Apr 132014

Pumpkin-seed whole-wheat bread

Do you ever have those moments in your food-related life when you come across an idea so great and so simple that you really have to give your brain the stink-eye and ask, in your most accusatory voice, “Really? You couldn’t grace me with that idea?”

I know I sure do.

This bread is the most recent in a string of such events. Our locally-owned grocery store has a fantastic bakery, and one of the crown jewels of their ovens in a 100% whole-grain sprouted-wheat pumpkin-seed bread. Whew. Quite a mouthful.

(Ha! See what I did there?)

Pumpkin-seed whole-wheat bread

I this is where I start to interrogate my brain. Adding pumpkin seeds to bread is such a great idea, I have to wonder why on earth I never thought of it myself.

So I set out to make a tasty version myself. I wanted to use my favorite buttermilk loaf as the basis for it, but didn’t because a) I started this when I was still on the dairy-elimination diet, and b) I was worried that the acid-tenderized gluten wouldn’t be able to stand up to the addition of an enormous amount of seeds. I settled on this version because, well, it’s delicious. It’s not the same as the loaf that inspired it, but it is lighter in texture and better-suited for pan-shaping. Perhaps one day I’ll try a sprouted wheat version, but today? Today I’m perfectly content with the loaf I have in front of me right now.

Pumpkin-seed whole-wheat bread

Pumpkin seed whole-wheat bread
Adapted from Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book
Makes two 8″x4″ loaves or three smaller loaves


  • If vital wheat gluten is unavailable or your prefer not to use it, you may omit it and increase the flour to 6 cups/900g
  • If you have trouble with gluten development, you may swap out a cup of whole-wheat flour for bread flour.
  • (Untested theory) To make this with a wild-yeast starter at 100% hydration: omit the yeast, add 540g starter, reduce flour to 630g, reduce water to 320-380g. Increase autolyse, fermentation, and proof times.
  • I like a lot of seeds in this bread (as in: would you like some bread with those seeds?). If you prefer fewer, reduce the seeds to 1 cup.

You will need:

  • 5 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons finely-ground whole-wheat flour (850g)
  • 6 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (50g)
  • Just shy of 1 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups room-temperature water (590-650g)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (14g)
  • 2 cups shelled pumpkin seeds or pepitas (the green ones, not the ones in the white shell), toasted if you like (doesn’t work well if they are the kind that have oil added).

To prepare:

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients (using the smaller measure of water) except the salt and the pumpkin seeds, until a shaggy dough is formed. Cover and let sit (autolyse) for 30 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, add the salt and begin kneading and continue until you have strong gluten development (the dough will be smooth, not shaggy, and can pass the window-pane test), about 15 minutes by hand. Add more water if the dough feels too stiff: the dough should be tacky but not sticky. Once the dough is kneaded, form it into a ball and place it seam-side down in a bowl. Cover and let it ferment until the dough springs back within 3-5 seconds when poked gently with a wet finger, about 60 minutes.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and pat into a square/rectangle about 12″ square. Fold it in thirds like a letter, then rotate the dough 90 degrees, flatten, and fold again. Return it to the bowl for the second bulk fermentation until the dough tests ready again, which will take about half the time of the first.
  3. Flatten the dough into a rectangle again (bigger and thinner than before, if you have the counter-space for it). Spread the seeds over the surface, then fold it up and begin kneading. Continue until the seeds are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
  4. Divide the dough in half or in thirds and shape each into a ball. Let rest for 20-30 minutes, until the gluten is well-relaxed. It may take quite some time because of the beating you just gave it when you added the seeds.
  5. Once the dough is relaxed, shape into the shape of your choice, making sure you get good surface tension across the top of your loaf. Sandwich loaves, boules, and pointy batards are all good choices. Cover the loaves and let proof until they have swollen substantially and pass the poke-test that you used during fermentation (60-90 minutes).
  6. When you are finished shaping the loaves, pre-heat the oven to 450F and set it up for steaming (I put a lava-rock-filled cast-iron skillet on the lower shelf of my oven). If you are making free-form loaves, put a baking stone in the oven when you turn it on. When the loaves are ready, bring a cup (8 ounces) of water to a boil. When boiling, slash the loaves in the pattern of your choice and place them in the oven. Immediately pour the water into your steam-making device (like the skillet I mentioned above) while wearing a long oven mitt. Close the oven door as quickly as possible and bake for 15 minutes. At the end of this time, bring the temperature down to 325F and crack the oven door for 30-60 seconds to let out steam and cool the inside of the oven. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes until the crust is deep reddish-brown, but do not let it over-bake (the size, number, and proximity of your loaves with influence the baking time). Remove from the oven, remove from the pan if necessary, and let cool completely before slicing.

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