Struan – scottish harvest bread

“You don’t go to Scotland for the food!” was a sentence I heard again and again when I visited there last may. Which is a shame, because the food I had was good. Simple but honest pub food like shepherd’s pie, a super juicy lamb burger, spicy grilled chicken, tender and flaky battered cod with the best fries I ever had: thick, hand cut and double fried in beef tallow. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Breakfast in our B&B was equally great: scrambled eggs with salmon or with an assortment of sausage, haggis, and small potato cakes alongside the usual of yogurt, granola, fruit, pastries and toast.
The only thing I wasn’t too impressed with at first was the stack of bread next to the toaster. Obviously multigrain and with some wholegrain additions, but somehow too soft, too fluffy, too… supermarket style and therefore probably chock-full of weird additives. Until the server told me that it was baked on the premises every day. My interest was piqued.

A short chat with the chef later, I knew that the bread was struan, and that there’s no traditional recipe because people basically used whatever they had, but cooked wholegrain was nearly always included, mostly cooked brown rice. I managed to wheedle out of him that the fluff came from “milk fat and a scalder, and that’s all I’m going to tell you.” Which was exactly what I needed to know.

I guess our scottish chef used buttermilk in his bread, but I always have an abundance of yogurt, so I fully embraced the “use what you have” mentality once I was back home and baked my first struan.

First, the scalder:

  • 150g total: mixed multigrain odds and ends (polenta, couscous, rolled oats, bran, cooked brown rice, seeds,…) I used multigrain flakes, cooked bavarian rice which is polished ancient grains, sunflower and linseeds, chia and chopped cashews.
  • 180g boiling water

Mix the odds and ends in a small bowl, add the boiling water and mix until everything is wet. Cover the mass with clingfilm right on the surface, so all the water gets soaked up and nothing evaporates. Leave until cool.

Then the dough:

  • 250g lievito madre (no older than 2 days)
  • 10g sweet stuff (I used honey)
  • 12g salt
  • 240-250g water dairy mix (I used 60g very thick yogurt thinned with 180g water. be creative!)
  • 300g flour (I used german 1050 wheat, also called first clear. You can use bread flour or a mix of all purpose and wholegrain)
  • the scalder

Mix everything, then knead until you can pass the windowpane test. Let the dough rest in a covered bowl for about 2 hours in a warm place.

Form your loaf and either place it in a banneton or a baking pan. I chose the single loaf wood frame for mine because it makes the biggest square slices. If you want to know more about wood frame baking, check here.

If you bake in a pan, let your bread rise until it’s at least doubled in size and fully proofed. In my kitchen it took 2,5 hours on the seed mat (26°C / 79F). If you bake freeform, 3/4 proof is where you want to stop so there’s more stability to the dough and enough oomph for oven spring left.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C / 430F including a pizza stone or baking steel and turn the heat down to 200°C / 400F once the bread is inside. Bake with steam for about 40 minutes freeform (don’t forget to score) or in a normal pan, about an hour in the wooden frame.

Enjoy the bread in thick slices, either toasted or as is, with butter and jam or a full scottish breakfast including scrambled eggs, haggis and sausage. Yum!

Today’s kitchen playlist included a lot of early years AC/DC. With 3 Scots performing, it felt fitting.

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