Wholesome Wholemeal Loaf with Oat Bran

Wholemeal Oat Bran Loaf

Whilst flicking through one of my Scandinavian baking books, I noticed that a few of the recipes call for oat bran or wheatgerm and this intrigued me. I’m all for healthy baking and, as I’ve said in previous posts, I am a lover of baking with a variety of different flours. So this bread incorporates a number of them, with a dash of oat bran for extra fibre-y goodness! The recipe that inspired this loaf was that of Norwegian ‘grovbrød’; a rustic brown loaf, great with thin slices of smoked fish and a squeeze of lemon. I chose to use rapeseed oil rather than olive oil as it has a more neutral flavour and I wanted to let the flours and grains do the talking. You needn’t add the honey, but I always think it adds to the flavour of wholemeal loaves.

Ingredients:

  • 100g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 300g Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 40g Oat bran
  • 15g Rye Flakes
  • 350-390 ml Tepid Water
  • 10g Fast Action Dried Yeast
  • 10g Salt
  • Tbsn Honey
  • Tbsn Rapeseed Oil and extra for kneading.

To make the bread:

  1. Measure out the flours, oat bran and rye flakes into a large bowl.
  2. Add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other, avoid mixing the two as direct contact can retard the yeast.
  3. Add the honey and rapeseed oil to the bowl.
  4. Add roughly 350 ml of the water and begin to mix with one hand. Continue adding water until the flour is lifted from the sides of the bowl and the dough begins to come together.
  5. Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled surface.
  6. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and has a silky, elastic texture. This may take substantially longer than a white dough to achieve this texture, so don’t give up! Also, this dough will seem tighter than other wholemeal doughs, I think this is on account of the oat bran, which soaks up a lot of water and makes the texture more dense. However, with some working it will become smoother and more like conventional wholemeal dough. I used a slightly different kneading technique, rather than holding with one hand and stretching with the other, I used both hands to roll and then fold the dough. As I say, this will take longer, but will achieve the right result in the end.
  7. Leave the dough to rise in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a tea towel. Find a warm place for this one – rye flour doughs take marginally longer to rise, and I find that a warmer place than usual helps this process along.
  8. Once the dough has doubled in size (after 2-4 hours), tip onto a lightly floured surface and pressed firmly into an oblong. Fold in the edges and press again to form an oblong the length of your 2 lb loaf tin. Roll the oblong and place into the tin, with the seem facing downwards.
  9. Leave to prove until doubled in size (around an hour and a half). Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place a baking tray in the bottom to heat up.
  10. When your loaf has doubled in size, dust with wholemeal flour and cut a slash lengthways across the top with a sharp knife.
  11. Boil a kettle full of water and pour into the heated tray, leaving it in the bottom of the oven.
  12. Bake your loaf on the middle shelf for 35-40 minutes. When the loaf is done it will sound hollow when tapped underneath.
  13. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This bread is delicious eaten, as the Scandinavians would, for breakfast or lunch with slices of mild cheese (I like Emmental), some ham and maybe a pickle or two. It is equally as delicious with smoked salmon or Gravad Lax and a squeeze of lemon. I even love it toasted and slathered in butter with some sharp and sweet marmalade and a cup of tea – delish!

Enjoy Budding Bakers! Don’t forget to let me know how you get on 🙂

Tastes of Sicilia

photosiciliy

I have just returned from beautiful Sicily, where I spent a wondrous week with my other half and our little man, sampling many a foodie treat and tanning ourselves shamelessly on the local beach! We even squeezed in a few days worth of sightseeing – Sicily has so much to offer both in terms of its spectacular landscape and its rich history and culture. You can look forward to some Sicilian treats, or at least some Sicily-inspired experimentation, coming soon.

Amongst the traditional fare we tasted were ‘Cannoli’, crispy sweet pastry shells wrapped around lightly sweetened, creamy ricotta; wonderfully crisp pizzas baked in a ‘forno a legna’, meaning wood-burning oven (these can be found all over Italy, but the Sicilians have their own particular flavour combinations – aubergine and seafood feature heavily on most Pizzeria menus) and ‘Cassata’, a moist sponge cake filled again with sweetened ricotta and moistened with fruit juice or liqueur.

Almonds or ‘mandorla’ are everywhere in Sicily! Almond wine, almond milk, almond granita, almost nougat, you name it, an almond has been involved in it! I happen to adore everything almond, though my better half prefers to steer well clear; so  this was excellent gorging territory for me. As well as sampling almond wine, I tasted some devine ‘paste di mandorla’ directly translated as ‘almond paste’. These were similar to amaretti biscuits but with a soft, crumbly and almost moist texture – beautiful!

