Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Whole-wheat agave bread

Growing up in a traditional South Indian household, bread was not staple for me until I started living on my own and started to depend on it for a quick snack/breakfast. No, bread was more of a special treat. We would get the softest, pillowy, white, cloud-like bread from the nearby Iyengar bakery (lots of Iyengar bakeries in Bangalore where I grew up). My favorite way to eat it was to toast and spread a generous layer of Amul butter on top. Yummmy!! That bread also had this wonderful, fresh aroma to it. When I moved to the US about 9 years ago, that bread was sorely missed. Packaged breads just don't come close to a freshly baked loaf just out of the oven. So, this weekend, I baked a soft, fluffy bread, made mostly with whole-wheat flour and sweetened with agave syrup. If there's someone in your family who refuses to eat whole-grain bread, this is a loaf that will tempt them at the very least. It was given a thumbs-up by DH (who can be picky about whole-garin bread) and by two toddlers and a preschooler. So, there! Yes, like all yeast breads, it involves some kneading, but its totally worth the effort. And if you have a bread machine or stand mixer, its really, really easy to make. This recipe is an adapted version of the one from "500 Vegan recipes" by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman.  This is a super cookbook with all sorts of recipes from granola bars to fake meat to breads and cakes. Every recipe I've tried has been a winner. Okay, so onto the bread recipe now.

3 cups white whole-wheat or regular whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp active dry yeast + 1/4 cup warm water + 1 tsp sugar
1 to 1 and 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tbsp non-dairy butter
1/2 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup raisins (optional)

In a small bowl, warm the 1/4 cup water in the microwave for 15-20s. You are looking for warm, not hot water (Yeast needs just the right temp. to grow). Now, add the yeast and sugar and mix well and set aside. In about 10 min. or so the yeast should be frothy and have small bubbles. This indicates the the yeast is in good condition. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. When the yeast is ready, add it to the flour mixture along with the agave nectar, butter and 1 cup of non-dairy milk. Now, stir the ingredients together with a big spoon or just use your hands to form a soft dough, adding the rest of the milk if necessary. The dough shouldn't be too dry since that will result in a hard bread. If it feels slightly sticky, thats okay, just use a little flour to work with it. Now turn the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead gently for 8-10 min. Just rock the dough back and forth gently, turning it around just a little after each time you rock it. You can knead for 3-4 min., give yourself and the dough some rest and then get back to it. Once kneaded, coat the bowl with the 1/2 tsp oil and place the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough to coat with oil completely and cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough sit until it doubles in size. This can take anywhere from 60-90 min. or even longer if your kitchen is a little cold. Then punch the dough down gently. You can mix some raisins into the dough at this point if you wish. I did that with half the dough. Now, spray your loaf pan with non-stick spray, place the dough in it and cover with plastic wrap. Most loaf pans are 8"x4" and this dough will be a little big for them, but thats okay, it'll just rise a little higher. Let the dough rise for another 60 min. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the loaf uncovered for 15 min., then cover with aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 min., until the top is browned evenly and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Let the bread cool for at least 10 min. before slicing with a serrated knife. Slather with non-dairy butter and enjoy!


  1. nice site, vidya. there was something special about amul butter.

  2. Thanks bee, yes, oh those memories!!