Virgin Quick Brown Bread
Goodness! Doesn't that sound suggestive? But it adequately explains how I've have lost my bread-making virginity. Those who know me know that I have serious "yeast issues". No - not down there! This is not some personal lifestyle statement...or perhaps it is, because I am now a successful bread baker. I've never had anything I've made with yeast work properly before, other than danish pastry dough which doesn't count bc it hardly needs to rise and look like bread. My hot cross buns, which took me all afternoon and left me hot and cross, turned out like rock bun pellets. Tasted a bit like rock bun pellets too.
But, a few weeks ago at the pseudo-hippie market at uni I was browsing the second-hand books and found a fairly attractive looking British baking book. 'Cos I really need another cookbook, don't I?! But this one had such pretty pictures....
Anyway, as usual I flicked right past all the bread and yeasted pastry recipes to look at the cakes and biscuits. However, I've long had a nagging feeling that somehow I could never be a "real" home baker unless I made bread. And I don't consider making bread in an electric bread-making machine to be the same thing. I mean real, salt-of-the-earth bashing flour around stuff. Sure, any schmo can make a cake, but bread is where it's at, and I was a failure at it. So, out of a purely academic research interest (the university employee speaks here) I went back and had a look - and one recipe jumped out at me. Called "Quick Brown Bread" it already had two elements which appealed. (that would be "quick" and "brown" in case you....never mind) and had this written in the side column:
"For most breads the dough is kneaded, left to rise, kneaded, shaped and then left to rise again. This bread does not need the first rising - simply knead, shape, rise and bake"
Well, that not only grabbed my attention, it completely sold me. Plus it was wholemeal bread! One of the other reasons I've kept away from bread making is that I'm not eating any white bread at the moment (unless the need becomes too great and I go crazy. It happens..) and I don't want yummy white bread hanging around the house, but the recipes for wholemeal bread I've seen look so very virtuous and rock-bun like. The picture of this bread looked quite light. It was worth giving it a go anyway.
It was easier than I thought to make up the dough, and I even kneaded it all myself for a full ten minutes. Geez, that hurts. Unfortunately, my grandmother threw away the dough hook for her Kenwood Chef stand mixer, about 30 years ago (bc she didn't know what it was!), so it was hand kneading all the way. I don't think that's such a bad thing for a novice bc you get a feel of the dough coming together and how it feels. But I really must source a dough hook for the Kenwood if I plan much more yeast cookery.
I had read a tip somewhere - possibly on another blog - to guarantee good rising of the dough, which has been my major problem. My dough never rises, even if I stick it next to a sunny window for hours. This tip suggested putting your dough in the dishwasher just after it's finished a cycle. It's warm and humid in there, and apparently creates a perfect environment to get the yeast working. And whaddya know - it worked like a charm. Ten minutes after putting it in there, it had already started puffing up. I was ecstatic!
It baked up perfectly and even though I'd been warned about tearing bits off straight out of the oven ("hot bread is indigestible, and it compresses the crumb!" admonishes Stephanie Alexander) I couldn't help myself and was already armed with the block of butter. It was fabulous. The taste is quite wheaty, but in a pleasant way. It is dense but also quite a light-textured bread. It reminded A. of breads you buy in central Europe. I think it could have possibly done with another teaspoon or so of salt, but interestingly, when it's toasted I don't have the same feeling. Incidentally, the toast this easy bread makes is superb.
So, any of you out there still reticent about making your first bread, I'd suggest you give this a go. And afterwards you'll be so full of inspiration you'll pull down all your baking books and start making a list of all the breads and doughs and pastries and kuchens you'll make next!
Read on for the recipe: Tagged with bread
Quick Brown Bread
Makes 2x450g/1lb loaves.
700g / 1.5lb strong wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
7g / 1/4oz sachet dried yeast
450ml / 3/4 pint warm water
2 tsp plain white flour, to dust (or beaten egg to glaze)
1: Preaheat the oven to 200C/400F 15 minutes before baking. Oil 2 x 450g loaf tins. Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl, adding the remaining bran in the sieve. Stir in the yeast, then makes a well in the centre.
2: Pour the warm water into the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, adding a little more water if needed.
3: Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
4: Divide in half, shape into 2 oblongs and place in the tins. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes, or until risen to the top of the tins.
5: Dust generously with the plain flour (or glaze with the beaten egg).
6: Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until well risen and lightly browned. Turn out of the tins and return to the oven for 5 minutes to crisp the sides. Cool on a wire rack.