Funny how nothing beats food when it comes to rustling up some forgotten memories…
It seems like a long, long time ago already, but when my kids were younger, they used to find this loaf quite entertaining to eat. While I used to refer to it as “bread”, they thought of it almost as a fun school project. It reminded them of the suet cakes we would hang from tree limbs for our resident woodpecker, with all those little seeds covering their surface. They were familiar with the large bags of bird seed in the garden shed, since refilling the feeders was one of their weekly chores. I have the feeling they probably thought I was scooping that very same seed directly from the sack right into the baking pan and onto their lunch plates. Thankfully, they concluded that if Mr. Woodpecker found his cakes delicious, so should they. I would give them a slice with some butter on it and they would always ask: “is this the bird bread?”
Of course, there were no avian connections to the loaf, but I have to concede that those little seeds coating the bread did look like the contents of our garden bird feeders. Sunflower, flax, chia seeds and walnuts would make for quite a luxurious bird lunch indeed… and I’m not quite sure how the average sparrow would receive the bitter cured olives. However, It’s still funny that, in reality, the kids were not so far off the mark…
This is a hearty baked loaf full of soaked seeds, nuts and olives. The texture of this loaf is quite different from regular baked bread, as it crumbles easily particularly when little hands are handling it. On paper, it might look like a strange combination of dissimilar ingredients, but on the palate, these flavors dance together and make for a great experience. The great thing about it is how easily you can throw it together. If you own a big bowl and a big spoon to stir with, you have everything you need to mix a batch of this bread. No kneading, no rising, no flour all over your kitchen…
Once all the ingredients have come together, I do recommend you leave it to its own devices overnight before putting it in the oven. The mucilaginous seeds that hold the ingredients together need a chance to “develop” and become sticky. It also requires a good dose of patience after you bake it, since it’ll be much easier to slice if you let it cool completely. Leave it on your counter and it’ll make your kitchen smell delightful.
Serve this bread with spicy hummus, a good knob of nut butter or even just some good quality, cultured butter. If you don’t have, as we did, a dog that is part vacuum cleaner and can detect even the smallest of flax seeds on the floor, do collect the little seeds that invariably drop on your plate and give them to the birds outside. It’s nice to be able to share and that way it’ll remain the “bird bread” even when everyone is all grown up.
Walnut & Olive Seed Loaf
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups GF rolled oats
3 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup black cured olives, pitted & chopped
1/2 cup flax meal
1 Tbsp whole flax seed
2 Tbsp psyllium powder
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp dill seeds
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp smoked sea salt (plain works just fine)
1 1/2 cups water
Combine the sunflower seeds, walnuts, oats, psyllium, salt, dill seeds, cured olives, flax meal, flax and chia seeds. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.
In a large, glass measuring cup, mix the water, honey and melted coconut oil. Beat well with a fork until you get an emulsion and the honey has dissolved. It is a good idea to warm up the water just a little bit to achieve the desired consistency faster. Pour the liquid on the dry ingredients and fold well until every seed is coated. It will be absorbed quite quickly. The mixture is crumbly and dryer than regular dough.
At this point, place the mixture inside a prepared loaf pan (greased and covered with parchment paper) and press it down with the back of your spoon. Cover with foil and let the loaf rest overnight.
The next day, place the loaf in a preheated oven (350 degrees) and bake it for 40-45 minutes. The seeds should be toasted on the surface. Let it cool completely and keep it refrigerated for up to 5 days (if you can keep your family from eating the whole thing the very first day!).
As you become familiar with the texture and baking method of this rather unusual loaf, you can start making alterations. Change up the nuts and spices or introduce your favorite seed instead of sunflower seeds. You can have a lot of fun personalizing this recipe and you might come up with a signature “bird bread” that everyone, indoors and outdoors, will enjoy.