Let's talk about bread!

I must admit I am coming from the society with the bread cult - this was one of the must-haves on almost every celebratory and day-to-day table. Until American traditions started to catch up with us too, it was bread not a wedding cake that was taking the central stage during celebrations.

When I joined low-carb dieters ranks some time ago, giving up bread was  the most difficult thing for me. And it is still one of my favorite "treats" when I let myself loose. I guess, everyone has his favorites, mine are dark rye types, well, when choosing from sour ones. When it comes to sweet breads, I like all of them and they like me too, because they tend to stay on my waistline forever :) 

I guess, when your living style involves crossing borders quite often, finding bread exactly as it "used to be at home" is difficult. In the US and the UK the soggy loafs which got "endless" shelflives are not to my taste at all. Ok, one can shop in the "Artisan" section, but quite frankly I don't understand the thick crusts and puffy insides of those and the fact that they go tough and crumbly within hours too.  I liked Swedish and German breads, maybe because they got a variety of rye types too. But, at the end, the best way to get your favorite bread is to bake it yourself!

Some think that bread baking is a huge headache, but, with the vast selection of breadmaking machines on the market, bread baking will take probably 10 min of your time when the bread is baked inside the machine and about 20 min when you use the machine only for the dough and bake the bread in the oven. I usually prefer baking outside the machine and use it only for the dough mixing, because most of the machines got very standard baking set-ups and the "brick" shape of its bowl is not always appropriate. Some time ago, I bought a rather expensive standing food mixer only because of its dough function, but it was a big disappointment - the mixing required constant supervision and it was so noisy! I got my JMB breadmachine for £10 from relocating neighbors and it has been serving me for about 9 years now reliably and headache free. Actually, the simpler and smaller your breadmaker is the better. I bought an upgraded version with two dough hooks for my sister and it didn't really work well.

Also, if you are investing in a breadmaker,  let me recommend you "The ultimate bread machine cookbook" by Jennie Shapter - it's AMAZING! Not only it contains a huge selection of fail proof bread recipes with amazing pictures, but it also has introductory section explaining all the basics to novices, illustrated "troubleshooting" section and different methods description. Every recipe I tried from there is a hit and treat for the eyes. The recipe I am going to share with you today is adapted from this book but contains few alterations to my taste and to reduce the number of ingredients required. I also bake this bread outside of the machine.

Finally, before I start sharing my recipe with you, my main secret to bread making is ...FRESH COMPRESSED YEAST! I am sorry, but all these dry and instant yeasts are rubbish when it comes to breadmaking, they are convenient but, when it comes to texture, shelf-life and taste, go fresh! You might not see fresh yeast on the supermarket shelves, but if your supermarket got its own bakery you can always ask there. We usually get ours in nearby Tesco and they give it for free!

My favorite dark rye bread recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 20 g of fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp of corn flour
  • 2 cup of rye flour
  • 3 cup of all purpose white flour
  • 2 Tbsp of  molasses or black treacle
  • 3 Tbsp of oats bran or porridge oats
  • 1 Tbsp of cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp of instant coffee
  • 0.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 cup of warm water
  • 2 Tbsp of sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp of caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp of sunflower seeds
  • 1.5 tsp of salt

Method

  1.  Mix together warm water and fresh yeast and then add the mixture into the breadmachine bowl. Afterwards, add treacle and oil to the bowl too.
  2. Set your machine to the "Dough" setting. Put all the remaining ingredients except for caraway and sunflower seeds on top of the liquid mixture and let your machine do all the mixing work for you.  Around the end of your mixing cycle take a look at your dough. Does it look similar to my first picture? The dough should be rather dense and with a bit of "shine" to it.  If it's still sticky and liquid, don't be afraid to add some additional wheat or rye flour - remember I mentioned before that different regions have different % of gluten in flour and it impacts the density of your dough. 30 sec before the end of mixing cycle add caraway and sunflower seeds.
  3. When the machine beeps and the dough is finished (I assume your dough setting includes rising time), remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured work surface. Knead the dough until all the air is out and shape it into the approximate shape of your baking form. Depending on what you have in hand you might need to use several baking pans. Place the dough in the lightly buttered bread pan, cover loosely with cling film or towel and place in a warm draft free place to rise.  Allow the dough to rise for about 1 to 1.5 hours. Don't expect too much rise though - this bread is rather dense in its structure.
  4. Preheat your oven to 240C, add some water either to the baking sheet or another baking pan below the one on which you plan to place the bread.  Moisten the surface of your bread (optionally you can sprinkle the surface with whatever seeds you have in hand: caraway, coriander or poppy) and then place it in the "steam" oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the water and reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for another 40 minutes (if you are using smaller or individual baking pans, you will need to use your judgement on the timings).
  5. When the bread is ready, cool it down for circa 10 min in the pan and then remove from the pan and cool down completely. Enjoy!