Saturday 14 December 2013

Home Baked Bread: A High Fibre Loaf

At last I am back in my favourite kitchen. Home. After two months away and many culinary adventures later, I am back in my own homely little kitchen.

The words do have a cosy ring to it, much like the Mole's place in The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Your own place has this feeling of home.

Having been away for so long, I had this primordial urge for proper bread. I crossed a mental hurdle just before my departure on the last voyage, so the missus hasn't tasted the version of bread I now bake. I purchased a copy of Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice some time ago and studied it. You have to open and study the book.

Which means reading intensively several times. Especially the part about what happens when you start mixing flour, water, salt and yeast. I had ample chance to experiment on the voyage, mostly successfully and often very successfully. The challah I made on board could be the best loaf I made to date. I shall certainly strive to top that one.

This time around I decided on a plain and simple loaf. Light Wheat Bread is the heading in the book. The recipe in the book requires whole wheat flour. I do not have flour with crushed wheat, so I used brown bread flour instead. The flours that I use are whole grain, stone ground, unbleached, non-GMO anyway, with the brown bread flour having ample wheat husks to give the loaf a rustic coarseness. Long words to describe decent, old fashioned coarse flour.

I followed the recipe reasonably to the point. I had to use whole milk instead of the three dessert spoons milk powder prescribed in the book. Otherwise the mix is easy and the directions for decision points are clear and easily understandable.

Here at home it is high summer now, with temperatures in the late twenties and early thirties Celcius. There is some mercy, though, in that we have the famous Cape Doctor. The south easterly trade winds, funneling into a near gale over the local Hottentot's Holland mountain range and across False Bay almost every day, cooling us down a bit.

Needless to say, the high temperatures make for very short rising and proofing times. You need to pay attention to the happenings inside the proofing box. Perhaps this fast proofing also makes for less flavour, but that one I shall test when I have space in the refrigerator for a large blob of dough and overnight proofing.

Ingredients for two medium sized loaves

2 ½ cups white bread flour
1 ½ cups brown bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 dessert spoons brown sugar
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons (10g) instant yeast
2 dessert spoons vegetable fat (shortening)
1 ¼ cups water at room temperature


Stir together the dry ingredients, then add the water until the dough becomes sticky. Allow five to ten minutes for the dough to develop gluten, then rub in the shortening. The version of shortening that I use is quite hard, so I have to really let it thaw, then rub it into the dough.

Mix the dough thoroughly and make sure that it is reasonably soft and elastic. Knead this until the dough is satiny. Do a window pane test, as Peter Reinhart describes it. Stretch a piece of the dough so it thins out and becomes translucent. The dough should hold this easily. If not, he dough is too dry or too soft. You will know. Add flour or water as needed, knead it in and check again.

When the dough is ready, pat it with some cooking oil against drying out, then cover it and allow to rise for an hour or three. In my case an hour and twenty minutes was sufficient time for the dough to triple in volume.

Knead it down and shape it as required. I divided the dough into two equal pieces, shaped them and popped them into rectangular bread tins. This was covered with a damp cloth and allowed to proof until the dough was standing above the rims of the bread tins. This took about twenty minutes in the conditions prevailing in my kitchen.

Pop the loaves into a pre-heated oven at 230ºC/450ºF, spray a fine mist of water into the oven, leave to bake for five minutes, then spray water again. Turn the oven down to 190ºC/375ºF after ten minutes and bake the loaves for another thirty minutes. If you made thinner loaves, the baking time will be less, so do check on the baking progress towards the end.

These loaves had a decent oven spring and sprung to one and a half times their starting volume again in the oven. The crust was crisp and chewy, with a wonderful soft and springy crumb. The vegetable fat I use for shortening makes for a much slower drying-out rate, so the loaves last a bit longer than overnight.

However, if you have hungry teenagers or sailors around when the loaves come out the oven, I doubt that you will have to worry about the storage life of the loaves...

And remember, use real butter.

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Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-12-14

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