Good Bread

January 12, 2014 bread 014

A vegetarian pizza made on home made Savory Lentil Bread

Bread is a staple of my vegetarian diet.  I love it warm from the oven.  Fragrant, home made bread is a comfort food, and yet most “diets” suggest that bread be among the first foods one should “give up.”  The white grocery store loaves may not be particularly healthy for us, but there are many ways to make home made bread nutritious and interesting.

Simple white bread, made with all white flour, has a fairly high glycemic index.  The glycemic index is a scale which rates foods based on how quickly they break down in the digestive system into simple sugars.  Foods which break down into sugars quickly leave us hungry again very quickly.  There is little nutritional value to them and much of their sugars end up stored in the body as fat.

Breads made with whole grains, and other healthy add-ins, have a much lower glycemic index, and provide more nutrition.  These breads can pack a lot of nutrition, make us feel full longer, and form the basis for a quick and nutritious meal.  One secret to weight loss relies on eating foods with a low glycemic index and high fiber.  By choosing such foods, one consumes few calories, feels full and satisfied longer, and takes in more nutrients.The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

Dried apricots and cherries, almonds, honey, and cinnamon pack nutrition into this holiday bread.

Dried apricots and cherries, almonds, honey, and cinnamon pack nutrition into this holiday bread.

Most any ingredient can be added to bread.  I’ve even made a delicious dark chocolate cherry bread on occasion!  Once you understand the basic principles of bread making, it is easy to craft a satisfying and nutritious bread.  My basic bread method comes from that developed by Dr. Jeff Hertzberg, MD, and pastry chef Zoe Francois, published in their books on crafting bread at home.

Many of us think about improving our diets and losing weight in January.  Beans, a low glycemic index food full of vitamins and protein, also contain fiber to help us feel full and lose weight.  I’ve added them to this healthy bread recipe in such a way that only the baker will know!  You’ll also find oatmeal, honey, rosemary, cheddar, and olive oil in this savory winter bread.  It looks and feels like “white bread,” but has a savory aroma, satisfying flavor, and is very high in protein.

To make this recipe even more versatile, you can bake it into a loaf for sandwiches or toast; shape it into dinner rolls; use it for pizza crust, or cook it on the griddle as Asian flat bread.

This dough is finished, and ready for its first proofing.  It should be covered with a damp tea towel and allowed to rise for about 2 hours.

This dough is finished, and ready for its first proofing. It should be covered with a damp tea towel and allowed to rise for about 2 hours.

This is a “Slow Bread” recipe.  Mix it on a day when you are unhurried and can enjoy the process of making bread.  Take your time combining the ingredients.  After the first rise, refrigerate the dough for at least two hours, or over night.  The dough is easier to handle chilled, and time chilling improves both the texture and flavor of this bread.  This recipe makes enough for three to four loaves.  You can mix it on Sunday, and then use the dough several times for different dishes during the week.

Savory Lentil Bread, cooled and ready to enjoy.

Savory Lentil Bread, cooled and ready to enjoy.

Savory Lentil Bread

Rinse 1 c. of red lentils, and combine with 4 cups of water in a large pot.  Add 1 c. of steel cut oats, 1 TB of dehydrated onion flakes, 1 tsp. of sea salt, and ½ tsp. of chopped dried Rosemary.  Bring to a boil, and allow to simmer at low heat for 20 minutes or so until the lentils are tender.  Remove from heat, and pour the mixture into a large bowl to cool.  This mixture must cool to room temperature before you proceed with the recipe.

The finished bread has an even texture.  See any trace of the lentils?  The yellow color comes from the chick pea flour and egg in the recipe.

The finished bread has an even texture. See any trace of the lentils or oatmeal? The yellow color comes from the chick pea flour and egg in the recipe.

When the lentils are cool, mix 1 large egg, ¼ c. sour cream, 1 ½  c. water, 2 TB of olive oil, and 2 TB honey together in a measuring cup.  Whisk until smooth.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine 2 c. white bread flour with ¼ c. vital wheat gluten, 1 ½ TB dry yeast, and 1 c. garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour.  Mix these dry ingredients well so the wheat gluten won’t clump together when the liquid ingredients are added. (You may also add a cup of white whole wheat bread flour if you wish.)   Stir in 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and an additional tsp. or so of sea salt.  (add salt to taste- I use a little less than most people like)

Pour the cooled lentil mixture into the flour, and then add the milk and egg mixture.  Stir to combine, and let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.  It should begin to look a little bubbly as the yeast is activated.  This is a very loose batter.  Begin adding in white bread flour, a cup at a time, and stir to combine with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.  Stir from the edges of the bowl towards the center, folding the dough over on itself.  Continue adding flour in this way until the dough forms a firm ball and has lost most of its stickiness, about 5 cups.  More flour may be needed, depending on the type of flour used and whether any whole wheat flour was added.

