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Secrets to baking bread with beans
April 15, 2004

A lady from central North Dakota called me last fall and wanted a recipe for bean bread with dill. I finally found it in the cookbook I received when I first started this job. The book, Bean Cookery, written by Sue and Bill Deeming and published by HP Books, may be out of print now, but it does have lots of good recipes in it. If you have a copy, you may want go back and check it out. Anyway, I tried the recipe; the bread was good, so I will share it.

I taught evening and Saturday morning classes on bread baking to adults for 12 years before I began working for the Northarvest Bean Growers Association. I will attempt to share some of the methods I worked out.

Over the years I began using a starter of water, yeast and flour. We like the flavor that is developed with that method and it shortens the rising time. Bread develops flavor when it is punched down two or three times, which adds an hour or two to the rising time. I opt for one rising and punch down and shorten my active tending time by at least an hour. 

This recipe makes three loaves and fits very nicely in a Kitchen-Aid five quart or Bosch mixer or it can be made with any standard or hand mixer and then kneaded by hand.

After combining the starter and the rest of the ingredients for the dough, I beat that mixture for four minutes in an electric mixer. That helps to make smooth dough and starts the development of the gluten or framework for the bread. After that, the rest of the flour can be stirred in by hand and then the dough could be kneaded by hand on the counter. Or, if your mixer is able to knead the dough, add one half of the remaining flour and mix it in. The rest of the flour would be added a cup at a time until the dough balls up and cleans the sides of the bowl. The last cup is added a little at a time as the dough is kneaded to avoid adding too much. An eight-minute kneading time is the same whether the dough is machine or hand kneaded.

All flour should be stored in a tightly covered container after the bag is opened. It is important to keep it as moist as possible. Keep yeast in the freezer. It will last for many years; the expiration date doesnt apply when its frozen either in the original container, a sealed container or freezer bag.

I changed the white flour to half whole wheat. I have to confess that I am a whole wheat bread baker. But, I also think the brown whole-wheat bean bread looks better than off-white bean bread. All dry ingredients need to be measured carefully, especially the flour since a large quantity is used. The scoop and shake-off method used by many cooks can cause too much flour to be added and the result will be a dry, heavy loaf. Consider scooping with a measuring cup and then sweeping off the excess with a metal spatula. The amount of flour used in any batch of bread will vary by ½ to 1 cup each time depending on the humidity, moisture in the ingredients and the cooks measuring technique. It is just part of the art of bread baking. Bread is made by feel and everyones skill increases with practice.

Gluten flour is the most recent addition I have made to my bread recipes. I started using gluten flour after attending a class on vegetarian cooking. It helps to strengthen the framework of the bread and I think my bread is a little higher and lighter when I use it. I use 1 Tablespoon per loaf or ¼ cup in 5 loaves.

I changed the original home-cooked bean puree to canned refried beans because I had them in my cupboard. Be aware that there are different amounts and kinds of fat in canned refried beans: some no fat, some authentic made with lard  normally 1 cup per pound of dry beans. I tried both. The authentic made wonderful, tender rolls but had lots of saturated fat. The no fat made good bread, not as moist or tender as the authentic, but a healthier product. You will need to decide what you want to eat if you use that product. Regular canned beans can be used for the puree. Use one can; follow the same instructions for draining and pureeing and save a day of cooking! That product will also not contain added fat.

I began using lecithin in my bread many years ago. When I was doing demonstrations at a specialty store, a bread baker from Washburn, N.D., asked if I had tried it. I hadnt. I tried it and liked making bread that stayed moist for a couple extra days. Most homemade bread dries out quickly, but lecithin changes that rule. I use about 1 teaspoon of liquid lecithin for each loaf of bread. The manufacturer recommends 1 T. per loaf. I use 1 ½ - 2 glugs for 5 loaves. The bean puree will help to keep this bead moist, but I use lecithin as a standard ingredient in all my bread. Eggs naturally contain lecithin, so with the beans and eggs the lecithin would not be as essential as in a plain bread or roll recipe. If you read labels you will be surprised to find lecithin in many, many commercial products. Now, you need to also know lecithins disadvantages. Lecithin is a very thick fat and is so sticky that it is quite difficult (nasty!) to clean out of utensils or off pans!  I solved that problem long ago by estimating the amount of lecithin by glugs as I pour it out of the bottle into the dough. (As liquid is poured out of a small bottle neck, watch it closely. It comes out in a smaller and then thicker streamthats one glug.) I use the liquid product because it is less processed than the dry. It comes in a pint or quart bottle in the natural foods section of the grocery store or a health food store and never seems to spoil.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that lecithin, yeast, spices and gluten are normally cheaper at the health food store. You may want to check to see if the same thing is true where you live.

