It’s a windy Sunday with not much going on and neither of us were much into heading out so we popped on a movie and settled into an afternoon vegging.
About ten minutes in I realised we had no niceness in the house and in a bid to keep the Dazzler on his health kick I decided to throw together a batch of flapjacks. As I was in the kitchen anyway I thought I should throw together a loaf of wholemeal bread for the week and started to look at recipes online.
You see although my white bread rocks I’m not exactly great at wholemeal bread and it occurred to me that I needed to find out why. It turns out that unlike white dough, which needs a good battering in order to attain perfection, brown bread appreciates a more gentle touch!!
After research I realised that how you treat the ingredients made a difference so I will go through each stage to explain my choices.
Some people use packets, others use ready to use and others use fresh. I haven’t got the time for fresh but did want to rocket charge my dough and as I like to see how things are progressing I used Allinsons dried active yeast which you add to warm water and sugar then leave for 15 minutes to activate. This way you can see if the yeast has worked or not.
Some recipes suggest a mix of strong wholemeal and strong white but I don’t like how that makes the bread turn out so I go for all wholemeal and it gives a nice crumb. I used 600g for a 2lb tin as that gives me a nice big loaf.
I already used 150ml Luke warm water for the yeast so I’m making this up to 400ml water in total. This may seem like a lot but this dough is thirsty!! It’s all about texture in this case so you will need to see how you go, adjusting the flour and water depending on how it feels.
The other bits
Everyone suggests adding salt and some other sweetness (sugar, honey, maple syrup) and most suggest some form of fat (melted butter, oil, etc) to the recipe so who am I to go against the grain. In goes 1 tbs sea salt, 1 tbs sugar and a large glug of olive oil into the mixing bowl.
So how did I do it?
I made up my yeast in a large measuring jug using 150ml warm water mixed with tsp sugar and set aside for 15 minutes to do its thing. Then I got my other ingredients together ready for the next stage…
Forming the dough
Into my mixing bowl went the flour, salt, sugar and olive oil. I returned to my nicely risen yeast and gave it a whisk. Then I popped it into the mixing bowl and added the rest of the water, using the same jug to get every last bit of yeast. With a spoon I mixed everything together till it came away from the bowl. Next it was time to get my hands dirty…
A word about Kneading and Rising
There are various schools of thought on how best to knead wholemeal. Some suggest forming and leaving, others suggest a rigorous knead followed by shaping and leaving to rise in the tin for an hour and yet others suggest the little and often method.
As I was in the kitchen anyway I went for ‘little and often’ which involved forming the dough and leaving it for 5 minutes. Then giving it a gentle knead and leaving to rest for another five minutes, repeating 3 more times. Once I’d done this it was simply a case of pulling flat, then rolling into a tube and putting fold side down into my bread pan to rest for 40 minutes.
The first thing I noticed about this method was how light and pliable the dough was. It was easy to shape and seemed to be much plumper than other times I’d used the same ingredients. The dough seemed to bounce back better each time I’d tended it and thanks to pulling and rolling the dough it seemed to fill the pan much more than previous attempts.
After resting for 40 minutes it was time to bake!! The guidelines here seem to be, get the oven as hot as you can for the first 20 minutes then turn the oven down a notch for the last 20 minutes. Also you should bake the bread near the top of the oven and have a tray with some water to create steam in the bottom of the oven.
So I scored some lines in the top of my loaf, anointed with milk and popped into my preheated oven. (Gas mark 9) for 20 minutes. I then turned the oven down to gas mark 7 for a further 20 minutes. The loaf is done when you tap the underside and it’s hollow sounding.
This is the finished product….
Just to recap here is the ingredients list…
150ml Luke warm water
1 tbs Allinsons yeast
600g wholemeal flour
1 tbs fine sea salt
1 tbs caster sugar
1 glug olive oil
250ml Luke warm water