“How can a nation be great if it’s bread tastes like Kleenex?” – Julia Child
The art of making bread use to be a necessary skill in every household. Purchase flour from the local mill, natural wild yeast used as a leaven. But like most foods the industrialization of this country made quantity and longevity a priority over quality and nourishment. So when we started our family on a journey to a more wholesome, balanced diet three(ish) years ago, what better place to start then what we all consume the most… Grains.
My “breaducation” began by researching different breads from around the world, what made them special, what made them unique. Which brought me to many different grains that I’ve never heard of, what characteristics they have, what they provide to a leavened loaf and, of course, what they provide to my family and I.
Making your own bread can be very rewarding in many ways other then it’s nutritional value. It’s extremely gratifying to mold and knead with your bare hands. It’s a very basic, earth connecting experience. The suspense is exhilarating waiting to see if the dough will rise. Then the best, or almost the best part is the aroma. There is absolutely nothing that smells better from the oven than fresh baked bread. The smell can linger for days. Nothing says “home” like the fragrance of freshly baked bread. Of course, biting into a piece of warm bread drizzled with honey, isn’t too bad either.
A great place to start making your own bread is the ground breaking “No Knead” method made famous in a 2006 article in The New York Times by Jim Lahey. It’s simple, flexible, and yields a great flavored loaf every time.
The formula below is one of my versions of a no knead leavened bread. Tweaked to make a wonderfully flavored nutritious bread without greatly sacrificing the rise:
Great bread takes time to develop it’s complex flavors and there’s no way to speed up that process. Believe me… I’ve tried when I first started. Bread making has many lessons that can be taken and adapted to our everyday lives and the one that most people struggle with the most, myself included, is patients. Great complexity in flavor comes in time.
With this method, I recommend making your bread over the weekend. The first few steps below should be done the night before. Right before bedtime.
Pour warm spring water in to your favorite mixing bowl. I recommend glass, not only to watch your creation develop but plastic wrap sticks to it well if you don’t have a lid.
Add instant yeast to the water. No need to let it proof. Instant yeast can technically be added with the rest of your dry ingredients, I just like to add it to the water to make sure it’s distributed evenly in the flour. If you’re using a starter (a natural leaven) which is a better option, this would be the time to add it.
Add the 2 Cups of bread flour. Followed by the 1 Cup of Spelt flour.
Spelt is one of the world’s most popular grains. It was one of the first grains to be used to make bread, and its use is mentioned in the Bible. It’s an ancient grain that traces its heritage back before many wheat hybrids. Which is probably why it offers a broader spectrum of nutrients compared to the common wheat we have today. It has a sweet nutty flavor and gives this bread a great texture.
Add the flax seed meal next before you begin stirring your dough. Flax seed is packed full of nutrients. Though it’s not technically a grain, it has a similar vitamin and mineral profile to grains. It also contains very high amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Great to keep things moving (if you catch my drift.)
DON’T FORGET THE SEA SALT! The reason why i wait until now to add the sea salt is that salt can sometimes make the dough seize up, making it difficult to mix.
Continue mixing until the water has adsorbed all the dry ingredients.
Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and let sit overnight for 12 to 18 hours. This is called the bulk fermentation. The yeast begins to slowly consume the sugars in the flour and creates two by-products. Alcohol and carbon dioxide. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll be amazed at how much it has risen and how much the smell has changed.
Flour your work surface generously and scoop the dough out with a spatula trying not to deflate completely.
Flour the top surface of the dough and your hands to prevent sticking.
Gently press the dough relieving a few of the bigger bubbles and give it a few small stretches with your hands or whatever works (a dough blade helps)
At this point, you’re going to fold the flattened dough four times like shown below:
Flip it so the seam is underneath.
Begin shaping it with your hands into a boule pronounced “bool” until it creates a tight skin on the top side.Next, perform what’s called a tension pull to seal the seam on the bottom. Grab the underneath side of the boule and drag it on the surface towards you.If you are using a glass bowl for the final rise you’ll want to line the inside with plastic wrap for an easy release. Rub the inside of the plastic wrap with a bit of olive oil so the boule itself doesn’t stick to the plastic.
Gently place the boule seam side up inside the bowl.
Place a tea cloth over the bowl and set it at room temperature for about an hour to an hour and a half for it’s final rise.
In the mean time. place your dutch oven or any cast iron enclosure with a heavy lid in your oven and preheat in to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the bread has risen to about double its size, it’s time to carefully place your bread seam side down in the preheated Dutch Oven and bake with the lid on for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes is up, remove the lid and drop the temperature down to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake it for 10 minutes.
The crust should be a lovely shade of golden brown and the bread should sound hollow if you knock on it.
As impossible as it may seem, the bread needs to cool and rest for an hour before slicing to get to its full potential. (I follow this about 25% of the time.) Remember… patients.
Your crust may be thicker then mine or your crumb may be more open then mine. The point I’m trying to make is that no bread is ever completely the same as it was before. I find that to be the beauty of it. After baking loaf after loaf with different ingredients, you’ll soon see trends that follow those ingredients but there are way too many natural variables that take place in bread making that rarely repeat themselves in that exact harmony ever again. Makes you wonder how that white sandwich bread on the shelf tastes the same every time you get it…
I’d love to hear/see what wonderful loaves you guys have coming out of your ovens!
Also, thank you to my wonderful Wife for helping me with the photos and letting me post on her blog