I’ve been baking bread from scratch for the past two years or so, ever since my breadmaker vibrated itself off the counter in a gory suicide during a kneading cycle one day. After many different recipe tweaks, I’ve finally nailed my perfect everyday sandwich bread. Have at ‘er.
There is a recipe for oatmeal bread that I got from my mother, who got it from… some cookbook, I suppose. I used to make it relatively often many years ago, because it tastes delicious — but the trouble is, I could never get it to rise and it ended up incredibly dense. Now that I know more about making bread, this is because the original recipe’s process might as well have included “Step 3: kill your yeast”!
Instead of sharing that version, here is my revision, with a few tweaked ingredient ratios and a better process.
Ingredients for 2 loaves:
2.5 cups lukewarm water
2.5 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats
5 cups all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, add yeast to water. Let bloom for a few minutes.
Add remaining ingredients all at once.
Mix by hand until dough comes together.
Turn out onto your work surface and knead 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Put dough ball back in bowl, cover, and let rise 30-60 minutes until doubled in size.
Knead for 1 minute. Divide dough in half, and shape into loaves. Place in two greased loaf pans and allow to rise a further ~30 minutes.
Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.
Don’t forget to cool it completely before slicing. This makes a lovely bread that’s a bit on the sweeter side and perfect for toasting. Enjoy!
Remember when I started baking sourdough, earlier on in covidtide? Yeah, me too. It was enjoyable for a while, but I started running into frustrations: having to keep a large amount of starter alive, bakes that didn’t rise like they should, gummy centres. I didn’t like how much mental space it took up as I tried to figure out and execute the perfect timing for each step. It stopped feeling like it was worth it.
But last week, I came across the post in the sourdough subreddit that changed things for me. The author made the point that baking sourdough is something that’s been happening for thousands of years — long before thermometers, fancy le crueset bakeware, or well-calibrated electric ovens. It’s supposed to be easy. She outlined a method where you just mix everything in one step, plop it on the counter for a long rise, and then bake it.
Freaking. Brilliant. After all those months of practicing and experimenting and nit-picking… what finally gave me the perfect rise and crumb was keeping things dead simple, with a tiny amount of starter and a good long rise. It also means that I was able to get rid of my huge tub of starter; now it lives in the fridge in a tiny jelly jar and I only feed it once a week.
I also realised that my kitchen is cold. During the fall and winter, we keep the house at 68F, which does not kill the yeast but definitely slows it down considerably. I had been trying to make sourdough after letting my dough rise on the counter for about six hours. As it turns out, I needed to triple that number. So here is my method for a long, slow rise in a chilly kitchen.
500 grams flour
20 grams unfed starter (yes: a teeny amount and straight from the fridge!)
10 grams sea salt
355 grams tepid filtered water
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until there are no dry spots left.
Do four sets of stretches and folds, spaced 15-30 minutes apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise on the counter for 18 hours (I start the process at noon to bake a little after 6 am the next morning).
In the morning, your dough should have at least doubled. Place your baking vessel and lid (I used a casserole dish) in the oven and preheat to 500F.
30 minutes after the oven turns on, preshape your dough on the counter and let it rest.
15 minutes after preshape, do your final shape and pop it into the baking vessel — don’t forget your oven mitts! Turn the oven down to 450 F.
Bake 25 minutes, then remove lid of baking vessel. Bake an additional 25-30 minutes until your crust reaches the desired colour. Turn oven off, and leave bread in the oven with the door cracked for about an hour.
Remove to cooling rack and let finish cooling completely before slicing — this may take a few hours but it will be worth it. Then slice and enjoy!
We went to the orchard today! Well, not “the” orchard — there are plenty of those around here — but to the one that we’ve now gone to twice, thus giving it default status in my brain. You know how it is. It was a lovely warm fall day, and after some picking and some playing on the playground and hay bales, we came home with a good 15 lbs or so of apples: mostly Empire, some Mutsu.
And what do we do with that many apples? We make cake. I tweaked the recipe I used a fair bit, so here is my variation of “Roman Apple Cake” from an old copyof the More-with-Less Cookbook.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup milk
3/4 tsp vanilla
3 large apples, peeled and chopped
Mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, lightly beat oil, egg, milk, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir until well combined. Fold in chopped apples.
Scrape batter into a greased 9″ cake pan. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve warm with applesauce or ice cream.