I am a huge fan of this quick and easy sunflower bread – or to be more precise – of this rye and whole wheat sunflower seed bread. In Austria, we eat this kind of bread a lot. It usually comes loaf-shaped and consists of a mixture of white and whole wheat flour. I also added rye flour to my recipe. Some varieties are dense and packed with seeds, others are a little bit more on the fluffy side, like this one.
I didn’t have a particular recipe for sunflower seed bread on hand, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for experimenting. As leavening, I used active dry yeast instead of Hermann or Rudi, my two sourdoughs. I was highly surprised that the bread I mixed together, came out of the oven perfectly on my first attempt. It’s just like the ones you would get in an Austrian bakery. Even David, my one and only honest critic (I forced him to do that…) admitted that this bread is bakery material. Enough of the self-praise. You will see for yourself.
Previously, I was more into dark rye sourdough breads, but since summer arrived here in Boston, I have been looking for a lighter alternative that would go well for sandwiches and balcony breakfasts. My balcony days are numbered, by the way, since I will have to move soon. So let’s make the best out of the time remaining.
Anyway, this recipe will definitely come along with me as we move into our new apartment, and will be gas oven-proofed soon. No worries, bread, it won’t hurt.
Recipe for Sunflower Bread
For your homemade sunflower bread you will need whole wheat, rye and white bread flour, 1¼ cups toasted, unsalted sunflower seeds, honey and molasses (you can substitute honey for molasses), active dry yeast, lukewarm water and salt.
If you only have raw sunflower seeds on hand, you can toast them in a pan without oil for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat until fragrant and lighty golden in color. You will need 1 cup toasted seeds that go into the dough. The seeds you will sprinkle on top can either be raw or toasted.
Dissolve active dry yeast, honey and molasses in lukewarm water, add white bread flour and whole wheat flour. Vigorously stir using a hand whisk (or cooking spoon) until the batter is smooth and resembles pancake batter.
Stir in salt and 1 cup toasted sunflower seeds. Mix well. Add rye flour in two or three batches, and stir well with a sturdy cooking spoon (that’s good workout).
Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and pour in the dough. Distribute as well as possible with the cooking spoon, then wet your hands and pat the surface smooth.
Sprinkle ¼ cup of sunflower seeds on top (toasted or raw are fine), and slightly pat them into the dough.
Let the bread rise covered for ¾ to 1 hour or until the dough has filled the whole loaf pan (or even a little higher). I always place the whole loaf pan in a small plastic bag (like the ones you get for produce at supermarkets) with enough air trapped and close it tightly.
The bag shouldn’t touch the dough, so make sure to trap enough air. I prefer this method to using a lid or cling wrap because even if the bread is rising and you overlook time, it won’t get messy.
After rising, the surface of the dough is usually not that tightly packed with sunflower seeds as it used to be, and there will be some blanks spots. You can sprinkle some additional seeds and carefully! pat them so they won’t fall off immediately (I did so in the picture above).
Now your bread is ready to go into the oven.
Bake the bread in the middle rack of the preheated oven until the loaf is dark golden brown. Bake 10 minutes at 450 °F, reduce heat to 400 °F and bake for 30 more minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, let it cool slightly (5 or 10 minutes), then remove it from the pan when still very hot and let cool on a wire rack. Let the bread cool completely before cutting or it will still be a bit gummy inside.
In my opinion, this bread tastes best on the second or third day after baking. It is also easier and thinner to cut after a few days. I store it in a bread box or you can wrap it tightly in wax paper (don’t use cling wrap).
Have fun baking!
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