Culinate editor’s note: This recipe has three stages, two of which you can do simultaneously: making the soaker and the biga. Both are incorporated into the third and final dough stage.
Struan is the bread that truly launched my bread-baking career. In Gaelic, struan means “the convergence or confluence of streams,” and what better way to describe multigrain breads? Since there is no official, traditional recipe for struan other than to use whatever is available at harvest time, we are all free to create our own struans. The following version is made from 100 percent whole grains in various combinations; from it, you should be able to create dozens of variations of your own.
| ||7 || Tbsp. whole-wheat flour |
| ||1⅓ || cups cooked and uncooked grains, such as rice, oats, millet, and quinoa (bigger grains are better cooked, smaller grains can be left uncooked) |
| ||½ || tsp. salt |
| ||¾ || cup milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk |
| ||1¾ || cups whole-wheat flour |
| ||¼ || tsp. instant yeast |
| ||¾ || cup room-temperature water (about 70 degrees) |
| ||7 || Tbsp. whole-wheat flour, plus extra for adjustments |
| ||⅝ || tsp. salt |
| ||2¼ || tsp. instant yeast |
| ||3 || Tbsp. honey or agave nectar, or ¼ cup sugar or brown sugar |
| ||1 || Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil |
- Make the soaker: Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a thick, porridge-like dough.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill.)
- Make the biga: Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remove the biga from the refrigerator to take off the chill. It will have risen slightly but need not have risen significantly in order to use it in the final dough.
- Make the final dough: Using a metal pastry scraper, chop the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces each (sprinkle some extra flour over the pieces to keep them from sticking back to each other).
- If mixing by hand, combine the soaker and biga pieces in a bowl with all of the other final-dough ingredients (except the extra flour) and stir vigorously with a mixing spoon or knead with wet hands for about 2 minutes, until all of the ingredients are evenly integrated and distributed into the dough. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky; if not, add more flour or water as needed.
- If using a stand mixer, put the soaker and biga pieces and all of the other final-dough ingredients (except the extra flour) into the mixer with the paddle attachment (preferable) or the dough hook. Mix on slow speed for 1 minute to bring the ingredients together into a ball. Switch to the dough hook if need be and mix on medium-low speed, occasionally scraping down the bowl, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pieces become cohesive and assimilated into each other. Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
- Dust a work surface with flour, then toss the dough in the flour to coat. Knead by hand for 3 to 4 minutes, incorporating only as much extra flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and tacky, but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes while you prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl.
- Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute to strengthen the gluten and make any final flour or water adjustments. The dough should have strength yet still feel soft, supple, and very tacky. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1½ times its original size.
- Shape the dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into either a loaf-pan shape or a freestanding bâtard. For loaf-pan bread, place the dough in a greased 4-by-8-½-inch bread pan. For a bâtard, place it on a proofing cloth or on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and, if you like, dusted with flour. Mist the top of the dough with pan spray (optional), cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1½ times its original size.
- Bake the bread: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put a pan into the oven for holding hot water. When the dough is ready to bake, place it in the oven, pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan, lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is a rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and registers at least 195 degrees in the center.
- Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.