It’s taken years of procrastinating, but I can’t hold out any more. I simply have to write about food. Welcome to my life as an infatuated foodie …
To begin – a staple that I can’t imagine life without. Toast lovers around the world would be in mourning, sandwich makers would be unemployed and children would have to find something else with which to feed the ducks. It’s unthinkable.
But then again, so is the white square plastic wrapped stuff you find in supermarkets …
Last year I baked bread for the first time in a long long time. It was wonderful ciabatta bread, made from a wet sponge base that was fermented for several hours.
More recently I’ve begun baking regularly out of necessity, as although there are some wonderful artisan bakers in Tasmania, none of my local shops stock any and I simply won’t buy what I refer to as dishcloth bread (see aforementioned reference to supermarket stuff).
It’s proving (no pun intended) to be quite a lot of fun and the more I make the more adventurous I’m getting. I love rye breads and anything that’s dark and quite dense. That said, every time I bake it’s a bit different. Sometimes I sweeten with honey, other times brown sugar and for a really dark colour and rich flavour, I use molasses.
Here’s a recipe for a simple rye/wholemeal/white mix that begins with the pre-ferment sponge from the ciabatta method. It is a delicious, easy loaf to make. The pre-ferment adds a depth of flavour to the finished product, however if you’re short on time, skip this step and just combine the pre-ferment ingredients in making the loaf.
There aren’t many images of the process, but next time I bake I’ll certainly take some photos to add to this post. In the meantime, enjoy the recipe!
Light Rye Bread
250g strong bread flour
300ml lukewarm water
1 tsp dried yeast
300g strong bread flour
300g wholemeal flour
200g rye flour
11⁄2 tbsp dried yeast
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp runny honey (or sugar or molasses for a darker, richer bread)
500ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp mild vegetable or nut oil, such as grapeseed or macadamia (this can be omitted if you want a crunchier crust)
sunflower seeds, caraway seeds
First make the pre-ferment by mixing the flour and yeast in a large stainless steel or other non-reactive bowl. Stir the water through until a smooth batter consistency is achieved. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 4-8 hours.
In a large stainless steel bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer), mix together the flours, salt, dried yeast and seeds (if using). If using sugar instead of a liquid sweetener, add this to the dry ingredients too, otherwise, add the honey to the water and mix well.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and plop in the pre-ferment, which by now should be full of blooping bubbles and at least twice its original size.
If using an electric mixer with a dough hook, begin mixing now. I’d highly recommend it if possible, it cuts cleanup of sticky utensils by half!
Add the water to the flour/yeast mixture and stir well until a good, moist, dough consistency is achieved. Add the oil and mix through.
Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about five minutes. You just want to ensure the dough is lusciously springy and smooth. Form the dough into a nice round ball. Lightly spread a film of grapeseed oil in a clean stainless steel or ceramic bowl and put the ball, smooth side down into the dough. It will get a light coating of oil. Turn it over so the smooth side is facing up and loosely cover the bowl with cling film (this helps stop the dough drying) and a tea towel.
Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until at least double its original size.
When ready, punch the dough down using your fists, then turn out of the bowl and knead lightly to squash the big bubbles out. You can form your loaves at this stage or put back into the bowl for another rise.
Form the loaves
Cut the dough into three equal portions and form into loaves as desired, using either bread tins or a mixture of bread tins and free form loaves. It’s up to you.
Brush each loaf with an egg/milk mixture and sprinkle with seeds, such as poppy, sesame or sunflower if you desire.
Set aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise until double their size.
Preheat your oven to 220 Celsius or 210 Celsius if using fan forced and place a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven — the steam will help form a nice crust.
When the loaves have risen, brush again with the egg/milk mixture if desired and place in the oven.
Turn the oven down to 180 Celsius and bake for approx 40 minutes, checking regularly and adjusting the temperature if the loaves look like they’re getting too dark.
To check if your loaves are ready, turn them upside down in your hand using a clean oven mitt or tea towel to prevent a burnt hand. Knock on the bottom of the loaf as if you were knocking lightly on a door. If it sounds dull and spongy, keep it cooking. If it sounds hollow and firm, it’s ready.
Cool your bread on wire racks.
Freshly baked bread is irresistible.
Do wait at least 10 minutes before cutting into your loaf.
It’s still going to be beautifully warm and fresh.