Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Toothy-Grainy Brown Bread

When I said that I made a toothy bread and forecasted this post, I was asked -repeatedly- "what's a toothy bread?" It never even occurred to me that toothy would not immediately give images of a wonderful chewy, sink your teeth into it, dense, grainy bread. I mean, come on... why wouldn't you immediately follow that thought process?? 

I can't quite recall where I first heard the word "toothy" in relation to a bread of this sort but it was so apt, in my opinion, that I can't quite replace it.

Anyway, this whole bread-making escapade began when I was trying to figure out breakfast this past weekend. I've made bread and buns (cinnamon, mostly), so it wasn't a whole new path... but I wanted to make a nice, yes, toothy bread to have Eggies and Toast. I had no bread... I was sick and miserable... and winter had descended upon our fair city, so leaving my house seemed like an epic feat. I scanned the cupboard and saw that I had two packets of quick rise yeast. 

This is where you tell me that I'm crazy... when making bread seems to me to require less effort than taking the five minute journey to the market for a ready-to-eat, fresh made loaf. To which, I respond with, it doesn't require nearly the effort that you would think and that the smell of fresh baking (hell, even rising), bread perfuming your house makes it infinitely justifiable. Further, I abhor the cold and anything that I can do without leaving my house in a parka-scarf-mitts-hat-boots-combo (for something as simple as bread) will always be the easier option than the trek.

Toothy-Grainy Brown Bread
(loosely loosely adapted from Nigella's white loaf in How to be a Domestic Goddess... I needed to confirm my flour-to-water ratio... which I inevitably tweaked anyway)

(I will probably make another loaf this weekend and I'll try to convert these weighted measurements to volume for you...)
400g white flour
75g whole wheat flour
50g Red River Cereal (Click if you have never heard of this great hot cereal! You can sub in oatmeal... maybe some ground flax... roughly chopped nuts... etc)
8g (one packet) quick rise yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons (if you have it) powdered milk
350 mL luke warm water


First, measure out your flours, grains, salt and powdered milk and combine in a mixing bowl. (If you don't have the powdered milk, you could reduce the water slightly and add 75-100mL of milk instead... no bother at all if you just go with water entirely and skip the powdered milk too.) 

Make a well in the center and add in your yeast. Slowly add the warm water to the well to wake up the yeast. Then drizzle or glob in your honey... I didn't really measure but eye-balled the roughly two tablespoons. You're not going to wreck it by not measuring... just don't go overboard and add a cupful!

Leave the pool party alone for a little bit now. You've woken the yeast up with the water and then gave it some good sweet honey to inspire action. You'll start to smell that yeasty aroma that is so characteristic of bread... then you'll start to see bubbles on the surface of the pool. We're only talking about five minutes or so here... consider it speed dating. 

Now, I was a spoiled girl and received a Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas one year (the gift that keeps on giving... hahahah). You don't need a mixer and a dough hook to make bread. Elbow grease will do just fine. But, if you're a big wimp like me, the dough hook does the majority of the heavy lifting while I circuit train my arms back into bread making shape.

So, turn on your mixer or stretch and get ready to mix... and start to combine the well into the pool. You'll start to get what Nigella calls a "shaggy mess," which is quite apt. Don't panic, it will all come together as you add more water and start to develop the gluten in the flour.

Mix and start to add in the remaining water until the dough begins to come together in a nice, not-sticky ball. Depending on the time of year, the age of your flour, the amount of whole wheat (if you opted to tweak the flour ratios) and so on, you may need more or less water than what I have specified. This is why you need to watch your dough and touch it! That's the only way that you know. If it's sticky, sprinkle a bit more flour. If it's dry, then add a bit more water. 

Knead (here's the technique via an video) the dough for about 10 minutes, either by hand or machine. As the gluten develops, the dough will get more elastic and resilient... it will give you a good work out. When you feel as though you've done your best, form the dough into a ball.

Wipe out your mixing bowl (if it is still a floury-mess), then lightly butter or oil the bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and swish it around (greasing the ball entirely). Cover with a towel and set aside to rest for an hour or two... it should double in size. Then punch it down (literally, give it a satisfying, squishy punch to knock out the air), give it a quick knead and then form it into your ideal bread shape. A log... a round... a circle... buns... doesn't matter one bit! (I couldn't find my loaf pan, so I just used a small tray... which I did give a light smear of oil.)

I opted for a slightly disproportionate log (it was a bit heavy in the midsection). Now, give it about 30 more minutes to adjust to its new form by covering it with the towel and setting it aside again. Time to start your engines! (Otherwise known as heating your oven to the, quite warm, 425 F.)

Bake for about 30 minutes. Again, another Nigella-ism, she says to "knock" on the bottom of the loaf and listen for a hollow sound. I like that "test of doneness." So, knock away. 

And that, no more than, thirty minutes of active time has yielded you a triumphant bread baker, a perfumed house and a beautiful loaf that will taste infinitely better than anything that you buy at the market.

This may be the time to admit, so that you unapologetically dive in as well, that I ate two pieces within 10 minutes of the loaf emerging from the oven... slathered in melty creamy butter while steam still rose from its core. Absolutely divine.

1 thought(s):

A Canadian Foodie said...

Anyone that makes their own bread is a hero in my books! How have I missed you and never heard of you? You have a lot of interesting recipes and good stuff on your site! A much belated welcome to the Edmonton Blogosphere - well, who am I to welcome you? You have been writing as long as I. I started my site August 2008. I would love you to upload Feedburner so that I could subscribe to you site and receive your new posts by mail. I never get to my readers or feeds in a timely fashion. I have actually avoided using them. I have added you to my list of Edmonton Food writers and hope to be hack, but if you install that, I will not miss a post!

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