How to love bread - bake it yourself!
Why baking your own bread?
I came to the conclusion that I will have to bake my own bread, rolls, croissants, pound cakes and pies to give us a little Germany at home. I had brought my mill grinder with me when I moved here and lots of ideas. All I needed was good grains, flour and time on hand......
Time it takes to prepare this bread......
Start by soaking the grains one afternoon and mix the dough that evening. The next morning take the dough from the refrigerator and after the final proof bake the dough around lunch time. Don't cut it before the next day though!
On the search for good bread.
I had a hard time finding any bread I liked when I moved to the US from Germany more than a decade ago. Germany has probably more types of bread and rolls than the US has potato chips varieties. Supermarket breads are often very squishy and don't give me the feeling of being really fresh- even coming from their bakery. Or I would spend a fortune for a crusty loaf- or so I thought, only to come home and find it may have been crusty for maybe 5 minutes when it left the oven.
I have been baking bread now for more than 15 years, I broke 1 Kitchen Aid stand mixer that couldn't keep up with my dough and sold another Kitchen Aid commercial type that was to weak. I have invested in a Swedish-made "Assistent" by Ankarsrum which is quite an investment but I have not regretted this at all- it is a great kitchen helper!
But coming back to bread- I don't really like bread that looks boring or tastes bland. I like bread that has some "bite" to it and by "bite" I mean some nuts or grains.
One reason most store bought bread is so squishy and light is the flour, that is used. White flour does not hold any moisture- the bread dries out very quickly in a few hours. Whole wheat or whole rye flour will make a more dense bread but it will also stay moist longer- even for a few days- if kept properly. Ideally bread is kept in an unglazed clay pot w/ lid which retains the moisture of the bread.
You don't have to be a baker to handle this task - all you have to do is measure and weigh! Ah, she wrote "weigh"...... yes, I don't think it is a good measure to level things in cups. Always more precise is to weigh as your ingredients, especially flour, may vary in volume depending on how you store it! Get yourself a kitchen scale that can be set to metric and you will have great results with your baking. I also found very handy to have a larger container with a lid where you can store dough overnight in your refrigerator or even outdoors, when the temperature allows it. Some doughs need to rest and relax overnight- makes the bread even better. The dough will still proof, don't worry about the temperature. Grains and nuts that are in the dough overnight will be moist and give the bread a better texture- it will last longer due to the moisture content.
I mention fresh yeast- this is widely available in German groceries while it is uncommon here. If you find fresh yeast use this, if not use active dry yeast which works evenly well.
One more thing- I have been asked many times to bring my bread when invited to other peoples house because my bread is different. But when I ask "why don't you bake your own bread?" I get the answer "I can't bake or , no time". It is really is not difficult baking your own bread.
Some recipes start on day one and don't finish until the next day or even day after. So don't rush, drink some tea and relax...
So I hope that my blog will bring some folks to either bake for themselves (or for others of course).
The recipe below is for a loaf of wholesome bread with lots of things to bite on. For a soft elastic and large-volume crust, egg and oil is added- the lecithin content in the egg yolk provides optimum distribution of the oil within the dough. This is the only recipe I know where a bread has egg in the dough- boy is this bread good! It really makes a difference.
You may double the recipe, like I always do- I happen to have 2 proofing bread baskets. Leave the bread to cool for 12 hours, cut it in slices and freeze it. It keeps very well for a few weeks. Take out the slices you want about 20 minutes before you need them. I ALWAYS toast my breads/rolls on a graticola on my gas stove.
One more thing- don't get discouraged by the length of this recipe. There are little things to do here, I just explain everything which is why it appears to have so many steps!
So grab some ingredients and start baking!
Frozen slices get a warm welcome on the gas stove!
When will my bread be ready? You start today but don't bake until tomorrow!
Grains and seeds bread
- 25g rolled oats
- 50g flax seeds
- 90g sunflower seeds
- 35g sesame seeds, black, white or both
- 15g semolina flour
- 8g salt
- 260g boiling water
- Main dough ingredients
- 160g unbleached white flour
- 200g whole wheat flour
- about 175g water
- 1 egg
- 20g oil
- 8g fresh baker's yeast or 4g active dry yeast
.... Weigh the Ingredients....
I suggest to use a scale for more accurate recipes, sometimes odd amounts are needed and you don't want to get lost in counting teaspoons and cup fillings....
How do I do it?
- Soak the grains, seeds and semolina flour with the salt and 260g water for 3-4 hours.
- For the main dough add the soaked grains & seed mixture with the remaining ingredients and mix for 8 minutes on low speed. Mix for another 6 minutes on medium speed until you have an elastic dough. If you have to add more water- do it little by little and wait until the water is fully incorporated before you add more. The dough should almost clean the bowl - little sticky is wanted.
- Place in a seal-able plastic container and let it rest in your fridge (or outside) at around 42°to 44°F for 10-12 hours.
- On the day of backing place the dough on a slightly floured board and gently press down with your hands to release the gases. Form to a ball and let it rest covered (clear foil or kitchen towel) for 30-45 minutes at around 80°F.
- With both hands grab the dough and form a ball or log, depending on the bread form you have. Place the dough seam side up into a floured or lined bread fermentation basket. Cover with cloth and let it proof for 1.25 hrs at 78°F.
- Bake the bread on your pre-heated (475°F or 250°C) baking stone with steam at total of 50 minutes, after the first 10 minutes open the oven door and let the steam escape. Continue baking at 420°F or 220°C. During the last 5-8 minutes increase the temperature to 475°F or 250°C and open the oven door a little- this gives a crustier crust.
- You can test if your bread is done by knocking with your knuckle on the bottom of your bread - it must sound hollow. Leave the bread to cool on a baking rack for at least 12 hours before you even think of cutting it!
Why steam and how to get it?
Crusty bread needs steam- without steam no crust!
You can achieve this at home with a large oven safe shallow casserole dish with lots of water that you place underneath your baking stone. Be sure to preheat your oven for baking at least 30-40 minutes on the highest setting to create a hot stone AND steam. You will notice, your bread will be crusty and will remain crusty even long after it left the oven AND will have a nice color!