Monday, May 10, 2010

The Staff of Life

"Man cannot live by bread alone" -- I'm sure there are some out there who vehemently protest such a sentiment. My mother would probably be amongst those ranks; she declares it impossible to resist if freshly baked bread is put in front of her. While I don't consider myself a Bread Zealot (a Dairy Zealot, yes, but that's another post entirely), I do love me some good bread. The added bonus is that it's a vehicle for some amazing taste sensations such as chevre, REAL BUTTER, and delicious jams, curds, marmalades, and tapenades. Literally, anything tastes good with some kind of bread. Kind of amazing, huh? Such a simple food, and yet it has been so maligned in recent years, and definitely in the top five Worst Foods For Your Waistline.

Well, I don't buy it. As with everything, it depends what you put in it. It's not a mistake that every single culture's cuisine has some type of bread in it. We've all heard the evils of White Foods (white flour, white sugar, white salt even). Normally, as a nutrition-follower of the Weston A. Price Foundation (, I do try to avoid these things and stick with properly prepared whole grains (souring, fermenting, soaking, sprouting). But, living in a modern society where devitalized white foods are prevalent, that can be hard to do all the time. In the interest of furthering my bread-making skills, which just happens to be on my 2010 New Year's Resolution list, I have taken to making some breads made with white flour. I consider it all splendiferously delicious practice; buying sprouted whole grain flour is quite expensive, as I don't have a grain mill, and it's cheaper to mess up on white flour breads!

The homemade bread revolution that is sweeping the nation in the last 2 years or so has been due to a select few books that have different takes on the "no-knead" method. The NY Times has published recipes from the top few schools of thought, I believe. The one that caught my fancy seems, to me at least, to be the most popular: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I lay the blame for my enchantment and fascination thoroughly with another blog obsession of mine, I checked out Jeff and Zoe's cookbook site, got the recipe for their brioche and made it (my first foray into bread and I happen to pick one of the most finnicky types to make, and it works! YOWZA!). There's nothing like bread slathered thick with butter. But when an opportunity arises to consume bread that is literally loaded with butter, and slathered with more butter postbaking, just throw in the towel and go willingly. In that moment, you will taste heaven. You laugh like you think I'm joking.

So, to cut to the chase, I bought the book. I've been making a few dough recipes from it; so far, the brioche (with bread, cinnamon rolls, and chocolate-filled buns), and olive oil dough (foccacia and the most amazing homemade pizzas EVER). After relaying my early triumphs to my 94-year-old grandmother, she reminded me that she liked oatmeal/multigrain breads with some nuts in them, in a not-so-subtle hint to get in the kitchen and bake grammy some bread! I obliged...but after I decided to tinker. The oatmeal bread recipe in the book called for a few things I didn't have, nor felt like buying (wheat germ? oat bran? these filled me with nightmares of militant vegans), and it didn't contain nuts like grammy wanted. Thus, I present you with my adaptation. Enjoy discovering that you *can* make delicious bread in literally minutes. Slap some flour on you like you spent the day in a wrestling match with a 5 pound bag and present it to loved ones, family and friends, saying, "oh this bread? I just threw it together, ain't no thang!"; they won't believe you, they'll think you spent the whole day kneading away, and that you're the best thing since sliced bread!

Sorry...I just really couldn't resist that one. Anyway, this is dedicated to grammy Dottie. <3

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread (adapted from Oatmeal Bread in Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois's Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)

Makes three 1.5 pound loaves, and you can double or halve the recipe.

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (I used Celtic sea salt)
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pan
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking type), plus more for the top
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Mix the yeast, salt, water, milk, maple syrup, and oil in a 5-qt. bowl or a lidded container; you don't want it to be completely airtight.

2. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients without kneading. You can use a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food process with dough attachment, or my work-horse of choice, a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook (I love my Kitchen-Aid). Use wet hands to incorporate all of the flour if you're not using a machine.

3. If you didn't mix the dough by hand in a storable container, put the dough in one now, cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temp until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), for approximately 2 hours.

4. You can begin using the dough immediately after this iniitial rise, but it is MUCH easier to handle when cold; it's going to be a wet, very sticky batter. Refrigerate the dough in the non-airtight, lidded container and use over the next 8 days. Over that time, the dough will take on a more sourdough taste, giving you a more artisan-like product. If it gets gray at all on top, don't worry and don't throw it out, just throw a little dusting of flour on it and mush it in. If it's moldy (fuzzy), then yes throw it out. If it gets a little brown liquid on top or smells very "alcohol-like" - don't worry. Pour the liquid off, use the dough; it's just the yeast.

5. READY TO GET YOUR BAKE ON: Grease a 9 x 4 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan (yes...I know you're greasing a non-stick pan...just do it. You'll thank me later). Dust the surface of the dough with some flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound portion, which is about the size of a canteloupe (or, to be accurate, if you have a food scale you can weigh it out). Dust the piece with more flour, and quickly shape it into a ball and stretching the surface under to the bottom while rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.

6. Elongate the ball into an oval and put it into the prepared loaf pan. Allow it to rest and rise for 1 hour 20 minutes, or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough. ***I used a fresh ball, and I had to let it rise for longer than 40 minutes, every time I've used fresh dough from the book...but this could also be due to the fact that I have a silicon loaf pan that allows the dough to expand a bit sideways rather than up as much as a metal pan with rigid sides would ***

7. Twenty minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, with an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

8. Sprinkle the loaf with some tap water after wetting your hand, and sprinkle some rolled oats on top. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray (I just use an aluminum 8 x 8 brownie pan), and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm.

9. Allow to cool before slicing or eating. And might I make a few suggestions? It makes a mean turkey sandwich, or toast it and slather with butter, apple or apricot butter, fromage blanc or chevre and a bit of fig jam.

1 comment:

  1. I just ran across your blog. My Hubs would love would I but I am on an anti candida diet right now and anything with yeast and sugar is off limits.

    I am having an APRON GIVEAWAY on my blog. Please come on over and check it out. Thanks!!