I am not usually the kind of person that would encourage you to bake your own bread. I mean… Lidl is right there… and that bakery will save your life sometimes…
However, when the rain comes down and the dog stays in, I get idle hands. And if it’s a decision between cleaning the bathroom or baking something, I will don an apron. I sure will.
This particular loaf was a scrambling of ideas. One of those tinker around and hopefully come up with something decent as I usually find myself doing on any given weekend. The tinkering actually led to something I am quite proud of.
Don’t let the practice of bread making put you off making one to begin with. Sometimes with cooking you have to distinguish what is hard work and what is long work (these two can be divorced concepts in the Kitchen) and I’m delighted to tell you, this loaf is neither.
It’s easy work and comes together in minutes. Yes there’s a bit of resting time where the loaf needs to sit by itself and double in size, but in that time you can go rest elsewhere. Or clean that bathroom… naaaah…
Flavour wise, yes it’s a wholemeal loaf. Not just because I had the bag and needed to use it up, but I’m finding that the nutty, earthy flavour of wholemeal is something I tend to crave in these turbulent weathers. It’s more warming.
The beer gives a maltiness to the loaf which is sometimes missing with fudgy white loaves but I didn’t want to be eating a foam textured pint, so the addition of honey gives a sweet mellowness to slice.
Now this won’t produce a loaf of bread that is perfect for sandwiches or delicate afternoon tea stuff. It’s a dense, fudgy loaf that needs to be enjoyed warm with nothing more than a lick of butter and a then a crunch of salt on top. I like Halen Mon’s Smoked Salt myself!
Pour 330ml of beer into a jug – I used an American IPA but you could go for any amber coloured ale.
Add a tablespoon of honey and one 7g sachet of dry yeast to the jug, stir everything together and leave to one side.
In a big ol’ bowl combine 300g of wholemeal flour with 100g of plain flour and toss in 50g of oats, 25g of pumpkin seeds, 25g of sunflower seeds and a good sprinkle of salt. Fork all of this together.
Pour in the yeasty beer and mix everything together in the bowl. It will feel quite sticky and tacky but don’t worry.
Turn this sticky mess out onto a work surface which you’ve sprinkled some flour on to. Start kneading the dough, adding little fingerfuls of wholemeal flour as you go until the dough starts to tighten up a little. This should take about 5 minutes but once the dough starts coming together a little (but is still a little sticky) pop it back in the bowl.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and put it somewhere warm for an hour and a half, an airing cupboard would be fine. I’ve also balanced mine on a warming radiator… needs and musts.
After the hour and a half is done, take the bowl out of its warm hiding place and turn the dough back out onto the floured work surface. It would have doubled in size now, which with many things in life, is a great thing.
Knead a little bit again to tighten the dough once more before placing it on a lined baking tray. Cover it with the towel and hide again but only for the time it takes you to preheat the oven to 200c and in this time, boil your kettle.
Once the half hour is up, take your dough on it’s tray out of its hiding place. Make a few slashes in the top (I just use a scissors and cut and X into the top) and sprinkle with some more flour.
Take your boiled kettle and pour some water into a deep baking tray. Carefully place this at the bottom of your oven and then slide your uncovered, slit and floured loaf into the middle.
The water bath creates steam, which makes the starch on the surface of your dough burst into little starchy pockets. This then creates a gel on your dough which crunches up in the heat of the oven. This turns crackly and makes a really crusty crust for your bread.
Bake your loaf for about 40-45 minutes, but you’ll know when it’s done when you can tilt the loaf, tap the bottom and it sounds hollow. Allow to rest for a little bit, maybe 15 minutes if you have the patience before slicing and enjoying.