BREAD MADE EASY
Recently I was watching a documentary called Cooked based on a book by Michael Pollan. It focussed on the root of cooking. Where did foods originate? How? What was the value of certain foods? One particular episode talked about bread. Using the element of air, the documentary basically traced bread back to many cultures as a staple made in the home and community. Most of these traditional breads were flat and they involved the natural fermentation of water and yeast produce. Normally, I am not a huge fan of bread unless I am in Europe. I am sure many would agree that there is something special about the bread there. One thing I know is that Europeans value tradition and one of the things that made the bread so good was that it was made fresh each day.
I decided that maybe I could learn to love bread here in the same way if I figured out how to make my own. After many hours of research and experimentation I came up with a few things:
-I wanted to keep in simple (flour, salt, natural riser that wasn’t yeast).
-A well-developed, full, milk kefir works best for fermenting.
–Atta flour (duram wheat) gives the bread a more earthy flavour and adds nutritional value.
-Without yeast, the bread will not rise to the “loaf” we are used to.
-I could definitely survive on a delicious, hearty bread.
-Rising the dough takes longer using more natural ingredients rather than yeast.
-A warm room helps the dough along.
I tried all different techniques until I came up with one I was happy with and I think everyone should be able to enjoy fresh baked bread at home. It is not as intimidating as I thought.
As I mentioned, atta flour works really well but you can use any form of flour. I prefer the duram wheat because it has more nutritional value. Originally I tried simply flour and water and let it ferment for days.
However, having my home-made kefir on hand, I thought I might be abe to find a new use for it and I was right. Rather than 3 days, I can ferment my bread and be baking within 24 hours. The kefir is fermented and acts as a yeast although it doesn’t rise as much. The more fermented the kefir, the better. Another added feature of using kefir is it gives the bread a slight taste of sourdough which I absolutely love.
The ingredients are important. For some reason the ratio changes the bread but this portion is just right. I used 5 C of flour and 3 C of kefir. The type of flour may change this ratio a bit depending on the density.
Whatever loaf you make be sure to add some salt to it. It is too plain otherwise. 2 Tbsps of corse sea salt is what I used. You can leave the dough as is or, add herbs such as: basil, rosemary, thyme, and/or marjoram. I like a blend of Italian herbs or fresh, chopped rosemary. You want about 1-2 Tbsp for your dough depending on how you like it.
Start by mixing everything by hand in a bowl. Once is is mixed, get more aggressive with it so it forms a ball. At that point you can remove it onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it becomes slightly elastic (5-10 minutes). You will find that the dough can become sticky so to avoid it sticking to your hands, wet them with some warm water as you work the dough.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled, dark bowl, cover with a cloth and place it in a warm area to let it rise. The amount of time really depends on a lot of things:
-the room temperature
-the kefir temperature
-the fermentation activity in the kefir
-the flour/kefir ratio (after kneading on a floured surface)
-the quality and type of flour
I like to prep the dough in the evening and leave if over night, covered, so I have fresh bread ready for dinner the next day. In the morning before work I split the dough in 1/2, give it another quick knead, and place it in 2 lightly floured proofing baskets so it forms the shape I like. This step is mostly to give it some shape. If this were a yeast dough it would rise for a second time.
Once I get home, the loaf takes 45 minutes in a 400º oven. Some tricks when baking to consider include:
-use a oven stone to bake for best results
-place some cornmeal on the stone to prevent the bread from sticking
-CAREFULLY empty the dough from the proofing basket
-put a mixture of olive oil and eggwash on the bread for a nice colour and outer texture
-use a spray bottle to spray some water into the oven before closing the door
-do not open the oven door until the time is up
The bread is similar to a heavy European loaf. Store-bought doesn’t compare. One loaf will last in my house for a week or so because we don’t eat a lot of bread and 1 slice is this bread is much more filling. It may seem like a lot of work but I highly recommend giving home-made bread a try. It really isn’t much work. . .only a bit of patience is required 🙂
5 C atta flour
3 C plain kefir
2 Tbsp sea salt
1.5 Tbsp Italian dried herbs
additional flour for kneading
olive oil to grease the bowl
2 Tbsp cornmeal
1 Tbsps olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1. Combine flour and kefir in a bowl.
2. Knead on a floured surface until it combines and becomes elastic (approx. 10 minutes).
3. Grease a dark bowl with 1 Tbsp olive oil.
4. Place dough in the bowl and cover with a cloth.
5. Let dough rise in a warm room for about 12 hours.
6. Lighly flour proofing basket(s).
7. Place dough in a large proofing basket or split into 2 proofing baskets.
8. Let the dough proof for another 6-12 hours
9. When dough is ready, preheat over to 400º with an oven stone inside.
10. Dust the oven stone with cornmeal.
11. Carefully empty the dough from the proofing basket onto the oven stone.
12. In a separate bowl mix olive oil and egg.
13. Brush the mixture over the dough.
14. Spray some water onto the stone and bread.
15. Bake for 45 minutes.
16. Remove from over and serve warm.
Calories 1334 (per loaf)
Protein 54.5 g (per loaf)