Cracked Wheat Bread, 1937

Cracked Wheat Bread

Something a little different this week – not just an unusual recipe but also a method of baking a loaf that might be new to you.

It’s called baking ‘under tin’ and is very useful if your loaf is decorated on the outside with seeds or grains, as it prevents them from becoming over-coloured in the high heat necessary for baking bread. It’s not just for use with speciality loaves, however, it is also useful for creating a very regularly-shaped loaf for making sandwiches, etc or keeping a delicately-crumbed loaf of enriched or milk bread from over-browning. You can splash out and buy a special sandwich tin with a lid that slides on/off (also known in the US as Pullman Tins), but it’s not necessary. Ideally, the tin would have vents in the lid to allow the steam to estape, but inverting a solid tin is fine – since the tin isn’t weighted down, any steam can escape from under the edges.

The other interesting aspect of this week’s post is one of the ingredients. I found the recipe for cracked wheat loaves in Walter Banfield’s classic book “Manna”: A Comprehensive Treatise on Bread Manufacture (1937). The cracked wheat is used both in the dough itself and also to decorate the outsides. I decided to adapt the recipe slightly in order to use an ingredient I picked up recently but had yet to use in anything – freekeh.

Freekeh a cereal made from air-dried and roasted green wheat and is popular in the middle east. It can be used as an alternative to rice or couscous, or substituted for bulgur wheat in tabbouleh salad. It is available in a couple of UK supermarkets, and also health food shops and online. It needs only a brief amount of cooking in water in order to soften it. If you zoom in to the picture, you can just make out the little yellow nuggets of chewy freekeh dotted through the slice. They make for great texture and add a pleasantly nutty flavour. This loaf is also nice made with half freekeh, half bulgur or all bulgur if you can’t find freekeh anywhere.

Whilst you can choose any flour to make these loaves, my recommendation is for strong brown flour (pictured) or malted flour. 100% stoneground wholemeal is tasty, but extremely dense. If you want the grains to be more noticable, you could mix 1/2 brown and 1/2 white, or experiment with rye, barley and other unusual grain flours.

Cracked Wheat Bread

100g freekeh, bulgur wheat or a mixture of both
500g strong brown flour
10g salt
EITHER 15g fresh yeast mixed with 5g brown sugar until liquid OR 1 sachet fast-action yeast.
warm water to mix

50g freekeh and/or bulgur wheat for coating

  • Put the 100g of freekeh into a small pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then drain. If using bulgur wheat, there’s no need to pre-cook, just cover with water and allow to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.
  • Add the drained freekeh or bulgur to the rest of the dry ingredients.
  • Add sufficient warm water to bring the dough together.
  • Knead for 10 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic and allow to rise until doubled in size (about an hour).
  • Prepare the 50g freekeh and/or bulgur wheat in a similar manner and drain.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. The tin should be slightly larger than you would normally use for a loaf of this quantity of flour.
  • When the dough has risen. turn out of the bowl and deflate by patting gently.
  • Fold the edges into the middle and form the dough into a loaf shape. The top should be smooth and the seam underneath. Use as little flour as possible. The surface of the dough should be tacky to the touch.
  • Scatter the prepared grains over the work surface and roll the loaf of dough over them to coat. If there are any patches, pat the grains onto those areas by hand.
  • Put the dough into the loaf tin UPSIDE DOWN – that is, with the seam uppermost – and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • When the dough has risen almost to the top of the tin, lay a sheet of parchment over the top of the loaf tin and lay a baking sheet on top. Carefully invert both loaf tin and baking sheet so that the upside-down loaf tin is on top of the baking sheet, and the dough completely enclosed.
  • Slide a second baking sheet under the first and put all into the oven. The second sheet will help prevent the bottom of the loaf becoming too crisp.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
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