Struan


In Brother Juniper's Bread Book, Peter Reinhart devotes a chapter to Struan, a Scottish harvest bread. I can't imagine words any more beautifully written that would entice you to make this bread. So, I would like to share his celebration of Struan with you, and to encourage you to have a little faith and make this bread.

On the eve of the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel,
a wonderful custom used to take place in western Scotland. Each family member bakes breads called Struan Micheil, which were made of all the various grains harvested during the year...In remembrance of absent friends or those who had died, special Struans blessed at an early morning Mass were given to the poor in their names. Everyone then chanted an invocation to Saint Michael, the guardian of the harvest, and in praise of God for His ever-present blessing.

I've been reading about Peter Reinhart's Struan for a long time. First from Brother Juniper's Bread Book and then from Artisan Breads Every Day. I never had much interest in giving it a try. I wasn't sure I found the idea of cooked grains in a loaf of bread very appealing.

His Struan recipe calls for bread flour, rolled oats, uncooked polenta, wheat bran and cooked brown rice. (I had to use stone-ground cornmeal, which worked just fine, although this didn't result in the 'gold nuggets' described below, and I substituted cooked barley for the brown rice).

Before forming and baking a loaf of Struan, take a close look at the dough. Notice the different ingredients held in suspension by the soft glutenous dough. Most especially, notice the little pieces of polenta floating in the dough, like little gold nuggets. Stretch the dough in your hands, hold it up to the light, smell it, and experience it tactilely. Enjoy Struan before it is baked for its many-layered beauty.

The two Struan recipes differ in their technique, but not ingredients. The Artisan Breads Every Day method uses the slow, overnight refrigerated rise. Any variety of cooked grains, other than white rice, may be used, and the polenta and oats may be replaced by a multi-grain flour or cereal. The loaves may be shaped as boules, baguettes, rolls, or in loaf pans, as I have done.

While it is baking, pay attention to the aroma in your kitchen. Inhale deeply. Think about the fields where these scents originated and enjoy Struan for its "nose and bouquet."

Struan could become one of my favorite breads. It has a satisfying chewiness, yet the cooked barley became specks in the baked loaf. This solved my wariness. It is slightly sweet from the brown sugar and honey, and as other have noted, it makes fabulous toast.

Finally, toast a thick piece and lightly butter it. This is the ultimate experience of Struan. All of the flavors are released, pushed to their extreme. The outside is crunchy, nutty, and deeply golden. The inside is soft and moist, soaking up the butter.

Are you convinced yet? I hope so. If you don't have the books, I found another recipe at The Fresh Loaf. You may also like this one, which is slightly adapted.