New Ways with Bread

New ways with bread

Up in my mountain cabin during the holiday season I certainly long for that slice of whole grain fresh baked bread with my cup of coffee or tea after a round on the cross country skis. The only problem is that, well, I am on holiday and don’t feel like spending energy on kneading dough. I haven’t got a bread mixer up here and although I know that kneading dough can be therapeutic once you get into it, I’m looking for other, less demanding, ways to come up with a great loaf of fresh bread.

Perusing the holiday season magazines, I stumbled upon an idea which I have subsequently tried out and found to work beautifully. It takes time but not a great deal of exertion and produces wonderful, moist bread. This approach to bread baking is one that I call “Stretch and moisten” as opposed to “Knead, knead and rise”.  The lead idea here is that instead of standing kneading for a half an hour and developing sore arms, you stretch out the dough with a moistened hand in half hour intervals. Continually splashing over water during the baking phase completes the process. Here’s how to get a delicious walnut bread that everyone in the family will appreciate.

Walnut Bread (the stretch and moisten way)
makes one loaf

2-3 dl or 1 cup walnuts, broken up into smaller pieces
1 dl or 1/2 cup fine rye flour
5 1/2 dl or 2 1/2 cups white flour
3 tsps dry yeast
1.5 cups cold water
2 tablespoons honey

Blend the yeast with the water. Add all other ingredients aside from walnuts. Using one hand, blend into a smooth dough. Add walnuts and knead until mixed into the dough. Before leaving the dough to rise for the first half hour, take the whole lump of dough into one hand and, wetting the other hand, draw out from one angle and fold back into the center. Repeat the same action until you have gone around the entire lump of dough. Leave to rise for a half an hour and repeat the same procedure. Do this a total of three times, leaving the bread to rise for a half an hour between each time that you stretch and moisten the dough. Eventually fold over the dough into a loaf and leaf to rise for an hour. Stretch, moisten and fold over the dough one last time, sprinkle with a little extra rye flour and leave to rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the dough on a baking sheet, sprinkle with water and bake 25 minutes, reducing the temperature to 200 C as soon as you place the loaf in the oven. Sprinkle with water two further times during the baking period. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Enjoy!

Based on the original recipe by Martin Johansson with some modifications to adjust to cup measurements. If you read Swedish, you’ll definitely want to check out Martin’s blog and his upcoming book, Enklare Bröd, about bread baking.

Written by Admin in: Bread,Nuts,Walnuts | Tags: ,

Dinkel, dinkel little star

Add 2 dl/1 cup to your usual sourdough recipe for better results

While everyone has been focusing on best techniques for preparing Easter lamb, I’ve been thinking about how to freshen up my diet for the spring. One way to do that is to reduce the amount of refined white flour and to introduce more fiber, fruits and vegetables. I do, however, love that nice slice of sourdough bread (search for recipes in this blog) and find it hard to give up that zone of my culinary life. There is a way, however, to include that slice or two and improve the quality of your diet. Dinkel or spelt is one answer.

First a little background on dinkel. It’s been grown for consumption in northern Europe for the past 3000 years making it one of our oldest grains. During the 19th century and into the 20th production of spelt reduced considerably as it was more labor-intensive to produce than our modern white flour.  Thanks to the continuation of limited production in southern Germany and Switzerland, dinkel was kept alive as a healthy grain alternative.

Dinkel offers excellent benefits from both health and environmental points of view. First, I need to clarify one misunderstood issue: dinkel is easier for people who are gluten-intolerant to consume, but it isn’t gluten-free. In contrast to regular wheat flour, dinkel contains essential nutrients not only in the husk but also inside the grain. These include essential amino acids, vitamins B1 and B2 and several essential minerals such as iron, copper and zinc. In comparison to whole wheat flour, the nutritional differences are not as great until you examine the environmental differences. The husk of spelt protects it from spoilage by many of the pests and diseases that afflict regular wheat. For this reason it is easier to grow biodynamically. Spelt is also less demanding on the soil, growing even in poor soils.

