The beauty of malt powders, syrups and grains is how their complex flavours and colours occur directly from nature’s own transformation process. As grains sprout, sugars are created, then slow drying and toasting enhances their sweet flavour, and the result is malt. So in this loaf, whole grains and four different types of malt combine with cooked pumpkin and toasted hazelnuts to create the most fragrant, dark and extraordinary crumb. I’ve used a very generous amount of yeast to make it rise extra-fast, but if you have time, halve the amount and let the dough take more time to rise, for more flavour.
Put the dry grains in a saucepan, pour on at least 400g water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, adding more water if needed, then drain and leave to cool. Meanwhile, cook the pumpkin until soft then mash well and leave to cool. If your cobnuts or hazelnuts aren’t already toasted and roughly skinned, this is a good time to do this.
Once the grains and pumpkin are barely warm, pour the 230g water into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the yeast. Whisk in the Roasted Barley Malt, and the Diax (if using), plus the roughly chopped rosemary leaves stripped from the stalk. Stir in the Malted Wheat Flakes, and the Nuttimalt (if using), then add the rye and white flours with the salt. Mix everything together into a smooth firm dough, adding more water or flour as needed: your pumpkin and grains may hold more or less water, so adjust the dough consistency to your liking. Leave the dough for 10 minutes then give it a light knead on a floured or oiled surface, just for about 10-15 seconds (not minutes) then put the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Lightly flour the worktop and pat or roll the dough out to about 1cm thick. Wet the top of the dough lightly then push the cobnuts (or hazelnuts) in evenly. Fold the dough over on itself 3-4 times, squish it down, then fold it up the other way to make a neat parcel. Put it back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30-40 minutes until somewhat puffed up (it needn’t double).
Line a large (at least 30cm) wide baking tray with non-stick paper. Lift the dough carefully out of the bowl with floured hands onto a floured worksurface, make a hole in the middle, and using your hands, squeeze and stretch the dough into a ring that will fit on your tray. Place the dough on the tray, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180°C fan. Uncover the dough, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or other seeds. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 160°C fan and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until firm with a little colour on top. Remove from the oven and leave until cold (or even the next day) before slicing.