Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bread for Autumn - Whole Wheat Spelt Bread

I am sitting in my kitchen waiting (impatiently, I might add) for this new bread to cool. In the end I will probably eat a piece while still warm. Even though the instructions clearly say, 'Cool completely before slicing'. Completely. On a cooling rack. This bread smells sooo good. And it is bread for the Fall of the year. Last week we had rain, for the first time since last April, and, frankly, even this rain was a bit of a surprise. Honestly, I wasn't expecting any rain until maybe the end of October, or even the beginning of November. But the leaves are turning color a little, and the flowers are starting to fade. And the evenings are cooler. And so, harvest bread filled with goodies.

Whole wheat spelt bread uses spelt flour (go figure) that you can substitute with whole wheat flour if you wish. Spelt is an ancient grain: it is the oldest form of wheat. As such it acts much like wheat in a recipe. However, I believe it has less gluten than regular wheat flour. It is richer in B-vitamins and is even tastier to boot. Because of the lower gluten content, use a little more leavening agent (this bread uses baking soda). If using yeast with this flour, use a little more and let it rise longer. You won't be sorry.

Here's What You'll Need: (for 2 small 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 in (23X10 cm) loaves)
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted walnuts (or other nuts you may prefer)
about 5 1/2 cups spelt flour (or half whole wheat and half regular bread flour )
2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 Tbs. molasses or honey
about 3 1/2 cups warm water (enough to make a thick batter)
2 Tbs. mixture of seeds
a little olive oil to grease the loaf pans

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
2. Place the walnuts on a roasting pan and lightly toast them for a few minutes. Just until you start to smell the great aroma they give off. Don't over roast them, as that makes them bitter. Remember, they will continue to roast in the bread!!

3. Place all of the rest of the ingredients, except the seeds in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly to make a very thick batter. Only then, mix in the seeds and the roasted nuts.

4. Place the batter into two lightly-oiled loaf pans (8 1/2 X 4 1/2 in (23X10 cm), smoothing out the top with a wettened spatula.

5. Bake for about 40 minutes (without turbo) or until nicely browned. They will sound hollow when 'thumped' on the bottom.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kesra - Traditional Moroccan Flatbread

All over the Mediterranean and Middle East, flat breads are very popular. In fact, these breads are the most ancient breads of all with the simplest of them having no yeast. The cuisine of this area is typified by roasted meats and delicately-flavored sauces fragrant with spices like cinnamon and cumin. There are also many, many dips, the most famous being hummus and tehina paste. So the flat breads serve not only to mop up the sauces but also to work the dips. They are usually quite soft (like the pita bread) but also with a strong enough structure so they can be a vehicle for all the goodness they have to transport from plate to mouth. This bread is a Moroccan version of one of the many, many flatbreads from this region.

Here's What You'll Need: (for 2 'loaves')
sunflower or vegetable oil (for oiling the baking pan)
3/4 cup (75 g) cornmeal
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) instant dried yeast
1 tsp (5 g) salt
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) warm water
4 cups (450 g) AP flour
1 tsp. (5 g) sugar
2 Tbs. (30 g) melted butter or margarine

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Mix together the flour, cornmeal, yeast, sugar and salt.

2. Make a well in the center, then pour in the water and melted butter (or margarine). Mix this together to form a soft dough. You may need to adjust the flour and/or water to get the right texture. The dough should be soft but not very sticky. Knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten.

3. Shape the dough into a ball, then flatten the ball to a disk about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Place the disk on a baking tray that is lightly oiled, then sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a damp towel, and let it rise until doubled in volume. This will take a while (2 hours?) because there is very little yeast. While you wait, the flavor is developing.

4. When the dough has risen, heat the oven to 425 F (about 220 C). Bake the bread for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 F (about 180 C) and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove the bread to a cooling rack when it is well-browned, with a crunchy crust.

5. Find some excellent hummus and dig in!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not a Joke - 'True' Apple Bread

I have touched on this subject before when trying to show the difference between cake and bread. I have also debated whether I should even include quick breads in the blog postings, are they cake or bread. Basically the same argument. And truly, the argument that they are baked in a loaf and eaten in slices seems like stretching it a bit - even to me. And I'm the one making the case. I should definitely stick to baking and stay away from lawyering (for lots of reasons, but that's another story for another time, maybe). But this apple bread, that I'm posting today, is truly bread, not some pseudo-bread-like loaf. It uses yeast, and rises!! So it's bread. Just look at the picture, is that a cake?

This bread makes a free-standing loaf of wonderfully textured, soft, yet firm, sandwich bread. It is flavored with fresh apples and cinnamon making it perfect for breakfast (it's great toasted, for example) or picnics, or even afternoon tea. Oh, and it's actually not difficult to make.

Here's What You'll Need: (one 23 by 13cm, or 9 by 5in loaf pan)
1/2 Tbs. instant yeast
1 Tbs. light brown sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk (I used soy milk to avoid dairy)
3 to 3 1/4 cups AP flour
1 large tart apple peeled, cored and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup dried currants (or raisins)
1.4 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbs. oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 Tbs. salt

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer) combine the yeast, water, milk, sugar and 1 cup of the flour. Mix to form a slurry, then cover and let it sit, at room temperature, for about an hour.

2. Add the apple, currants (or raisins), walnuts, oil, egg, spices and enough flour to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for about 5 minutes in a mixer (or 10 by hand), adding flour as needed, to form a very smooth and slightly tacky dough.

3. Let the dough rise in a covered, lightly-oiled container until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Gently deflate the dough, form it into a loaf, then place it in an oiled loaf pan. Cover to let it rise again about an hour. About 20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 200 C (about 400 F).

5. Place the bread int he oven, reduce the heat to 180 C (350 F) and bake for about 30 minutes or until well browned. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack completely before slicing.

6. This bread freezes well (double wrapped) and will be good for several months. But honestly, will it make the freezer? I don't think so.