05 March 2006

Bread Stories



Yesterday, I tried to make marmalade again, only this time with the Seville oranges that the recipe called for. Minor emergencies and burnt pots aside, the marmalade came out perfect--thick, with thin squigglies of bitter sweet peel, and not too sweet. The marmalade made our Sunday morning breakfast complete, alongside the fruited bread that I baked yesterday, cappuccino and a small fruit salad.....bliss! I will post the recipe on request--very easy and non- labour intensive (for a jam).

There might be nothing quite as satisfying in the kitchen as storing away one's homemade bread for the week ahead--I slice mine and pack it tightly into well- sealed ziploc bags so that we can pull out a piece or two at a time and warm them in the toaster. I think I will make bread making a weekly tradition, considering the amount of joy I receive from the ablutions of a Saturday morning. So much contentment in exchange for so little work and attention! I feel that making bread connects me to the past in a way that is warming and important--imagine if our culture raised a generation who thought the bread meant that sweet white soft goo sold in plastic bags at the grocery store! Not a nice thought...

Following is the recipe I have adapted from Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, which I recommend trying on a morning when you are home and have various other short tasks to complete (in my case, doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, washing my hair, making lunch, blogging, etc., etc.!) The recipe turned out well the first time I made it, which is the first time I ever baked bread (hint, hint--go forth and be bold, you just may become addicted).

Ingredients:

Sponge: 2 cups good quality, wrist temp. water (about 100-105 degrees), 1 package active dry yeast (1 tbsp), a drop of honey/molasses, 1.5 cups whole wheat bread flour
Mix: 4 tbsp olive oil, 1/3 cup honey/molasses, 1.5 tbsp salt, 1.5 cups of a combination of nuts and seeds, lightly toasted and chopped (I use walnuts and sunflower seeds), 1.5 cups of a combination of unsulfered dried fruits, chopped (I use figs, apricots and raisins)
Additional Flour: 3 cups of one or all of stone- ground organic whole wheat bread/ kamut/spelt flours and 3 cups of unbleached white flour (not pastry or cake flour)
Pans: any combination of shiny silver pans or shiny silver cookie sheets, oiled

Procedure:
1. In a large bowl with the warm water, sprinkle the yeast and drop of sweetener, give it a quick stir with a fork and let sit for 2-5 minutes. Whisk in the 1.5 cups whole wheat bread flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let stand in a warm corner for 35 minutes.
2. Uncover the bowl and by hand with a wooden spoon, or with the paddle on a stand mixer, add the mix to the bowl and stir until incorporated. Add the additional flour 1 cup at a time, stirring and mixing to combine, switching to the dough hook on your stand mixer, and eventually to your hands. The end texture should be firm without being sticky (essentially, incorporate as much of the additional flour as possible while maintaining the dough in one piece--in the mix of flours I have suggested above, I usually use 6 cups--do not "pack" the flour while measuring). Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, pushing all the fruit and nuts that escape back into the dough.
3. Oil a large bowl (I use ceramic) and put the kneaded dough in, turning it about so it gets covered in the oil. Cover loosely with the plastic wrap and a few kitchen towels, and set in a warm place to rise for about 1.5- 2 hours, until it approximately doubles in size. I usually leave it in the kitchen if I'm cooking and the stove is on, or on the top of a shelf in a room with the window closed.
4. Punch down the dough, remove it from the bowl and knead for a few minutes. Divide the dough into the number of pieces you need for the loaves you want to make--this recipe makes enough for 2 9" by 5" loaf pans (standard bread loaves) but you can use any combination you like, even forming "freestanding" loaves and baking them on a flat cookie sheet. Form the loaves well, pulling the dough smooth so the tops will be seamless. For the regular loaf pans: pat the dough into a flat rectangle, fold the two short ends in towards one another, flatten, then roll the dough up and tuck in the ends. Very cute and satisfying work!
5. Cover the pans or tray with the towels and let rise until again about doubled in size, around 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and put the rack in the middle.
6. Bake the risen loaves for about 40 minutes to an hour, until a knock on the bottom responds with a hollow sound. Cool on racks, and wait (if you can!) about 30 minutes before slicing.

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