1tablespoonpoppy seedsor rolled oats for sprinkling
The day before baking, prepare the soaker. In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal, rolled oats, and wheat bran. Pour the 1/4 cup water over the top of the grains, stir, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the soaker sit overnight at room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Let stand until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the yeast does not foam, it did not activate properly and this step will need to be repeated.)
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon), stir together the whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, brown sugar, and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine the soaker, brown rice, honey, and buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients. Add the yeast and water mixture to the dry ingredients, then mix with the paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon) at a low speed until combined and the dough forms a rough, shaggy ball.
If using a stand mixer, switch to your dough hook. If making by hand, turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead the bread at a medium-low speed for 6 minutes. If using a dough hook, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Finish kneading by hand for an additional 2-4 minutes, until dough is smooth and tacky, but no longer sticky, adding a bit of extra flour as needed. (Total knead time will be 8-10 minutes).
Coat a large mixing bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 90 minutes to 2 and 1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk. (Press two fingers gently into the dough. If the indent stays and does not spring back, the dough is ready).
Lightly grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a rectangle that is about 6-inches wide and 10-inches long. Press out any large bubbles.
Starting with the short (6-inch) end of the rectangle, roll the dough into a log, pulling the dough tightly as you go. To shape the log to fit the pan, fold each end of the log towards the roll seam so that the log is the same length as the loaf pan. Pinch ends into place. Place the log in the pan, seam side down, and gently press the dough down with the back of your hand so that it is evenly spread.
Mist the top of the dough with water (or brush lightly using a pastry brush) and sprinkle with poppy seeds or oats.
Cover the pan with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let it rise again until the dough has risen about 1 inch above the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.
Arrange your oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake dough for 40-45 minutes, until the loaf is deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped (internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F).
Remove loaf from pan and let cool 1 to 2 hours before slicing. Use a bread knife or the sharpest knife you own. Toast (or not), top liberally with butter as desired, and enjoy your handiwork.
TO STORE: Homemade whole wheat bread is best enjoyed within a few days of baking. Store at room temperature, tightly covered in plastic, for up to 3 days.
TO FREEZE: This multigrain bread freezes like a dream. Simply wrap tightly in plastic and a layer of foil and freeze for up to 3 months. You can even pre-slice it, if you’d like. Defrost overnight in the fridge and then enjoy as desired.