Allow the dough to rest on the counter away from drafts, loosely covered, for about two hours.  A slightly warm (under 100 F) oven is also a good place for the dough during this first proofing.  Cover the dough with a damp tea towel or a sheet of waxed paper, sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  The dough should double in size, and begin to fall back in on itself.

When the first proof is complete, use a rubber spatula to gently loosen the dough from the sides of the bowl, allowing it to collapse a few inches lower in the bowl, and then seal the bowl with plastic wrap and move to the refrigerator for two hours or more.  (I use a large Tupperware bowl, and use both the plastic wrap and the lid to seal the dough and prevent it from drying out.)

The beauty of this recipe is that you mix the bread once, when you have time, and then use the dough for different recipes over the next several days.  The dough will keep, sealed and refrigerated, for 7 to 10 days.

Begin the pizza toppings with olive oil, salt, and ground spices in a saute pan over medium high heat.

Begin the pizza toppings with olive oil, salt, and ground spices in a saute pan over medium high heat. The stout, made at a neighbor’s brewery here in Williamsburg, is for the cook, not the pizza.  

Sprinkle the chilled dough with ½ c. of flour, and dip a large knife in flour.  Use the knife to cut the dough into 4 fairly equal portions.  Remove one portion to a board sprinkled with bench flour.  Lightly stretch the edges of the dough to the bottom, forming a smooth round ball of floured dough.  Return the remaining dough to the refrigerator for another use.

Sauteing the sweet onions, mushrooms, and spinach allows their moisture to evaporate before adding them to the pizza.  Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs to bring out their flavors.

Sauteing the sweet onions, mushrooms, and spinach allows their moisture to evaporate before adding them to the pizza. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs to bring out their flavors.

For a loaf:  Shape the dough into a long oval, and place in a prepared loaf pan.  Allow to rise for an hour, loosely covered with waxed paper.  Preheat the oven to 400 F and brush the top crust with water, or egg white mixed with water.  Sprinkle the loaf with sea salt and sesame seeds.  Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

This is a whole bag of pre-washed organic baby spinach.  It will quicly reduce in volume, absorb wonderful flavors, and add tremendous nutrition to the pizza.

This is a whole bag of pre-washed organic baby spinach. It will quickly reduce in volume, absorb wonderful flavors, and add tremendous nutrition to the pizza.

For a pizza:  Flatten into a round, and then stretch or roll the dough to the desired size.  Form the pizza on a pizza peel to cook on a pizza stone, or form it into a pizza pan.  Add cheese, toppings, and bake at 450 F for about 20 minutes.

For rolls:  Cut the round of dough into 12 equal portions.  Shape each into a ball, and place into a prepared pan.  Loosely cover, and allow to rise out of drafts for 45 minutes to an hour.  Brush with melted butter, and bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes.  Make large sandwich rolls by dividing the dough into portions the size of a lime, and slightly flattening each roll after placing it into the pan.  Space these rolls a little further apart so they spread out slightly as they rise.  Brush the tops with diluted egg white or melted butter, and sprinkle with sea salt and any combinations of seeds and herbs you enjoy.

Stretch the dough to fit a pizza pan, or make a free form pizza on a wooden pizza peel.  My pizza stone is preheating in the oven.  This pan has a perforated bottom so the crust rests directly on the stone.

Stretch the dough to fit a pizza pan, or make a free form pizza on a wooden pizza peel. My pizza stone is preheating in the oven. This pan has a perforated bottom so the crust rests directly on the stone.

For flatbread:  Cut the dough into 10 or 12 equal portions, and roll each portion into a ball. Preheat a skillet or griddle to medium high heat.   Flatten each ball into a thin round with a rolling pin.  Brush each round with olive oil or melted butter, and sprinkle with additional salt, garlic powder, herbs, or other flavorings.  Cook each prepared flat bread for a couple of minutes on first one side, then the other, turning when the bread has lightly browned.  The bread should puff up and blister as it cooks.  Cook flat breads one or two at a time, depending on the size of the griddle, keeping them warm in a slightly warm oven until all are finished.

