Wild Rice and Onion Bread

It is not necessary to wait till the mood strikes nor to expect a mood to be evoked by wild rice. It is, after all, merely another food amidst the dozens of foods we eat. But if you could see the glint that someone gets when you say, “I have just made Wild Rice and Onion Bread,” you would understand perfectly why I hold that wild rice is one of those special foods that has its own power to affect people.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups unbleached high- gluten flour, bread flour, or all-purpose flour
  • cup chopped dried onions or 1 cup diced fresh onions1
  • cup brown sugar2
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast or tablespoons active dry yeast3
  • tablespoons salt, preferably sea salt
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice blend4
  • cup buttermilk
  • Approximately cups water

Method

Mixing and Kneading

Mix all the dry ingredients, including the yeast and cooked, cooled rice blend, in a bowl, and then add the liquid ingredients, reserving a little water for later adjustments during kneading. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter and knead for 10 to 12 minutes or until the dough is elastic, unified, and tacky but not sticky.

Proofing

Return the dough to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap or slip the bowl into a plastic bag. Put in a warm spot (an oven with the pilot light on or a warm room) or leave it at room temperature. Depending on the temperature, allow between 45 minutes and 1½ hours for the dough to rise.

Forming Loaves

Because of the buttermilk and sugar, this bread is best when formed after one rise. Shape the dough into loaves according to the directions or into rolls according to the directions on page 37. Cover, and let the bread rise for between 45 minutes and 1 hour or till the dough crests above pan or doubles in size. Rolls will take as long to rise and should then be brushed with an egg wash made of 1 egg beaten up in ½ cup water.

Baking

Bake at 350°F. (300°F. in a convection oven) for approximately 45 minutes. Rolls take from 12 to 15 minutes. The customary thwack on the bottom is still the best method for determining doneness.

This dough may be formed into a free-standing round shape but it must be baked at 350°F. (300°F. in a convection oven) because the buttermilk and sugar will caramelize and darken the loaf before it is finished if baked at too high a temperature. Cut a star pattern in the top with a razor or serrated knife and spray the loaves (see the recipe for French bread), to make the crust brittle. This style of bread is beautiful when served on a cutting board at the table.

1 You can use either dried onions or fresh. The dried actually have a more intense flavor and they will be nicely reconstituted in the dough; the fresh have a better crunch.
2 Honey can always be substituted for sugar but use only two-thirds as much and reduce the water by one-third as well.
3 Proof active dry yeast first in 4 tablespoons lukewarm water.
4 Cook the wild rice and brown rice together. Broken pieces of wild rice are much less expensive. Lunberg makes a wonderful mixture called “Wild Blend,” of unusual brown rices, such as Wehani and Black Japonica, among others, and broken wild rice. Using two parts water to one part rice, bring the mixture to a boil, simmer for between 20 and 30 minutes until the water is absorbed, and put the rice aside to cool. If you are making your own blend, use half wild rice and half brown. It is best to make the rice a day ahead.