Making bread is a very satisfying endeavour. It lasts, properly wrapped, for a long time in the freezer and then taken out and reheated. Of course, nothing beats slicing the crust off a barely touchable loaf right out of the oven. And the fragrance - nothing can beat it.
This bread is adaptable in so many ways - instead of brown rice, use wild rice, bulgur, millet or quinoa. Don't use ordinary white rice, though, its flavour tends to overwhelm the bread.
Brown Rice and Onion Bread (adapted from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day)
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/4 teaspoons salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt)
2 Tablespoons instant yeast
1 cup cooked brown rice (wild rice or another cooked grain may be substituted)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
2 cups diced fresh onion (about 1 large onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage (other herbs may be used - rosemary, thyme, parsley)
1 egg white, for egg wash (optional)
1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash (optional)
Combine all of the ingredients except the egg wash in a mixing bowl. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer and start with the paddle attachment, mixing for 1 minute on low. The dough will be sticky, coarse and shaggy. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 4 minutes, adding a small amount of flour or water as needed to keep the dough together. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 - 3 minutes by hand, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. It should still be very soft and slightly sticky. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
When ready to bake, remove dough from fridge 2 hours before you plan to bake it. Shape the dough into loaves, either free-form balls on a baking sheet, or in loaf pans. It can also be shaped into rolls. Use a minimum of flour when shaping, just to keep dough from sticking.
Cover the shaped dough with a towel and let rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until increased about 1 1/2 times its size. If you want a shiny top, whisk the egg white and water together, then brush over the tops just before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves 45-55 minutes, rotating pans once. For rolls, bake 20-25 minutes, rotating once. Cool on a wire rack. I dare you to resist eating one warm from the oven.