I would like to tell you a fascinating and relevant story about this bread, but I think I won’t because I don’t have one and because my arms are really sore from a shoulder thing that was perpetrated upon me in yoga today, a pleasantly virtuous discomfort that makes it uncomfortable to type.
Virtue without discomfort is the theme of this bread, a photo of which I shared on instagram earlier, causing a positive stampede of 7 people online and one in the grocery store to ask me how to make it. I’m giving you a recipe, below, and also giving you my blessing to utterly ignore it, because the chain of descent from the place where the bread appears to have originated on down to my oven contains many strong links. You should glance around at the various ways to make it, and then make it with the things you like in it. Then you should have a slice, toasted, for breakfast, and you will be empowered to do weird and revelatory shoulder things in yoga and to eat doughnuts for dinner and to fight for the cause, such is the strong base to your day and your person that the bread will supply.
This bread, which is not really a bread at all despite its compelling performance in the toaster, has an impressive lineage. It seems it maybe started with Josey Baker of The Mill in San Francisco, whose formula David Lebovitz, in Paris, first announced, and then Sarah Britton of My New Roots spun it through her kitchen and handed it off to Alanna Taylor-Tobin of Bojon Gourmet, who also included a second version of it in her wonderful new book, Alternative Baker.
As they say of snowflakes and fingerprints and mistakes, no one makes the same one twice. Hmm. That may not actually be what they say. But I encourage you to make whatever changes you deem necessary to the ingredients so that you feel excited about eating it. I loathe walnuts and I’ve recently become alarmingly allergic to hazelnuts, but I can see a person feeling super spiffy about including either of these in their version. Pumpkin seeds could be nice, if you like those–pretty sure I used to include them, though I don’t anymore. Sarah Britton’s recipe and the bajillion comments below it supply some good answers to any “can I substitute this for that?” questions you may have, and suggest many further variations (bananas!). Play with the kinds of seeds and nuts you use, change up the fats and the liquid, add or don’t add dried fruits–but keep the binding agents (flax, chia and psyllium), the base material (oats) and the liquid-to-dry proportions more or less as given here, to start with.
You will need to spend some time and cash at the bulk bins in your local market before you get started. Don’t let that put you off, as it’s the fussiest part of the recipe. Everything after that is just measure (or weigh–this is a nice time to deploy a scale) and stir. It looks (and hefts) a lot like a doorstop when it’s all put together, but I promise you: one slice and you never look back. You will win friends and influence people, and also get some fine toast out of the deal.
the bread you want on your team
adapted gratefully from all the generous people cited above
Makes 1 8 or 9” loaf or 3 mini loaves (I like the mini ones better, both for sharing and for slicing)
- 1 cup (145g) sunflower seeds
- 1 cup (100g) sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup (60g) buckwheat groats
- 1/3 cup (60g) millet seed
- finely grated zest of an orange
- the juice of that orange
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- a twist of fresh black pepper
- 2t finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 ¼ cups (195g) rolled oats
- ½ cup (85g) whole flax seed (golden or brown)
- 1/3 cup (30g) psyllium husk
- ¼ cup (35g) chia seed
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1T poppy seed (optional)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 ¾ cups water
- 1 cup finely puréed cooked pumpkin or applesauce
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 325°.
Spread the first four ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet or other baking dish and toast in the oven until fragrant, 8-12 minutes, watching the edges carefully towards the end so the nuts, seeds and grains there don’t burn.
In a small bowl, combine the second group of ingredients: the cranberries, orange juice & zest, ginger and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flax seed, psyllium husk, chia seed, and salt. When the sunflower seed mixture has toasted, add it to the bowl and stir to combine. Add the honey, olive oil, water and fruit/vegetable purée, along with the soaked fruit mixture. Stir everything together, and then stir it, and then stir it some more. Use your hands or a big wooden spoon. No matter how well you have tried to combine the dry ingredients prior to adding the liquid, all the psyllium undoubtedly migrated to the bottom of the bowl. So keep stirring, to get that all distributed around. If it is very stiff, add a few tablespoons more water.
Line your pan or pans with a sling of parchment paper. Use the back of your spoon to whap the mixture down into the pan(s), ensuring it settles well into the corners, and then keep piling and tamping as you mound it up just above the rim of the pan (it will not rise or expand much in the oven) and smooth the top, creating a smoothly-domed loaf shape. Cover the pan(s) and let them sit at room temperature at least 2 hours and up to a full day.
When you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400°. Uncover the pans and bake the bread until deeply bronzed, which may take as much as an hour and a half if you have used a single large loaf pan. Remove from the pan and discard the parchment before cooling on a rack.
The bread keeps well, refrigerated airtight, for at least a week. It’s the bomb toasted and spread with whatever you have handy.