When I looked out the window this morning, the street looked like this:

It snowed all night, it’s snowing now, and they’re saying it will continue to snow for the next few days. Later, I will put on my suit, rolling up the cuffs of the pants and secure them with binder clips (one hazard of Canadian winter–your pants can’t be tailored for your heels and your boots at the same time. And you do not want to have damp pants cuffs). Then I will venture out to wade through the snow to go teach a class. For now, though, I’m wrapped in layers of blankets and sweaters, keeping snug indoors.

They’re saying that this winter might be a cold one, full of snow and low temperatures. Something about La Nina. I say, bring her on! I’ve got chicken stock on my balcony (hey, what’s the frozen outdoors for if not to augment my freezer space?), tea in my cupboards, many, many pairs of wool socks in my dresser drawers. And on my table right now I’ve got a loaf of tender, toasty bread. It’s not beautiful (witness the lumpy, flattened top–I think my loaf tin was a little too big), but it’s cozy.

This is wild rice onion bread. It’s moist and full of onion flavour. The recipe comes from Peter Reinhart’s “Brother Juniper’s Bread Book,” which is once of my favourite bread books. It’s a great read, and it’s got some great recipes. Wild Rice and Onion bread uses a mix of brown and wild rice as a base to add fluffiness and moisture to the dough. If you can’t get your hands on wild rice, I think brown rice would work fine on its own. The recipe calls for one cup of raw, diced onion, but when I make it next time, I think I’ll use 1 1/2 cups of raw onion and cook it down to caramelize and concentrate the flavours. Other than those modifications, this bread is a keeper! It’s firm enough to use as a sandwich bread, but it’s also moist and light enough to be toasted and eaten on its own or made into rolls. The rolls make me think of onion bagels, just begging for some whipped cream cheese. It also makes fantastic warm and crunchy and light toast.

PETER REINHART’S WILD RICE ONION BREAD
adapted from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book– Makes two loaves, or 30 rolls

8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup diced fresh onions
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 cup cooked wild rice blend (I used a mix of wild rice and brown rice. I added 3 parts water to one part rice and cooked it for about 45 minutes, until the water was absorbed and the wild rice had split open– make sure the wild rice is tender enough. This should be added at room temperature, so it’s a good idea to make it a day ahead)
1/3 cup buttermilk
about 1 1/2 cups of water

In a steel bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together, including the yeast, the onions and the wild rice blend. Next, add the liquid ingredients. Don’t add all the water. Set some aside in case you need to add more to adjust the consistency of the dough while you’re kneading it. Mix everything together as best you can. I usually eschew the spoon and just use my hands to bring the mix together.

Turn out the shaggy mess of dough onto a floured counter. Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes, until it comes together in a smooth, stretchy, silky mass. It should pass the windowpane test. Enjoy this part of the process. Remember (or pretend) that it’s snowing outside anyway, and you’re inside your warm kitchen with this beautiful mass of dough in your hands, making magic.

When you are finished kneading, put your dough into a clean bowl and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or saran wrap. If your kitchen is a little cool or drafty, feel free to coddle your dough by protecting it in the oven. I turn my oven on to 200 F for about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat and turn on the light in the oven before putting my dough in. The dough loves the insulated warmth. Leave your dough to rise until it has approximately doubled in size, between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours, depending on the heat.

Punch down your dough and form it into rolls or loaves. Place the formed dough in greased baking tins, re-cover it and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it doubles in size. You can brush the tops of the dough with an egg wash before you bake them.

Bake your bread at 350 F for approximately 45 minutes. If you are making rolls, they will be done in about 12-15 minutes.

When your bread is done, take it out and allow it to cool before slicing into a loaf or ripping into a roll and toasting it.

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