Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Lazy Person's Sourdough Walnut Bread

I have always had a problem with 'real' sourdough bread. Not a taste problem. Actually, I really like the sour flavor and the chewy texture. Uh, uh. my problem with 'real' sourdough bread is with the word real. I mean, to make it authentic, supposedly, you have to capture wild yeast in your kitchen and then feed the sourdough for a few weeks until it's ready to use. And, frankly, who has patience? Or time. Who wants to start the process today to eat great bread next week or month? By then, will I still be in the mood? Probably not. So I am bringing you a compromise solution. The taste is almost exactly like 'real sourdough. And the process just takes an overnighter. The yeast is regular commercial dry yeast (instant dry or rapid rise). The difference is in the time, of course and the amounts used. I have added chopped walnuts to give it extra punch. And also because walnuts in a slow baked bread are simply outrageously delicious. Take the time, you'll love it!

Here's What You'll Need:
for the starter

1 cup rye flour
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. instant dry yeast

Mix the yeast in with the flour, then stir in the water to make a rather thick slurry (wetter than a paste). Cover and let stand, at room temperature, for a few hours, or overnight. I mixed mine at 9 pm, then let it stand. It's now 9 am the next day and I am continuing.

1 cup whole wheat flour (or whole spelt flour)
1 cup AP or bread flour
about 3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Mix this into the starter, adding the water gradually until you get a rather sticky dough. Move the dough to a heavily floured surface and knead for a few minutes to make it smooth. You may have to add more AP flour as the whole wheat (or spelt) absorbs a lot of water. Towards the end of the knead, incorporate the walnuts into the dough until evenly distributed. Form into a ball, then place on a parchment paper on a baking tray to rise until almost doubled, about an hour or so. Slash the bread with a sharp, serrated knife or razor blade.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C) about 20 minutes before baking time. Spray the bread with water before placing in the oven. You should bake with steam by placing a tray with boiling water in it on the floor of the oven just before baking. Bake for 35-45 minutes until wonderfully deep brown and crusty. You can make the bread even crustier, by baking on a baking stone if you have one, or at least removing it from the tray to the stone for the last few minutes.

BTW, the house will smell heavenly and I bet you can't wait for it to cool completely (on a rack) before slicing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Heart-Healthy and Delicious - Wheat and Rye Bread

Lately I have been doing a lot of workshops with people who want to learn to bake but for reasons that you might think surprising. I am teaching people on various weight loss programs how to bake. Sounds unlikely, doesn't it, but there you have it. Eating healthy food, filled with good wholesome nutrients and lots of fiber, minus the chemicals, preservatives, stabilizers and artificial colors is, of course, good for you. We all knew that. But add to that, the whole grains and you have a formula for health, but without the guilt people sometimes associate with eating bread. Believe it or not, eating bread does not have to be fattening, if you eat the right kind and don't overdo.

In that vein, I offer this latest bread. It is a custom-made recipe, from a customer who loves my bread but wants to avoid the heavy white breads loaded with dairy. Instead this bread is made with whole wheat and rye flours along with three different kind of nuts and seeds. It is baked like a boule and keeps for a few days before drying out. It's almost superfluous saying that, of course, since the bread was gone in about one afternoon. But try it yourself, you'll like it I'm sure, and I guarantee you'll want to make more.

Here's What You Need:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole rye flour
1 1/2 Tbs. instant dry yeast
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 Tbs. salt
1/4 cup oil
about 1/2 cup each hulled sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped walnuts, etc.
enough warm water to make a smooth, elastic dough (about 1 1/2 cups)

Here's What You'll Need to Do:

1. Mix together all the dry ingredients (the flours, the yeast, the sugar and salt) in a large bowl.

2. Add the oil, then the water. Add 1 cup of the water and mix to hydrate the dry mixture. Then, adding the remaining water 1/2 cup at a time, mix, then knead, until a dough formed that is smooth and elastic. Continue kneading for at least another 10 minutes. The dough will be stiff but smooth and very pliable.

3. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover to rise until doubled in volume. This will take at least 2 hours because the whole wheat and the rye flours will slow the rise. That's OK. This will also intensify the flavor of the bread.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl, careful not to deflate it too much. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle and then sprinkle the seeds and nuts over the surface. Knead the nuts and seeds into the dough until evenly distributed.

5.Shape the dough into a tight boule (ball-shaped with the dough tightened underneath). Place the dough on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slash  the dough twice, then cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap to rise again, about 1 hour. This time it will be puffy, but likely not doubled.

6. About 20 minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

7. Bake the oven, with steam, for about 35 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown.

8. Cool on a rack completely (if you can) before slicing. Store it in a paper bag to keep the crust crisp.