Growing up I always remember a pot of rice on the stove. My mom, being half Japanese, made sure of this. Rice was an essential part of her childhood and she bestowed that appreciation for the tender grain in my sisters and me. The first thing I remember how to cook was rice. No fancy rice cookers were involved, simply a pot, some water, and rice. There is a very specific way to cook rice, according to my mom. To master that skill was the first step of initiation into our home kitchen.
First, place the rice in the pot and rinse it a couple of times with fresh batches of water. Next fill up the pot with water so that the rice is covered by an amount of water equal to the length between the tip of your finger and the midpoint between the two most distal knuckles. My little sister had a line, or wrinkle, if you will, there. This, my mom sagely averred, was her “rice line,” a useful physical trait for the task at hand. With the rice covered, place the pot without a lid on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Then, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and let the rice simmer until all the water is absorbed, but not any longer! (We always knew when my little sister made the rice because the bottom was burnt.)
And that’s it. That is how we made rice at home. So, with four rice-cooking women in the household, there was continually a pot of rice on the stove. Some days it was freshly cooked. Other times it was a day or two old. When it became too dried out to eat enjoyably my mom would come to the rescue with a delicious mid-week meal of fried rice, reusing the old rice and satisfying the hungry bellies of her family. I always enjoyed old rice, rehydrated and warmed by pouring green tea or hot milk over it. I wondered recently, though, what else could you do with this old rice? Naturally, my mind turned to bread.
The following recipe is adapted from one in Dan Lepard’s The Art of Handmade Bread. I was skeptical at first due to the equal parts rice to flour, but was truly pleased with the result. Using King Arthur’s bread flour (a flour with a very high gluten content) yielded a loaf with integrity and good structure. Furthermore, this recipe is excessively simple and fairly mess free. True, the dough is sticky and wet, but you knead it for a total of only about a minute. I was amazed by Lepard’s technique of kneading for 10 seconds, letting the dough rest for 10 minutes, and then repeating the process several times. It works beautifully for this dough! Also, this is relatively quick dough to prepare and bake if old rice is readily on hand.
Besides the merits of working with this dough, the bread is hands-down delicious. It is slightly sweet, encased in a crunchy golden crust, perfectly toothsome, and has a luxuriously creamy crumb. Sliced, it serves as a good option for sandwiches or toast. Indeed, when warmed and topped with a bit of butter and blackberry jam, this bread makes a breakfast fit for any rice-loving woman
A cirspy, golden crust…
Yield: ~975 g (1 9×5-inch loaf pan)
275 g tender cooked rice (white, brown, long or short grain, any kind will do…)
275 g milk
3 g instant yeast
35 g honey
375 g bread flour
10 g salt
Thoroughly combine the rice, milk, and honey in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir until you obtain an evenly combined, soft and sticky dough. Cover the dough and leave for 10 minutes.
Knead the dough on a work surface (oiled, if desired) for 10 seconds. Clean, dry, and oil the bowl. Return the dough to the bowl and leave for another 10 minutes. Knead the dough on a work surface once more for 10 seconds. Shape into a smooth, round ball. Place it back in the bowl, cover, and leave for 1 hour at room temperature.
Butter and flour a 9×5-inch baking pan. Shape the dough into a baton and place it seam-side-down in the pan. (The dough will be sticky and wet so oiling your work surface before shaping would be helpful). Leave the loaf at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 410 °F. Bake the loaf for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 °F and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing into.