Bread baking is fun. Many people seem to find it an incredibly daunting task that they’ll avoid at all costs – “too many things that can go wrong!”, they say. “I tried once and it was an utter failure!”
Then you have others who go super-science about making bread, and post on bread-making forums about the exact ratios and milligrams they have used, and make their own flour. Admirable, but not my bag.
The thing is, as long as you know a few of the basic rules, you’ll be fine! Sure, there are lots of variables, but sticking by the basic rules means that you can adapt as you go. Call them bread baking commandments, if you will:
- Don’t rush it! Bread needs time, whether it’s kneading, rising, or proofing. Yeast needs to do its work. Knead your bread until it’s good and ready. If your dough is meant to rise to double the size, let it double – even if it takes longer than the recipe indicates. If you’re in a cold room, it’ll just take longer. If you’re in a warm room, it might take less time. Run with it.
- Knead, rise, deflate, proof. That’s usually how it goes. No skipping steps or shortcuts.
- If possible, weigh out your ingredients at the start. It’s more precise that way, and you’re less likely to end up with a failed bread.
- Use your intuition – if you followed the ingredients precisely, but your dough just seems too dry, add a bit of water. Or flour, in the reverse situation. Bread is forgiving.
As long as you stick to those, you can pretty much make any bread! And of course, practice makes perfect. Try out a few recipes – any failures will always make a brilliant pizza dough.
Now, this bread comes from a Smitten Kitchen recipe (one of my favourite blogs) that I first tried out years ago. It’s a hearty, healthy bread, and the kind of recipe that just takes time – but the end result is so worth it.
Here we go!
In a bowl, mix together yeast, warm water, and sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes.
In a saucepan, melt water, molasses, vinegar, butter, and chocolate.
Once melted, turn off heat, and let cool slightly until lukewarm.
Mix together your seeds. As you can see, I got a bunch of different seeds from the grocery store and just made a big jar of seed mixture. I used linseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, and sesame seed.
In a bowl, mix your whole wheat, rye, and white flours.
Mix in your seeds.
In a large bowl (or stock pot!) add together the molasses mixture, yeast, and flours. Ideally, you’d want to use a stand mixer at this point – if you have one – otherwise, you can use good old arm power. Mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon until cohesive, then knead.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead for at least ten minutes – again, a stand mixer can save you some achy arms here, but you can just do this manually.
And there you go! A nice and springy dough. Keep in mind that this dough will always be quite heavy considering all the ingredients that go into it!
Divide your dough into two, and place into two oiled bowls. Turn dough in the oil a few times so that it will not stick to the bowl as it rises. Let rise for an hour and a half, to two hours.
Poof, there you go! Look at how it’s grown! Deflate your dough, and shape. This handy tutorial from the Kitchn will show you how you do this, if you don’t know how.
As you can see, I made one boule, and a loaf. Shape your bread, cover, and let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour. Then, remove plastic wrap, slide into a pre-heated oven and bake!
And there’s the baked end result! Can’t you almost smell it? As you can see, I added some poppyseed I had lying around before baking.
Let the bread cool before cutting. If you are not planning on eating both your loaves straight away, you can slice it and place it into freezer-safe bags. This way you can take out slices as you go, pop them in the toaster, and enjoy.
- 13 grams active dry yeast
- Pinch of sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup molasses
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 57 grams unsalted butter
- 28 grams of dark chocolate (75% or higher)
- 60 grams whole-wheat flour
- 300 grams rye flour
- 375 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
- 60 grams wheat bran
- 35 grams sunflower seeds
- 35 grams linseed
- 35 grams pumpkin seeds
- 35 grams sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- Poppyseed (optional)
- In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Heat the two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm.
- Combine whole-wheat, rye, white flour and bran in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flours, salt, espresso and seeds. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for 5-8 minutes. You can also mix by hand, mixing with a wooden spoon, and then kneading by hand.
- Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
- Form into two ball and place into greased bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.
- Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with poppyseed, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan.
- Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 95-100 degrees Celcius on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.