In the 15 years since I first tried Brother Juniper's Struan Bread, I've tasted a lot of great bread, but I still don't think I've tried anything that makes as great toast as Struan Bread does. Nor have I tried any bread is so universally enjoyed: everyone who tries it agrees that this bread makes killer toast.
It isn't bad for sandwiches either.
I have to admit though that this bread occasionally gives me nightmares. Click "Read More" to learn why.
When I was in high school I worked in the Brother Juniper's bakery and cafe. For the most part I worked on the slicing machine, but I also helped scale and shape the loaves. Oh yes, and top the loaves with poppy seeds.
The poppy seeds. The poppy seeds are what give me nightmares.
I have no idea how many pounds of poppy seeds we went through a day, but I know we made as many as 500 loaves of Struan Bread, each one covered with hundreds of poppy seeds. Those seeds would get everywhere: in your hair, under your fingernails, in your clothes, everywhere you can imagine. Even a few places you can't imagine: I recall a number of times pulling poppy seeds out of strange places (like my book bag for school or a clean pair of pants) and wondering "How in the world did poppy seeds get in there?!?
I still avoid poppy seeds most of the time, though I'll admit they are wonderful on top of this loaf.
About Struan Bread
Struan Bread (properly pronounced "STRU-en bread", but most people I know call it "STRON bread") is a harvest bread. I believe the story is that Peter Reinhart read something about a traditional bread that Irish villagers baked into which they threw a little bit of everything they were harvesting. Struan Bread as we know it is an attempt to capture the spirit of that loaf.
Regardless of the origin, this bread is wonderful. One is certainly free to experiment with including different or additional grains. I've done so a bit and the bread has turned out quite good, though I don't think any of them have be as excellent as the combination found in the original recipe (reproduced below).
Oh yeah, I need to add that this recipe is roughly the recipe found in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. I believe he includes versions of it in most of his other baking books (Crust & Crumb and Brother Juniper's Bread Book come to mind). If you don't already have one of his bread books on your shelf you owe it to yourself to pick one up.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves
3 tablespoons polenta
3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons wheat bran
1/4 cup water
3 cups unbleached bread flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons cooked brown rice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Mix together the ingredients for the soaker. Cover and allow to soak for at least half an hour or as long as overnight.
In a larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients and soaker. Add more flour or water until the dough can be formed into a ball that is tacky but not sticky. Place the ball of dough on a clean work surface and knead it for 10 to 12 minutes, then return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, degas it gently, and split it for two loaves or shape it as is for one. Place the loaves in greased bread pans, spritz or sprinkle water on top, and sprinkle a handful of poppy seeds on top.
Cover the pans loosely with plastic and allow the loaves to rise until doubled in size again, approximately 90 minutes.
Bake these loaves at 350 for 40 to 60 minutes, until the internal temperature is around 190 degrees. When ready the loaves will be quite brown on top and will make a hollow thud when tapped on the bottom.
Doesn't that look good? Trust me, it is WONDERFUL! Try it, it is worth the work!
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