a new adventure in bread

Things I Shouldn't Get So Excited About #402: bread-making. It's not like it's that hard. It's just that the variables are so fun to play with, and even when you screw up, the results are often edible. Okay, not always by humans, but something.

Last night I decided to make the walnut and onion bread I'd originally planned for 2 February (Candlemas). The ingredients listing was definitely wrong (2/3 cup of flour to 1 cup of milk? Really?), so I kept adding flour until it seemed right to me. I also read the instructions incorrectly and proofed the yeast with all of the milk instead of just a quarter-cup. Oh well, the yeast didn't seem to mind. I made a single one-pound loaf instead of shaping the dough into two baguette-type loaves as well, and had to adjust the baking accordingly.

I refuse to be one of those stereotypical Canadians who overheat their homes in the winter, so my apartment is a little cooler than average. That's fine for me, but not yeast. Usually I let the dough rise in a cold oven, reasoning that it's at least draft-free, but last night I had a brainwave: why not turn the oven light on to warm up the inside of the oven, but not so much that it will kill the yeast? I tried it, and the yeast loved it. I bake with wholegrain spelt flour, so usually I wind up with denser bread than if I used white wheat flour anyhow, but dough rose much better this way.

Here's what the results looked like:
It tasted wonderful, especially with the soft cheese the recipe recommended. I put some brie on a slice and it was divine.

The adventure didn't have a completely happy ending — I underbaked it a little and so the centre was still a little on the moist side. Next time I'll add 10 more minutes to the baking time.

Final version of the recipe:

  • 1 cup of warm milk
  • 1 sachet of regular bread yeast (not instant)
  • 1 generous teaspoon of honey
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • about 2 1/2 cups of wholegrain spelt flour (aha! maybe it was 2-3 cups originally)
  • half a red onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Mix the honey into the warm milk.
  • Add the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes. The mixture should be foaming.
  • Meanwhile, measure the flour, place in a mixing bowl, and make a well.
  • Add the butter and salt to the milk/yeast mixture and stir until combined.
  • Add the milk/yeast mixture to the flour and mix/knead until combined.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured board or a nonstick pastry sheet (my preference) and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic —10-15 minutes.
  • Place the dough in the mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven light on to warm up the oven just a little. Leave until the dough is almost doubled in size — about 2 hours.
  • Punch down the dough and gradually knead in the chopped onion and walnuts until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
  • Form the dough into a loaf shape and place it in a loaf pan (I use silicon; if you use a regular tin, grease it first). Cover with clingfilm and return it to the cold oven with the light on for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the loaf from the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Leave the loaf in a draft-free area until the oven is preheated.
  • Remove the clingfilm and bake the bread until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. I baked mine for 30 minutes, but 40 minutes is probably better.