Making bread to While Away the Time

Recently I have been playing around with yeast breads that are light on the kneading and the time commitment demanded of traditional breads. When this pandemic began I was working with a newly acquired cookbook, Ready, Set, Dough: Beginner Breads for all Occasions.

white-loaf-button flavour-loaf-button

Where have I been? What have I been up to?

The answer is one, perfectly beautiful granddaughter who will soon be a year old.

As well as cooking, baking, and recipes, I have long standing loves for needle arts. Basically, if it can be done with needles, I do it – sewing, dressmaking, knitting, smocking, needlepoint, cross stitch, and quilting. With a new baby, I was able to indulge all of these interests. I really love making things for babies and young children because they yield maximum results with a small commitment of time and materials and provide the maker with unlimited pleasure. Last Spring, my daughter Deanna captured most of these efforts for the record.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Countless sweaters and a crib quilt are some of the creations that have been added since. And if this stay at home continues much longer, my granddaughter will have enough sweaters to last her through elementary school!

Throughout, I have remained busy in the kitchen, reading and trying recipes, cooking through the holiday season last December and, as always, experimenting with all the elements that make for a fabulous taste experience.

Now, back to blogging!

With everyone staying in, bread-making seems to have become a national pastime. Along with toilet paper, flour and yeast are among the depleted grocery store items, driving some to experiment with sourdough starters.

Bread making and the wonderful smell of baking bread is in my blood. My Nain’s white rolls (like baps) were eagerly awaited at the baking table at the Welsh church’s fall bazaar.

My own mother wasn’t really into bread making but she always knew where to find bakeries that produced great breads, buns, and bagels. As a child, when we were at the cottage, we got our bread from Don’s Bakery in Bala. Along with their famous scones, they made a large, towering white loaf with a top crust so dark it was almost black. That was my favourite! Somewhere along the line they stopped making it and I have yet to find another bakery that makes such a loaf.

I love bread making and have been doing it for years. There have been some summers that I  made bread almost every day, putting it out in the sun to raise (and keeping a sharp eye on the chipmunks) or on grey and rainy days, popping it in the oven with the light on.

Recently I have been playing around with yeast breads that are light on the kneading and the time commitment demanded of traditional breads. When this pandemic began I was working with a newly acquired cookbook, Ready, Set, Dough: Beginner Breads for all Occasions. The initial recipes have the process down to combining the basic ingredients (about 2 minutes), kneading (4 minutes either by hand or machine), rising (15 minutes), and bake (40 minutes, starting in a cold oven) – not more than 10 minutes of active work and just over an hour from start to finish. For those baking with young children, whose patience might be tried by the hours long process of traditional bread making, this approach yields about as close to instant gratification as you can get.


AsideFor those home schooling, baking bread offers many learning opportunities for children and touches on several areas of the curriculum (social studies, math, science, and literacy). In my kindergarten classroom we had a large group of children, refugees from Syria, who spoke no English. Bread is common to every culture and so we baked bread to create common bonds and connections. A discussion before we started, enabled us to collect and chart what we thought we already knew about bread and capture our questions. We talked about this being one of the ways scientists work. Throughout the process, we observed the different ingredients – how they looked, felt, smelled – and how they interacted with each other.The children observed the changes created by the addition of water to the dry ingredients, the changes wrought through kneading, the effects of heat on the dough. While we enjoyed our freshly baked bread, we returned to our chart to compare our experience and observations with what we had thought, to see if our questions had been answered, and to add new learning and observations to our chart. Older siblings could assist with the chart making.


Not one to leave a recipe alone, I used the techniques of the basic bread recipe but veered off to do my own thing. Substituting mayonnaise for the 2 tbsp of olive oil in the original recipe yielded a more tender, slightly more flavourful loaf. Using two eggs, lightly beaten, as part of the 2 cups of water, produced a slightly denser, crustier bread. Both breads were delicious and vanished in the blink of an eye.

Now I was ready to be more daring.

8
Turning left-over bread into crisps – a delicious way to use the whole loaf

I wanted a loaf with more complex flavours but the same quick and easy approach. To achieve this, I substituted rye flour for some of the all-purpose and added allspice, grated orange peel, and fennel seeds. I also cut the water with some fancy molasses and substituted canola oil for the olive oil called for in the original recipe. The resulting loaf was boldly flavoured and the only change I would make going forward would be the addition of a handful of dark Thompson raisins. This bread lasted well for four or five days (mainly it survived that long because my son Peter does not like the licorice flavour of fennel). On day five, I thinly sliced the remaining bread and dried it in a low oven to make crisps. I can also imagine using this bread, cut into smallish squares, as the base for a canapé.

The cookbook I have been working with – Ready, Set, Dough: Beginner Breads for all Occasions — has several savory variations on the basic bread that are excellent and it also contains breads that have a more conventional approach. If you are looking for a book on bread, I’d certainly recommend this one.