I have come back feeling truly inspired by, as well as sorry to leave, this special island. More about Sicily’s baked goodies to come…

Daily Spelt Loaf

My Daily Spelt Loaf

As well as being a cookbook fanatic, I have a fetish for flours. Find me a new variety and I’ll have a bag in my basket before you can say ‘Paul Hollywood’! I love finding recipes that contain lesser used flours like spelt, buckwheat and Khorasan. Even the thought of a new rye recipe gets my creative juices flowing better than your average strong white ever could.

This loaf evolved from a pure spelt loaf, made with only wholegrain spelt flour into this recipe, which contains strong white flour (and if you like, wholemeal too) as well as wholegrain spelt. Using spelt flour alone produces a loaf which has an interesting flavour and texture – lighter in colour and crumb than a wholemeal loaf, with a greater depth of flavour than a plain white one. All things considered, it was its distinct flavour that caused me to want to use a mix of flours for this loaf. Pure spelt bread is lovely eaten with a meal, to mop up delicious casserole juices or such like; but for me, its characteristic flavour needs dumbing down for use as toast or sandwich bread – which my ‘daily loaf’ frequently is!

This is not to say that this loaf isn’t deliciously flavoursome. It just has a more neutral (for want of a better word!) taste, which provides a delicious base for other ingredients.

Note: You needn’t add the Greek honey if you’re a purist and prefer to stick to the core ingredients. However, I think it adds something special to this everyday loaf and complements the nutty notes in this loaf.

Ingredients

  • 205g Wholegrain Spelt Flour
  • 300g Strong White Bread Flour (for a wholegrain loaf, reduce the quantity of white flour to 200g and add 100g of Strong Wholemeal Flour)
  • 1 tsp Salt (I add a generous teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp Fast Action Dried Yeast
  • 1 tbsp Greek Honey
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 400 ml warm water

To make the bread

  1. Mix the flours together in a large bowl, I do this roughly and by hand.
  2. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Then drizzle over the honey.
  3. Pour over the warm water (the temperature of which needn’t be measured, it should feel slightly warm to the touch) and begin to mix using one hand.
  4. Add the olive oil and continue to bring the mixture together until you have a ‘shaggy’ (to quote HFW – but this is the most useful, if not very technical, term I have come across to describe the dough at this stage!) dough.
  5. Tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (you can use flour, but be careful not to add much more at this stage as your bread could become dense and mealy).
  6. Knead for 10-20 minutes (I always knead by hand, but feel free to use a mixer if you have one) until the dough is elastic and appears to have a sheen to it. If your dough feels wet and sticky, you could add a touch more flour, but try to knead through this stage as a wetter dough produces a more open crumb with a lighter texture.
  7. Leave to rise in a lightly oiled bowl until roughly doubled in size (approx 1hr). I place the bowl in a large plastic bag, inflate it slightly and then use an Ikea plastic clip to seal it, stopping any draft from halting the proving process.
  8. Since I use this loaf daily, mainly for sandwiches and toast, I like to bake it in a 2lb tin, but you go ahead and get creative with your shaping if the feeling takes you! (See future post on shaping bread). I lightly oil the tin and my bread hasn’t gotten stuck yet!
  9. To shape, tip the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press all over with the palms of your hands to knock out any air bubbles. Shape into a rough rectangle. With one of the long edges closest to you, fold in at either side so that the left and right-hand edges overlap slightly. Now flatten slightly so it matches the length of your tin.
  10. Taking the long edge closest to you, roll up like a Swiss roll so you have one long seam along the dough.
  11. With the seam facing downwards, place the dough into the tin. (This method is very similar to Paul Hollywood’s in ‘How to Bake’, which also has great pictures that may help if you’ve had problems shaping in the past.)
  12. Place the tin in a large plastic bag and leave to prove for 1/2 an hour to an hour or until doubled in size.
  13. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place a baking tray in the bottom of the oven.
  14. When your dough has doubled in size, place a kettle on to boil and pour the boiling water into the baking tray – this will create a steamy atmosphere, which will produce a loaf with a thin but crunchy crust with a nice shine to it.
  15. Dust your loaf with flour and make several diagonal slashes across the top (I use a sharp serrated bread knife to do this).
  16. Place your tin in the middle of the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes. To check if your loaf is baked, turn out of the tin and tap – if you hear a hollow sound your loaf is ready, if you hear a dull thud it needs longer in the oven!

I really hope you enjoy this loaf as much as my family and I do! I would love to see pictures of your loaves and, of course, hear how you got on using this recipe!

Happy baking, but more importantly – happy eating! 🙂

Why baking bread isn’t rocket science…

Do cookery writers have some vested interest in making bread baking sound like rocket science? Hang on a minute, I suppose they do! ‘Bread making is an exact science’, ‘water must be weighed rather than measured to ensure accurate quantities’…? Anyone wondering how they’ve ever managed to turn out a half decent loaf?

