cloche or cast iron dutch oven. If you don’t have either of those, a baking sheet with a metal mixing bowl upside down on top will work. While the bread rises, preheat the oven to 400° with the cloche or dutch oven inside (this causes instant caramelization of the bottom of the dough when it touches the hot surface, so you won’t need any sort of oil to prevent the bread from sticking).

Once the dough is done rising, mix an egg white with a tablespoon of water and half tablespoon of honey, then brush that mixture onto the dough. Slash LIGHTLY (no deeper than 1/4″, no downward pressure, just drag the sharpest knife you have across the surface) in an X, sprinkle a few more seeds on top, and toss it into the dutch oven/cloche (this is tricky, just VERY GENTLY lift off the parchment and place into the baking vessel. If you’re baking on a baking sheet, I’d say let them rise for the second time on the sheet and just put the whole thing in the oven with the bowl overtop), then put the lids on. Do not keep opening the oven to take pictures.

Bake for 20 minutes covered, then uncover and bake until it’s at your desired color, about 5 minutes. (dark golden brown, for me). Tap the bottoms of the completed loaves. If they sound hollow, they’re done. Let them rest for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy.

Thanks to Bacon Will for the request. See you all next week!


Short Steps List:

  1. Proof yeast in water and honey
  2. Mix 2/3 WW flour with chopped sunflower seeds and salt
  3. Add oil to yeast mixture, combine with flour mixture
  4. Add remaining flour, mix, knead
  5. Rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes
  6. Deflate, divide, shape
  7. Ride until doubled, 60-90 minutes
  8. Preheat to 400
  9. Egg wash, slash
  10. Bake covered for 20, uncovered for 5ish
  11. Rest 5-10 minutes, go to town.

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