Better bread: Try a robust grain-fig loaf
This robust, lightly sweet bread is perfect as we transition into cooler weather. The combination of farro, barley and oats give it a substantial heft, while the dried figs lend a gentle sweetness and moist crumb. Eating a warm slice topped with a pat of butter or smear of jam may even remind you of a comforting bowl of oatmeal.
This is the sort of bread that actually gets better with age. So if you can, resist slicing it until the next day; it will be even more delicious. Top it with cheese or jam — or both — for an easy side with a bowl of soup. You also could slice it thinly and toast it to use as crostini topped with Parmesan, arugula and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
Fig-Grain Porridge Bread
Start to finish: 4 hours, plus cooling
1/2 cup old fashioned oats, plus extra for the pans
1/4 cup pearled farro
1/4 cup quick-cooking barley
3 cups water
1 cup dried figs (7 to 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup dark rye flour (sometimes called pumpernickel rye)
2 teaspoons instant yeast (also called fast-rise)
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
Mist two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans with cooking spray. Add a handful of oats to each, then swirl around to coat the bottoms and sides. Tip out any excess oats.
In a large saucepan over medium-high, combine the farro, barley and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the figs. Cover again and allow to sit until the mixture cools to room temperature, about 1 hour. Stir in the 1/2 cup of oats, the rye flour, yeast and wheat flour. The mixture should be a very soft and sticky, almost a thick batter-like dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, then mix in, stirring with a wooden spoon in a folding motion. Once the salt is mixed in, cover again and let rest for another 20 minutes.
With a wet hand, fold the dough over in half on itself. Turn 90 degrees and fold again. Cover and let rest another 20 minutes and repeat the folding process. Repeat the fold and rest one more time, then turn out onto a lightly floured counter.
By this time, your dough should be a thick, messy blob. Scoop half of the mixture into each of the prepared loaf pans, using a wet hand to pat it smooth. Gently press additional oats onto the surface of each loaf. Alternatively, you can sprinkle the loaves with wheat bran or cornmeal for a different textured look.
Cover each loaf with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes while you heat the oven to 375 F.
Bake until the loaves reach an internal temperature of 210 F, about 55 minutes. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and set directly on the oven’s middle shelf. Bake for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Nutrition information per serving: 100 calories; 5 calories from fat (5 percent of total calories); 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 120 mg sodium; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 3 g protein.
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Another sign that things are returning to normal goes up on the grassy lawn at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs Wednesday evening — with an eye toward a full return next summer.