I use cold-pressed canola oil because it is supposed to retain more of the healthy, natural substances than regular pressed oil. If using it helps with the inflammation that seems to come with cardiac and arthritic problems that would be a good thing.

I tried using both dried dill weed and fresh dill and we never could taste the dill. Onion taste, yes, dill taste, no. The loaves and rolls were really quite good, but not dilly. I havent tried dill seed. After two batches of bread I ran out time. If any of my readers find a method gives a dill flavor, let me know and I will pass on their advice in the next column.

I listed the salt in the topping as optional because we liked the bread better without it. If your family likes salty breads such as pretzels, try it. You can always brush it off.  

Last, but not least, I would advocate for baking home made bread. The smell is marvelous and if you bake bread all the time, your family wont binge. They will have an extra piece or two when its hot and then it becomes part of your meal pattern. Especially whole grain breads are much more filling than the wonder bread at the store. And do you ever wonder whats in it, when you make your own bread, you know whats in it! And everyone will just appreciate the good food you serve!

Dilly Bean Bread
3 regular 1¾ pound home-made loaves
2 9 x 13 pans of rolls

2 packages (2 Tablespoons) active dry yeast
1 cup 110  115 degree water
1 cup bread flour
¼ cup cold-pressed canola oil
¼ cup finely minced or grated onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon, 1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill weed
1 16-ounce can unseasoned refried pinto beans
Or 2 cups Great Northern Bean Puree
1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup sugar
1 glug liquid lecithin
2 eggs or ½ cup egg substitute
2 Tablespoons gluten
3 cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups bread flour

1 egg
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley or dill
½ Tablespoon coarse salt, optional

Make the starter four to eight hours before making the dough.

In the mixer bowl, use a whip to combine the yeast and hot water. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Cover with a plate and set aside. Mixture should rise up and fall back in the bottom of the bowl.
In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté until tender and clear. Stir in salt, dill and refried or pureed beans. Remove from heat and allow to cool  maximum temperature 110 degrees. (A hotter temperature will kill the yeast.)

In the mixer bowl, add the other ingredients to the starter: water, sugar, lecithin, eggs, gluten and 2 cups whole-wheat flour. Add cooled onion-bean mixture. Beat on medium for four minutes. Stir in 1 cup whole-wheat flour; add remaining bread flour a little at a time until dough cleans the side of the bowl. Knead in mixer or on counter for 8 minutes, using up to 1 cup of additional flour.
Grease dough and set on clean counter. Clean out bowl and grease. Return dough to bowl. Cover with waxed paper and a towel. Set aside to rise until rounded above the top of the bowl, 45  60 minutes.

Punch dough down, turn out on the counter. Grease 3 - 9 x 5 loaf pans. Divide dough into three equal pieces. Form dough into loaves. Grease loaf and place one in each pan, seam side down. Cover with waxed paper and towel. Set aside to rise until just above the pan, 30  45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, beat one egg with a fork. Combine cheese, parsley and salt in another small bowl. With a single-edge razor or box cutter, make several slashes the long way or diagonally in the top of the loaves. Brush top of loaf with beaten egg, carefully puncturing any bubbles that rise to the top. Sprinkle cheese mixture over loaf.    
Bake loaves 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Then lower temperature to 325 and continue to bake for 50 minutes more. (Total baking time is one hour.) Lower temperatures 25 degrees for convection oven. 

For pan rolls, use two greased 9 x 13 pans. Make 18 - 24 small balls of dough, placing them in rows in the pan. Cover with pan lid. Let rise. Apply topping as above.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30  35 minutes. Remove from pan. Enjoy eating the hot bread!

Cool remaining bread or rolls on a rack covered with waxed paper and a towel.
Store in a plastic bag. Freeze any bread that will not be used within 3  4 days. Frozen individual rolls may be thawed in the microwave and served hot.


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Northarvest Bean Growers Association | 50072 East Lake Seven Road | Frazee, MN 56544
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