Monday, July 29, 2013

Greg's Mom's Red River Bread

Red River Bread
Red River Bread, made with whole wheat flour
Red River Cereal is a stick-to-your-bones, high-fiber and nutritious whole-grain hot cereal from Manitoba, Canada, that's made with wheat, rye and flax. First sold in 1924, it's widely available in Canada but hard to find in the United States. I was introduced to it by Greg's family, who used to spend much time in Canada, and fell in love with it from my first bowl on a chilly winter morning.

Unfortunately, Red River Cereal isn't sold anywhere in my area, but Greg brought back several boxes for me the last time he was in Minnesota. Because it's one of my standard breakfasts especially after running when the weather is cold, I searched for an online vendor with whom I could partner not only for my own purpose, but also for the Carolina Sauce Company to be able to offer the cereal to our customers. I'm happy to announce that I was successful and you can now buy Red River Cereal online, along with other genuine Canadian products, via our new affiliate partner Canadian Favourites!

Red River Cereal
Buy Red River Cereal
If you enjoy grainy hot cereals for breakfast or are simply trying to increase your intake of whole grains or flax, I highly recommend Red River Cereal. My favorite ways of eating it are with a drizzle of real maple syrup or honey, a sprinkling of walnuts or other nuts, and a handful of raisins or dried cranberries. It's also excellent with fresh berries, a spoonful of brown sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. But best of all, it makes the following hearty bread that can be used for anything from sandwiches to French toast and whole-grain croutons (for the latter, cut into cubes and toast in oven until crisp-dried). And it's simply heavenly fresh out of the oven with a smear of butter or North Carolina marmalade or jam.

The recipe below makes two or three loaves, and the bread freezes well if you let it cool completely and then double-wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight freezer bag (squeeze out all the air before zipping the bag). I got the recipe from Greg's Mom, who got it from a friend in Canada.

1 1/2 cups cooked Red River Cereal*, cooled to room temperature (cook according to package instructions)
1 1/4 Tbs yeast
Cooked Red River Cereal
Cooked Red River Cereal
1/2 cup warm water (heat to 115°-120°F)
1 1/4 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup lard**
1/4 cup molasses*** (I use blackstrap)
1/4 Tbs salt
1 1/2 cup hot water (not boiling)
5-6 cups flour (all-purpose or whole wheat both work fine)

*Don't use the "Ready to Eat" or microwave version -- you need to use the original stove-top Red River Cereal

**I've also used half lard and half butter. If you're vegetarian, you can substitute vegetable shortening

***I've also used half molasses and half real maple syrup (not "pancake syrup" - use the real deal!)

Dough rising for Red River Bread
After the first rise
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water (115°-120°F) in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and let stand for 10 minutes -- the yeast will activate and the mixture will become frothy, with a "yeasty" aroma. In a small bowl combine the lard, molasses, salt and hot water. When the lard has melted and the temperature of the liquid is no more than 125°F, pour into the large bowl with the yeast. Add the cold cooked cereal and stir to break up. Begin adding in the flour a cup at a time, stirring to incorporate each cup before adding more (you can also work the dough with your hands once it starts coming together). You want to end up with a pliable dough that's a little moist but not too sticky -- depending on ambient temperature and humidity, you may need to add an extra cup of flour. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to an hour) -- I like using a slightly damp towel to cover the bowl and place it in my oven with the light on, which provides just the right amount of warmth.

Making Red River Bread
Before the 2nd rise
Grease two or three bread pans. When the dough has doubled after the first rise, form two or three loaves and place in pans, then let rise again for another 20 to 30 minutes -- the dough should mostly fill the pan. Note: If you prefer, you can make "free form" loaves and bake them on a greased baking sheet instead of in bread pans. I haven't tried making round loaves, but that might work, too. If you try this recipe and make free-form or round loaves, please do post a comment below (and include photos if possible) to let me know how they turn out.

Ready to bake loaves of Red River Bread
After 2nd rise, before baking
As the loaves complete their second rise, preheat oven to 400°F. When the loaves have risen, bake at 400°F until golden-brown and they sound hollow when tapped, about 20 to 30 minutes (in my oven on most days they take the full 30 minutes, sometimes a little longer).

Remove from oven and cool loaves on racks -- if baked in pans, allow loaves to rest in the pans a few minutes before attempting to remove from pans to place on cooling racks.

Homemade Red River Bread
Cooling the loaves
Once the loaves are cool enough to handle, you can slice and eat the bread. Alternatively, if you plan on storing any of the loaves for later use, wait until they cool completely and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap (I double-wrap) and then store in an airtight freezer bag in your freezer. Defrost at room temperature before cutting.

Zestfully yours,

PS: You can probably use other whole-grain wheat, rye & flax cereals instead of Red River brand -- if you do, please tell us what you used and how the bread turned out (just leave a comment below).

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