As we learn increasingly that the key to meeting our nutritional needs into the future rests partly on bringing greater diversity into our diets, I cannot recommend trying spelt more. While you can purchase it in the form of flour and use it in baking just as you would any regular flour, I suggest trying to integrate it into salads and as a side dish in meals as a substitute for whatever starch you would otherwise consume with your meal. If you are going to try it, you’ll need to remember that the whole grains you purchase from your local grocery will need to be soaked overnight and then cooked over low heat for an hour or so to be ready to used in preparing breads and other dishes. While this preparation time might seem long, you can prepare a batch for the week and store it in a tupperware container to use whenever you need it.

As we enter into a season where we’ll be able to enjoy tomatoes and parsley grown closer to home, I thought of the following simple lunchtime salad recipe which is also a very satisfying accompaniment.

Dinkel & Tomato Salad
(Serves 4)

4 dl or 2 cups whole dinkel, soaked and cooked
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Parsley for garnishing
150 g  or 5 oz feta cheese
For the dressing:
1 dl or 1/2 cup rapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsps water
Pinch of salt and pepper

Combine the prepared dinkel, tomatoes and chopped parsley in a mixing bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients in a clean, empty jar with a lid. Screw on the lid tightly and shake so that the dressing blends smoothly. Pour the dressing over the dinkel mixture. Place the dinkel mixture on a serving dish, crumble over the feta cheese and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

Baka med Spelt

If you can read Swedish and have been looking for the ultimate dinkel recipe book you can now order Gotland Dinkelcentrum’s book by Icelandic Sophia Bövarsdottir which provides 87 pages of dinkel recipes! Let me know if you can find a good English equivalent that I can recommend.


Honey Rye Sourdough Bread

Food of Love

Food of Love

I have to concede that I am what Swedes call a “höns mamma” (hen mother). On Valentine’s Day I want everyone at home with the unifying aroma of honey rye sourdough bread emanating from the oven and floating around them throughout the house. When we enjoy it together with the crumbs scattering quickly across the kitchen table as we laugh together in this most important of rooms, this bread feels like love itself. I’m without my bread mixer at the moment, you see. So, I have kneaded this bread by hand on a pastry kneading board that has been the birth place of great breads for the past hundred years or more . I have found that kneading is not an inconvenience if you really focus on it and don’t constantly think of the next thing. It is an act of love. However, if you’ve got a bread mixer, you need not look at it longingly as you knead (excuse my pun on words) for fear of not being able to deliver the same feeling to your family and love ones. Go ahead and use it!

Here is my best recipe for rye sourdough with a touch of honey to give it that lovely gentle flavor. A note about rye: it’s a good idea to try consuming more of this in your diet of grains or at least blending rye with wheat varieties of flour as this recipe does. Consuming rye flour breads has some clear benefits over eating mainly white flour breads as they include insoluble fibers which assist digestion and reduce blood fat levels.

The touch of honey that I’ve put into this bread has a dual effect. It helps the bread to rise and to become airy and elastic along with the sourdough and touch of yeast. It also gives the bread a smoother, more mature flavor compared with breads made with sweet baking syrup. Make sure you choose honey that is raw – meaning it hasn’t been heated. That way you preserve its yeasting qualities for the bread.

In this recipe I’m using the sourdough culture which you should make sure you’ve already got waiting for you in the refrigerator. Preparing it takes about a week of waiting (but not much work). Read about it in my entry for sourdough earlier this February.

Honey Rye Sourdough Bread
(makes two loaves)

5 dl or 2 cups fine ground rye flour
4 dl or 1 3/4 cups fine ground wheat flour
2 dl or 3/4 cup stoneground wheat flour or Grahamsmjöl
1 dl or 1/3 cup wheat germ
2 dl or 3/4 cup rye sourdough
25 g or 0.9 oz dry yeast for savoury doughs
2 tbsps honey
2 tbsps salt
4 dl or 1/3/4 cups lukewarm water
2 dl or 3/4 cup extra fine ground wheat flour for kneading (if you are using a bread mixer this can be used as extra flour if the dough is too sticky)