A note before starting: the recipe uses both cup and weight measures. I find that the more accurate measure by weight (especially when using so much flour), generally results in a better end product. So many factors – such as the humidity in the air on a given day, how compacted the flour is in the measuring cup, etc – can have a significant effect on the amount of flour. Measuring by weight eliminates these variables that can adversely affect your baking. I use the weight measurements for all ingredients as appropriate. If you do not have a scale, the recommended method is to fluff up the flour in the bag then lightly spoon it into your measuring cup (be sure to use a dry measure cup), heaping it up a bit, then leveling it off with the flat edge of a knife.

Now – on to the bread!

white loaf - final-2

White Loaf

Button-PrintVersion-LowRes

  • Makes: 2 loaves
  • Time:
    • Mixing – Approx. 10 min
    • Rising – 15 min
    • Baking – 40 min
    • Resting – 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups (723 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp (24 g) instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp (18 g) Kosher salt or 1 ½ tsp table salt
  • 2 tbsp (25 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 cups very warm water (about 120F)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Yeast and salt do not like each other, so place them on opposite sides of the bowl. With a whisk, stir everything together. Add mayonnaise and water and, using a wooden spoon, mix everything together into a scraggly dough. There will still be a lot of flour not mixed in.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and begin to knead the dough, working in the loose flour. Continue kneading until it all comes together and forms a smooth dough. This will take no more than 4 minutes whether you do it by hand or machine.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  3. Place the dough back in the bowl (no need to clean it), cover with a tea towel, and put in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the oven with the oven light on. Let it rise for 15 minutes.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  4. Gently punch the dough down and divide in half.
  5. You can either shape the dough onto two free form loaves and bake on opposite ends of a parchment lined baking sheet or shape the dough into loaves and place in lightly greased loaf pans.
  6. With a sharp knife, make three slashes, about ¼ of an inch deep, in the top of each loaf. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over each loaf. Place the loaves on the middle rack of a COLD OVEN. It is very important that the oven is cold.
  7. Place a pan of hot tap water on the rack below the bread.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  8. Set the oven on 400F and bake the dough for 40 minutes.
  9. After 40 minutes, the bread will look risen and golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on top. I have never found the bread to take more than the 40 minutes. Removed the bread from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Variations:

  1. Replace mayonnaise with 2 tbsp vegetable oil.
  2. Replace the water with 2 cracked large eggs, at room temperature. Place the eggs into a measuring cup and beat with a fork until the whites and yolks are combined. Add sufficient hot water to make 2 cups of liquid. Proceed as described above.

Loaf-final-lr-2

My Flavour Explosion Bread

Button-PrintVersion-LowRes

  • Makes: 2 loaves
  • Time:
    • Mixing – Approx. 10 min
    • Rising – 15 min
    • Baking – 40 min
    • Resting – 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 140g (1 ½ cups) rye flour
  • 583g (4 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 25g instant yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 18g Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground allspice
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (one heaping tbsp)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • ⅓ cup fancy molasses
  • 1 ⅔ cup hot water (about 120⁰F)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, allspice, orange zest, and fennel. Yeast and salt do not like each other, so place them on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine. Next, stir in the raisins.
  2. Place the molasses in a liquid measuring cup and fill with enough hot water to make 2 cups. Stir together.
  3. Pour the water/molasses mixture into the flour mixture and stir together to make a scraggly dough.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and begin to knead the dough, working in the loose flour. Continue kneading until it all comes together and forms a smooth dough. This will take no more than 4 minutes whether you do it by hand or machine.
  5. Place the dough back in the bowl (no need to clean it), cover with a tea towel, and put in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the oven with the oven light on. Let it rise for 15 minutes.
  6. Gently punch the dough down and divide in half.
  7. You can either shape the dough onto two free form loaves and bake on opposite ends of a parchment lined baking sheet or shape the dough into loaves and place in lightly greased loaf pans.
  8. With a sharp knife, make three slashes, about ¼ of an inch deep, in the top of each loaf. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over each loaf. Place the loaves on the middle rack of a COLD OVEN. It is very important that the oven is cold.
  9. Place a pan of hot tap water on the rack below the bread.
  10. Set the oven on 400F and bake the dough for 40 minutes.
  11. After 40 minutes, the bread will look risen and golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on top. I have never found the bread to take more than the 40 minutes. Removed the bread from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

One thought on “Making bread to While Away the Time”

  1. Luckily we were able to squeeze a large bag of flour in our car for our journey down East. Plus yeast.

    So at this point I can do the first recipe but not the second as getting pour is still iffy. So specialty flour would be even iifier right now.

    I gather even in Italy currently pasta would be limited to six basic shapes rather than the full cornucopea

    So better than when the Model T introduction when customers could get any colour as long as it was black.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s