Okara Bread

I wrote a while back about okara and the okara donuts sold at the tofu shop down the road, and finally decided to try experimenting with okara myself.

First of all, a reluctant disclaimer: I am not some kind of health junkie who drinks green juices and knows what to do with quinoa and kasha. This disclaimer is here because, unfortunately, often anything with the word "soy" in it seems more commonly connected with "healthful" than "delectable," and I don't want to scare anyone off. The okara bread I make is all about really wonderful flavor, and the fact that it is healthy is essentially an afterthought.

One of the reasons I got into sourdough bread baking was because I found yeast breads extremely bland, unless the flavor was bolstered with things like lots of fat, eggs, dried fruit, etc. Sourdough bread might be nothing but flour, salt, and water, and yet it tastes brilliant--something of a miracle, in my mind.

But admittedly, sourdough can be a pain, and in my case, downright uncooperative. So, yes, sometimes I leave my sullen starter sleeping in the fridge, and unfaithfully turn to the easy, enthusiastic arms of... instant yeast. I always get great oven spring, a fine open crumb, and light fluffy loaves, even if in my heart I realize something is being compromised.

But then I baked my first okara bread. It has good flavor for such a plain yeast bread. As for the texture: downy soft and moist, despite the addition of whole wheat and very little fat. Today is the third day that the loaf has simply been sitting uncovered on the kitchen counter, and it hasn't dried out at all.

I took the basic recipe for white sandwich bread from Peter Reinhart's book Crust & Crumb, but I've changed it enough (in both ingredients and technique) that I think of this recipe as my own. Ideally a day before making the dough, a biga needs to be mixed together. A biga is a preferment, a mixture of flour, liquid, and yeast that is allowed extra time to ferment slowly--long and slow being key elements in the making of good bread--to build flavor that it will then pass on to the bread when it is mixed into the dough.

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup bread flour
1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 cup cold water

Combine the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Slowly add the water, stirring with a big spoon, until the dough comes together in a soft, smooth ball (you may not use all the water, or you might have to add more if the dough feels stiff or dry). Knead the dough a few minutes, just until there are no more dry spots or lumps.

I keep the dough in a clear tupperware container, so I can track the progress of my rising biga. It's ready when the biga has almost doubled in size--about three to six hours, depending on how warm your house is (my biga took about eight hours). To allow it further time to develop, I then put my biga in the fridge to retard, which means the yeasts get dozy and work very slowly. It's almost like putting the video on pause while you go to the bathroom. You can use the biga right after it's risen, or you can put your yeasts on pause for up to two days in the fridge.

OKARA BREAD (one loaf)
All of biga in above recipe (take out of fridge about an hour beforehand to let warm up)
1 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup dry/toasted okara (I find wet okara gives the bread a heavier texture)
1 1/2T honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
20g (or roughly 1 1/2T) butter
1/2 to 1 cup of soy milk

(You don't have to do this, but I'm sort of a fan of autolysis. This is where just the flour and liquid is mixed together and allowed to rest for 30 minutes. There is a thorough explanation here; search the page for "Step 2: Pre-Mix (or Autolyse)". Having the dough autolyze is kind of annoying when there's a preferment and you're trying a bread recipe for the first time, however, because you don't know exactly how much liquid you're going to be adding.)

Break biga into pieces. Mix all (or rest, if allowing for autolysis) of ingredients together--but add the soy milk gradually. Because I knead by hand, I like a fairly wet dough, which is easier to work with. Also, I've read that a wet dough produces a lighter bread. I consider my dough the perfect wetness if, while grasping one end and sort of slamming it down on the table in a whipping motion (or like casting a fishing rod, I guess), the dough elongates a bit.

Knead for about 15-20 minutes, more or less, until your dough passes the windowpane test (gently coax a piece of dough as thin as it will go, and if you wiggle your finger behind the dough and can see the movement fairly clearly, your dough has passed the test!).

Next, you want to shape your dough into a nice, taut ball. (I realize I'm getting very basic in my instructions about bread making, but I don't want to go too far and bore any experienced bakers who might be reading this recipe. The best learning experience for me in really understanding the rudimentaries of bread baking came from watching Danielle Forestier make baguettes on the show Baking with Julia, which you can hopefully view online here. I highly recommend the episode.) You can put the dough in a bowl. I just leave the dough on the counter with a damp towel covering it.

