Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Basic Bread

To bake the simplest loaf of bread, you only really need 4 things: water, yeast, salt, and flour.

The additional ingredients are typically a sweetener (sugar, honey, molasses), a fat (butter or an oil), and seeds. While these really do enhance the flavor of bread, they are luxuries. I would imagine that these additions are used more by the affluent - though the "additions" of industrial bread are rather shocking and are catered to the not-so-affluent. (Coming soon: what exactly is in your store-bought bread?)

Though I can't say that I preferred the taste of this loaf over the Whole Wheat loaf, I definitely appreciated the experience of this simple, basic bread.

I am going on a bread journey with Andrew Whitley, the author of Bread Matters.

Andrew is a Professional Organic Baker in England, and he started Bread Matters as well as co-founded the Real Bread Campaign. This book was a Christmas gift from my husband - bless his willingness to support my kitchen endeavors - and what really inspired my to start this project. Not only does the book have recipes and tips, but Andrew also goes through a brief history of modern bread and goes into the nitty gritty - and sometimes the gritty is pretty eye-opening. 

For Basic Bread from Bread Matters, you need: 

4 1/2 cups stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat flour 
1 tsp salt 
1 2/3 cups warm water 
1 tsp active dry yeast (perhaps a little extra in the colder winter months) 

This is the recipe where I learned to mix the dough a bit differently! Measure our the flour and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, mix a bit of the water with the yeast, giving it a moment to dissolve, and stir around with your fingers. Then pour the yeasty water into the flour with the rest of the water and mix with your hands. Knewd the dough for 10-15 minutes (you need a longer knead when you use all whole-wheat flour to really develop the gluten structure.) The dough should be noticeably elastic, soft and silky. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and set it in a warm place to rise for 2 hours. 

Every single time I leave the dough and come back to see it risen I am amazed. It is a wonder and a beautiful thing. 

After the rise time, grease a loaf pan (one large or two small) with butter. Andrew recommends a hard fat as opposed to a liquid because the liquid oils can pool at the bottom of the loaf pan and actually begin to fry your loaf. So that's exactly what I did. 

Then work the dough by rolling it into a cylinder, then flattening it with your knuckles. Fold it into thirds so the it is about two-thirds the length of your dough pans. Repeat the process one or two more times. 

If you desire, at this point you can roll the dough in seeds. Spray or wet the top of the dough and using a counter top or shallow bowl, roll the dough into the seeds and then place it into the loaf pan. 

Cover the load in plastic and let proof for about 20 minutes while the oven is preheating to 450 F.

Bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes, decreasing the temperature to 400F after 10 minutes. 

When it is done, place it on a cooling rack. This keeps the bottom from getting sweaty and soggy. 

Honestly - while the seeds look beautiful and seem nice, they turned black after cooling and didn't taste very good, so we ended up scraping them off. Perhaps I needed to try something other than sunflower seeds? Regardless, I don't think I'll be trying that again. 

The bread is definitely simple, dense, and the lack of additional fats and sugars adds to it's health benefits. We enjoyed it with a "Full of Beans Soup" from the books book Easy Soups. The soup was tomato, kidney and garbanzo beans with garlic and herbs. (And, of course, Tobasco sauce!)

What hot sauce/seasoning could you add to everything? I love Tobasco or Frank's Red Hot Buffalo.  


Bonnie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Jenn, have you tried Fairhaven Mills flour, available in bulk at the Food CoOp? It comes in different grinds (fine, medium, and a coarser stone grind). Although I understand that they recently moved from Fairhaven to Burlington in order to expand a bit, it's still the freshest flour available.

Jenn said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I haven't - yet. I have moved from Bob's Red Mill (Oregon) to Stone-Buhr (Seattle) and I've been thinking about Fairhaven, but it a lot more expensive. Which grind do you find is best?