Sunday, 1 June 2014

About time I caught up with the last month (May)

Apart from fixing parts of the house I indulge myself and wander into my enjoyment of food - well cooking to be more precise. I'm not passionate about cooking at all, more determined to eat nutritious food and not pay through the nose for it. Bread, to be exact bread made with organic strone-ground wholegrain flour : not my favourite food in that short of having a gluten intolerance I don't like how it makes me feel. However, my mind is always full of images..for example toasted herb bread with cheese and wine or as I was trying recently toasted with organic lime marmalade, sharp and tangy. Recently having a large crop of fresh figs, my search for recipes had me finding and Italian one (see previous entry) whereby poached figs spread over bread with Goats cheese or Mozarella is given as a great Winter snack. My imagination has my mouth watering; my experience has me thinking indigestion.

However, I'm now making my own bread and deep-freezing. I so liked the morning treat of this bread with butter and my own marmalade that I had it almost everyday for 2 weeks, with strong delicious coffee. The flavours were wonderful - n ot so much the extra 3 kilos-odd I seemed to gain. So that stopped. Still, here is the bread and I'll still make it from time to time; it really cannot be simpler and it needs no kneading..

 I've put the recipe below as much to remind my self, although it isn't hard to remember yeast flour and water!

The trick is to keep the mixture moist as wholemeal needs more liquid, can't be kneaded the same way as white and needs less cooking time - unless you like eating bricks.

Recipe for one loaf: (see Delia Smith 'Easy Wholemeal Bread')

350-380ml hand hot water
1 teaspoon raw sugar
2 level teaspoons dried yeast
450g wholemeal flour (ideally stone-ground)
2 teaspoons salt
Additional by choice: flax seeds, pumpkin and or sunflower seeds.

Oven 200C for 20 – 30 minutes

In a bowl or jug, mix the water with the sugar and yeast. You can whisk at first to ensure the dried yeast is mixed but then leave with cling film over the top until it forms a ‘head’ – similar to old fashioned beer. This is called ‘proving’ which essentially shows the yeast is ‘alive’.

Whilst the yeast develops (takes about 20 minutes or so) mix all the dry ingredients together. Then prepare the tin you will use by greasing with butter – I use an oblong tin but a round tin works as well.

Make a hole in the centre of the flour and gradually add the liquid; depending upon the type of flour more or less liquid is needed. This recipe does not require kneading, so you mix until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. If it’s too dry and a little bit of liquid.

Once mixed place onto a floured surface then shape and place into the tin to rise. A tip: if you ‘tuck’ the edges under at the base of the mix, as the dough rises it will give a more rounded shape to the top. This is also the time you can design how it looks: if you score the top with diagonal lines they will increase in size as the dough expands. If you scatter oats or seeds on the top they’ll stay there. Leave covered with oiled cling film to rise for about 40-60 minutes depending upon warmth; your guide is the mix should be almost double and almost at the top edge of the tin you’re using. Once cooked, the loaf will ‘set’ at the size when first in the oven. Cook at 200C for 25-35 minutes, but test at say 20 mins by using a skewer; if you over-cook this mix it just gets harder Remove from the tin and if tapped it should sound hollow; you can return the bread to the oven without the tin if you want an extra few minutes and if you do this upside down it will help the crust form if it’s not already crispy. I’ve not had to do this yet however. Once cold, you can freeze what you don’t wish to eat within 2 days.

Useful notes: yeast needs warmth, not heat to grow. High temperatures stop and kill the yeast. Yeast feeds on sugar so honey or some such can be used to replace sugar. Salt can inhibit yeast growth so if you increase the salt component you may have to increase the amount of yeast. Wholemeal flour compared to white flour is quite different in how it behaves. It needs more liquid to make a suitable dough and by my experience takes less time to cook. Because there is more of the grain in the flour it will never reach the same elasticity after kneading as white flour does. The idea of kneading dough to the elastic state is to create gluten and use it to trap the yeast activity and so allow the yeast gases to expand the flour – this is why white flour produces the lightness and size in bread that wholemeal does not. So when converting recipes that use white flour and substituting wholemeal adding extra yeast is a factor as is the amount of liquid you use – and the cooking time. As mentioned I’ve found a reduced cooking time works better. Otherwise you can end up with a brick! If in doubt try the usual skewer in the bread to see if it’s dry and if in doubt go for a shorter time then put it back in for a few minutes extra.

Buttering the tins hardens the dough where it touches the metal and if you add a bowl of water when baking, the steam produced helps make a crispy crust. As a final comment, wholemeal flour is better than white; the best is stone-ground wholemeal. Every part of the grain is used this way. If roller-milled wholemeal is used, not all of the husk bran etc. is included.

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