After about an hour, or when the dough is about 1 1/2 times its original size, give the dough a turn--meaning, gently stretch the dough with your hands until it is elongated, then fold both ends toward the center, first one side, then the other (make sense? If not, you can watch Ms. Forestier demonstrate if you follow the above link). Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat this folding. Again shape into a ball and cover. Note: If the dough is sticky, I find that, rather than flouring everything, wetting your hands under the sink makes handling the dough very easy.

Let the dough rise again until it's 1 1/2 times its size, about another hour. Do that turning thing, explained above, again.

Shape the dough and slide it into a loaf pan or form a boule or little rolls. Whatever you like. If using a pan, I'd line it with parchment paper (I use this technique). Cover with damp cloth. Let rise another hour, until dough is almost doubled in size. If it's in a pan, the dough should be reaching the rim.

Bake in 350'F/175'C oven for about 40 minutes. The finished loaf should be about 180'F/80'C in the center. If making rolls, I'm guessing you should bake them for about 25 minutes.

Let bread cool for two hours before you cut into it cause it's still cooking!

Effusive apologies for my longwinded instructions. I highly recommend copying and pasting my recipe onto your computer's notepad, and erasing all my annoying comments, so you're left with just the bare-bones recipe.

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Wait, I *like* your "annoying comments"-- don't take them out! They are what make your blog so much more fun to read than just a regular old cookbook. Although I must admit, at this point, being oven-free, I am not in it expressly for the recipes. I am, however, *extremely* intrigued as to what can be done with a rice cooker. Is there a future blog entry there somewhere (hint, hint)? 

- Jessica

1/08/2005 04:23:00 PM  

Ahhh! Thank you so much - I'll inform my mom it's on. Hopefully she will give your recipe a shot. Wow - your very own bread!! Shouldn't you christen it something instead of just calling it okara bread? 

- Hsin

1/09/2005 12:45:00 AM  

Hi Jessica, okay, just for you, I will do a little rice-cooker research.

Hsin-Li, sorry, I've never been good at thinking up names or titles for things.

- Rachel

1/09/2005 12:57:00 AM  

Seriously? It sat out on your counter for two days without drying out? Mine dries up in less than 12 hours!

Did you get your okara from that tofu shop? 

- Lynn

1/11/2005 11:30:00 AM  

Pretty amazing, huh?

I didn't use fresh okara from my tofu shop because the very first time I went to them, they'd already tossed everything out (have to go before noon). So I bought this bag of dried okara from the supermarket and it hasn't run out yet.

I'll try to post a picture of what it looks like.  

- Rachel

1/12/2005 07:26:00 PM  

Hey Rachel, this looks good! What do you recommend if you can't get okara? 

- Jessica

1/27/2005 10:51:00 AM  

Hi Jessica! I've read that okara can be used as a substitute for eggs. On one website, it says the ratio is one egg to one tablespoon of okara + two tablespoons of water.

But, I kind of feel that if you don't use okara, this would just be an ordinary sandwich loaf. Hope you find some okara! Or, you could try making your own...


- Rachel

1/27/2005 02:36:00 PM  

Thank you so much and I'm glad you named it okara bread! I had some leftover okara from making soymilk and heard that you can make bread with it. I'm glad I found you! -Amanda 

from Amanda

6/08/2006 09:07:00 PM  

Hi Amanda,
I really hope the recipe works out for you--breadmaking sometimes requires a bit of trial and error, since things like the moisture in the air can drastically change the wetness of your dough. But maybe you already know all that. Also, since you're using fresh okara, you might want to use less liquid for your dough.

Good luck!


from Rachel

6/08/2006 11:32:00 PM  

Hi Rachel.

I have been promoting okara for a couple of years as a miracle diet food because of the low calorie and high fiber content. I even have a unique, and free, 24-page booklet on my website at http://spartica.ca It covers the history of okara, its uses, and how to make it.

I use okara daily for pancakes, scones, cookies, and a number of unmentionables (unmentionable, because I really don't keep track of what I put into them, and never try to feed them to my kids).

Okara has a high fullness factor, which makes dieting very easy.

Cal Smith

PS. you might enjoy my blog at htp://nowyourecooking.blogspot.com

PSS. I'd like to use your bred recipe in an okara recipe e-booklet I am preparing for another free give-away.

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