There are several myths surrounding how to bake bread that are very likely to deter the majority of people from going within a foot of a bag of flour and some yeast! Below, I will try to reassure you that bread-making is not as precise and difficult as we are sometimes led to believe…

Weigh your Water?

– I don’t think so! Of course, there are quantities that it is prudent to stick to; but any recipe worth its salt will advise that different brands of flour absorb water differently, and so often it is better to go by the following simple rule: whilst combining your dry ingredients with water (mixing with one hand and pouring with the other), generally you have added enough when the dough begins picking up flour from the sides of the bowl, leaving it looking clean. Also, wetter dough is considered preferable to a dough which is too dry, so that little drop extra shouldn’t mean the death knell for your loaf! Just keep kneading it past that sticky phase (if you aren’t used to making bread this requires some faith and perseverance to begin with – but it will happen eventually!) and you should end up with a light and silky dough.

Dough in the Airing Cupboard?

-Not anymore! Recipes of old would suggest rising and proving dough in a warm, draft free airing cupboard (or similar). However, whilst it is true that a draft is the enemy of your dough, keeping it in the airing cupboard is no longer required in this day and age; when homes are generally well heated and insulated all the year round. A warm kitchen is absolutely fine for rising and proving your dough.

Over-kneaded?

If you are kneading your dough by hand over-kneading is nigh on impossible! If you’re using a mixer with dough-hook, you need to be a bit more careful! Check every few minutes and if your dough begins to feel dense it may be time to stop mixing! Generally, once your dough begins to become elastic; form a kind of cohesive skin on the outside; when it wants to come together in a ball rather than sticking to the surface, it’s ready to prove. The other test for how well you’ve developed the gluten in your dough (this being the main purpose of kneading), is the ‘gluten window’ test. Using two hands, pull the edges of your dough out leaving the majority to hang down. If the dough stretches far and thinly enough so that you can see light shining through (the ‘gluten window’) then the gluten is well developed. However, if it tears before the light can be seen through it, it needs more kneading!

To me, the art of baking your own bread is actually very forgiving. Adding a little bit of this and a touch of that often pays off and even if you end up with a disastrous loaf at the end, you will invariably know the reason why and adapt your recipe for next time… And what if you don’t? Well, then there’s an army of knowledgeable bloggers on hand to answer your every baking conundrum!

The Yeasty Thing

Let me introduce you to…The Yeasty Thing…

The latest sourdough starter to come out of Charlton!

The latest sourdough starter to come out of Charlton!

Yes baking fans, you guessed it, this is my latest sourdough starter, bubbling away vigorously in its garish Sainsbury’s picnic jug!

The thing I love about making a sourdough starter is the fact that every single one is unique. The bread I bake from this one will be different from the bloke’s down the road, from those I’ve made from other starters, even from the loaf I baked from it yesterday! The character of a starter is down to the airborne yeast spores that happened to be merrily floating by on the day I started it, coupled with how long it’s been fermenting away – and I love that about it!

While preparing my starter and growing it ready for the first bake, I like to pretend that I am a scientist, working methodically and observing closely as I go. However, the reality of growing a starter are not quite as precise. All it takes is a bit of strong white flour (this must be organic, I’m told, otherwise the yeasties will steer clear!); roughly 100g, and some warm water. Mix this to a thick paste (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, henceforth HFW for obvious reasons, suggests it should resemble the consistency of ‘thick paint’) and leave in an airtight-ish container (like my trusty picnic jug) until you see little bubbles forming on the surface. This seems to happen for me in a matter of hours, but apparently it can take up to 3 days! So some patience may be required!

I have read some instructions for building sourdough starters, which prescribe adding all manner of grated fruit to this simple flour and water mix in order to encourage the yeast to settle and grow. I have never tried this and see it as totally unnecessary; especially since you are often advised to remove said fruit once the yeast has got going – err, no thanks!

Whisk the flour and water together, to create lots of aeration, and wait for the magic to happen! When the bubbles appear, it’s time to feed your new pet. Actually, this is why mine is now known, in our household, as ‘The Yeasty Thing’; because my two year-old likes to sniff it each morning and watch me ‘feeding it’ as if it’s a new addition to the family! I rather like this way of thinking about it, and it is conducive to me remembering to feed it every day rather than leaving it languish and turn into, well, a floury bloody mess!

Yes, that is everyday – as in, every 24 hours you must feed your starter another 100g of organic strong white flour and mix in enough water (it can be cool water straight from the tap from hereon in) so as to bring it back to that thick paint consistency. You will start to see your starter bubbling up with delight each time you feed it and then over night it will begin to fall back frothily in anticipation of its next meal.

Once you have lovingly repeated this routine for at least 7 days you’re ready to bake!

Look out for future posts with more juicy sourdough deets!