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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fun With Bread

Herb Bread with Fennel Seed
We have made our own bread for years and years now (I couldn't tell you when we last purchased a loaf :) and although we have our tried and true recipe sometimes it is fun to experiment with new recipes.  Most bread recipes are much alike, a basic recipe will contain flour, yeast, sugar, fat, salt, and water, but any slight change will result in a different end result.  Many recipes call for milk rather than water, and some for a combination of the two, some recipes have butter, melted butter, shortening, or oil and some omit any fat altogether, most have sugar, honey, or molasses, occasionally sweetener is omitted. And then of course there is the flour, white, wheat, spelt, rye, just to name a few, one thing for sure the higher the gluten in the flour the better result you will have. Always make sure that you use bread flour as it is higher in gluten than all purpose or cake flour. Some recipes require that the dough rest, be kneaded, rise, be kneaded, shaped into loaves, rise again and then bake, some completely omit kneading and do a short rise, other require everything be mixed at the same time, some require a sponge start with the yeast, but whatever the method the end result generally is delicious.
Years ago I purchased a bread book at Border's, it was on a bargain table and cost less that five dollars.  The book is nicely done, talks about methods of making bread.  There are recipes for all types of bread and they are separated by country, and each is complimented by beautiful pictures of the finished product.  Today, and yesterday I tried several of the bread recipes in the Breads of Great Britain section.  Last week I made dinner rolls called French Dimples, from the Breads of France section, they were good and we enjoyed them with an onion, beef soup/stew. In the past I tried the English Muffin recipe, they were good but a lot of work to do. Yesterday I made a Grant Loaf, this is a whole wheat bread recipe developed  by Doris Grant, a British nutritionist, in the 1940's, she wanted to create a simple, yet wholesome loaf. The recipe is super easy, 12 cups of whole wheat flour (I did 11 and added 1 cup of wheat bran), water, brown sugar, yeast, and salt, and fat, you simply mix the whole lot together, put it into three warmed, greased pans, let it rise for half an hour and then bake.  You can find many directions to make the Grant Loaf on line, simply google it. The resulting loaf is dense, moist, and very wheaty, I enjoyed a slice toasted this morning with butter and honey, along with an apple and a mug of tea.  I would not recommend this bread for making sandwiches as it is very dense.
The Grant Loaf
Today I made two loaves of herb bread, the recipe had 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of white, a mix of water and milk, salt, herbs, (recipe called for fresh chives, parsley, sage, and crushed garlic, I used lesser amounts of dried parsley, sage, a few dried onions as I had no chives, and crushed garlic) and  melted butter, this bread started with a sponge* and required a ten minute knead, and an hour and half rise, it was then shaped into loaves and left to rise for 30 minutes, just before baking each loaf was brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with fennel seed. The resulting loaves were beautiful, and the bread was mildly seasoned with the herbs but not overpowered, and the bread was light and chewy with a pleasant crust.  I also made the Split Loaf, a white bread with a split down the middle.  This loaf required a sponge* start, it contained no sugar, only, flour, water, milk, yeast, and salt. The process to the Split Loaf was the same as the herb loaf, except it was not brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with fennel seed. The resulting loaves were splendid, large with a wonderfully crunchy crust and a soft chewy, semi-dense middle. I was pleased with all of the breads and will certainly make them again.
The Split Loaf

*A sponge start simply means combining the flour and salt in a bowl, creating a well in the middle, adding the yeast/liquid into the well and mixing with a little of the flour to create a wet sloppy mess, then cover the bowl and sit in a warm place for twenty minutes.  The wet sloppy mess becomes a foamy, bubbly mass, simply mix in the rest of the flour and continue on to kneading.


Pete said...

Great bread post. I have always found it hard to make really different breads. Nice crusty rolls for butter and cheese are also difficult - the crusts deteriorate to chewy in half an hour or so.
Many store bought breads are pretty blah but a few are really awesome and I would like to duplicate them. Any ideas?

Marian said...

A very interesting and productive day. The bread looks great - we need to get out the loaf pans!

Bean said...

I think you just have to keep experimenting with different recipes. The split loaf really had a crisp, crunchy crust, it was lovely, I might try the recipe for dinner rolls, it did bake at a very high temperature, 450 for 15 mins, then turn down to 400 for the remaining twenty minutes. I still find it so interesting just how differently a loaf will turn out when the ingredients or method is modified, yet the basic ingredients /method is similar for all bread.
Best place to review bread books is at the library, at least you don't have a financial commitment if the book is useless.