Combine flours, wheat germ and yeast in a mixing bowl or bread mixer. Add sourdough, honey and water. Knead into a smooth dough with one hand, keeping the other one free to add a bit of white flour and reduce stickiness. If using a bread mixer, blend at low speed for 2 minutes. If kneading by hand, scatter a bit of the spare flour onto a kneading board or wooden surface and knead the dough on this for about 10-15 minutes. If using a bread mixer, mix on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Add salt towards the end of the kneading process. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and allow to rise for 6-8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven to 250 C or 482 F. Split the dough into two, form into rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Cut a cross into the middle of the bread with scissors (for aesthetic purposes only – not a must). Scatter over a bit of extra stoneground wheat flour. Cover with the kitchen towel. Place near the warming oven and allow to rise for an hour or two. Reduce the oven heat to 200 C or 390 F and spray or sprinkle the dough with water just before sliding the baking tray with the bread rounds into the lower shelf of the oven. Allow to bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread is crispy and browned but not burned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Enjoy lukewarm with a bit of butter or margarine and a hot cup of tea, coffee or drinking chocolate.

I love listening to the radio while I am kneading dough. It is a wonderful break from the hectic day! I like to partake in this unusual little relaxation technique before going to bed. That way the bread can rise while I am sleeping and be put into the oven to bake the next morning.

Happy Valentine’s!

Written by Julie in: Bread,Grains,Rye,Savoury Food,Wheat | Tags: , ,

Be a Sour Belly

Light Wheat Flour Sourdough

Light Wheat Flour Sourdough

When German settlers crossed the Great Plains into the Wild West they did it often with a small sack of fermenting sourdough tucked near their tummies. In this way they could keep their beloved sourdough just at the right temperature for the healthy and tasty cultures in the sourdough to stay alive. As a result of this cultural habit that they could not leave behind, they became known as the Sour Bellies. Since then, the world has fallen in love with sourdough breads. Particularly in the northern parts of Scandinavia and Finland, dark rye sourdough is a favorite.

Why use sourdough in bread baking? Not only does the bread take on that great, tangy flavor, but you can use less yeast which frequently can give bread an unpleasant, overbearing flavor. From a health point of view, breads using sourdough cultures are better for your digestion than breads that do not use it. If you are using rye or whole grains to make the bread then there are all of the heart and digestive benefits of using those ingredients.

Making and maintaining a sourdough culture is the easiest thing you can imagine if you keep a few basic principles in mind. 1) Sourdough doesn’t like drastic changes of temperature (although it should be stored in the refrigerator once prepared). Keep it at an even temperature in your kitchen. 2) “Feed” your sourdough with new flour and water once a week. If you don’t, the culture you have created in the sourdough cannot survive. 3) Keep your sourdough in a clean, sealed container. If it begins to look discolored, do not use it.

Most of the time, I have both lighter wheat flour and darker rye flour sourdoughs on the go in my kitchen form making lighter and darker breads. Here is how to make them:

Light Wheat Flour Sourdough

Day 1:
2.5 dl or 1 cup white flour
2 dl or 3/4 cups water
1 tbsp grated apple
Blend in a clean glass container. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand somewhere warm in your kitchen (e.g. above your refrigerator, near your stove) for two days.

Day 3:
1.5 dl or 1/2 cup white flour
1 dl or 1/3 cup water
Add these ingredients to your sourdough which should already be bubbling with microbes. Cover once again and place as before.

Day 4:
Repeat as for Day 3.

Day 5:
Ready to use for baking. The sourdough should be something like the consistency of waffle batter. Once you have used some of the sourdough in your bread recipe, replenish the sourdough culture with flour and water  as for days 3 and 4, above. Keep refrigerated.

Dark Rye Sourdough

Day 1:
2.5 dl or 1 cup rye flour
2 dl or 3/4 cup water
1 tbsp grated apple
Blend and handle as for light wheat sourdough.

Day 3:
1 dl or 1/3 cup rye flour
1 dl or 1/3 cup water
Blend and handle as for light wheat sourdough.

Day 4:
1 dl or 1/3 cup rye flour
1 dl or 1/3 cup water
Blend and handle as for light wheat sourdough.

Day 5:
Your rye sourdough is ready for use. It should be a slightly thicker consistency than the light wheat sourdough. Use, store and maintain as for light wheat sourdough.

Now I’m off to bake some sourdough bread. So, prepare these sourdough cultures during the coming days and return to my kitchen after that to pick up some of my very best sourdough bread recipes which I will be entering shortly.

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