This is low fat whipped cream cheese, which makes a creamy and delicious base for the pizza.  I've sprinkled garlic powder and finely grated Parmesan over the entire crust, especially the edges.

This is low fat whipped cream cheese, which makes a creamy and delicious base for the pizza. I’ve sprinkled garlic powder and finely grated Parmesan over the entire crust, especially the edges.

Making our own bread gives us tremendous control over our own health and well-being.  We can enrich our breads with nutrient rich foods and whole grains, while leaving out the many non-pronounceable additives commercial bakeries use.  We bake our bread when we intend to use it so it is fresh, and doesn’t require a long list of preservatives.  We don’t have to wonder who has handled it ahead of us, or how much fuel was burned in getting it from the bakery to our table.

But mostly, making our own bread makes the house smell really good, and we all enjoy the anticipation of that first warm slice.

Recipes and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…  [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of  meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

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Making and Breaking Bread

November 21 finished bread 006

As the year turns towards Thanksgiving here in The United States we begin to dust off favorite recipes and think of favorite foods.  As there is less and less to occupy our time out in the garden, some of us turn back to the kitchen and enjoy projects a little more involved than hot coffee, tossed salad, and stir fried vegetables for dinner.

I have always loved good bread and the rich way it smells when baking.  I remember the peculiar smell of rolls baking on a German passenger ship when I was a child.   They were unbelievably delicious with fresh sweet butter.  Each country and continent seems to have very distinctive bread based on the grain it raises.   I was raised mostly on supermarket loaves and rolls, and one of my life’s ambitions was to learn to bake good bread in my own kitchen from yeast, water, salt and flour; no mixes or machines involved.Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

If you also love good bread, allow me to recommend the books by Dr. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day.  The good  doctor and his friend the pastry chef have developed a wonderful method for making bread at home with a minimal investment of time and effort, using only fresh, healthy ingredients.  This method is easy, does away with lengthy kneading, and offers recipes which actually improve with time as the dough rests in the refrigerator for up to a week.

The recipe I’m offering in this post is my personalization of the recipe for Stollen which Hertzberg and Francois published in their Healthy Bread book.

Michael published a beautiful recipe for his Christmas rum cake  on his blog earlier this week, which reminded me of this delicious rum scented holiday bread.  I’ve made the recipe many times over the last few years in late December, giving away most of the loaves to friends and family.

My dear friend was coming for tea this afternoon, and so it seemed a good day to make this Stollen, photograph the steps, and share the recipe with you. 

When you go to this much effort, it makes sense to make a large quantity at once.  This recipe makes four large loaves.  You could certainly divide the dough for one of the loaves into 6 or 12 portions and bake them in a muffin tin as small breakfast rolls.  You could also leave out the almond paste filling and bake the dough as a traditional loaf.   I baked these loaves today with all white bread flour.  You could ramp up the nutrition by substituting whole wheat flour for some of the white.November 21 finished bread 002

This is a very heavy, enriched dough.  If you choose to use whole wheat flour, please also add in the Vital Wheat Gluten called for in the variation in the recipe.  Bread flour has a much higher gluten content than all purpose flour, and so allows the bread to rise more.  The gluten is the protein which gives bread its structure.  Whole grain flours have less gluten than white, and so adding additional gluten into the whole grain flour allows the loaf to rise as though it was made only with bread flour.  The gluten must be mixed into the dry flour before the flour/gluten mixture is combined with any wet ingredients.  Bob’s Red Mill makes a beautiful gluten product usually available wherever that brand is sold.  It is also available online.

“Enriched dough” means that you’ve added eggs, fat, dairy, and sweetener to the basics of flour, salt, water, and yeast.  Many European style breads, especially for the holidays, are enriched breads.  They have a different aroma and texture from a basic Italian bread or sandwich bread.  They are chewier, softer, sweeter, and mildly fragrant.November 21 finished bread 004

The almond meal called for in the filling is also available from Bob’s Red Mill, but I buy it at Trader Joe’s.  You certainly could begin with raw almonds and grind up your own in a food processor or food mill.  You could also purchase Marzipan at the grocery and use it instead.  Otherwise, all of these ingredients are very easy to find.

So, here is my recipe for rum laced Stollen bread.  Feel free to make it without the rum by soaking the dried fruit in fruit juice, or even warm black tea, to plump it up before mixing it into the dough.  If you don’t soak it first, it will draw too much moisture out of the bread and your finished loaf won’t be as light and moist.

Holiday Fruit and Nut Rum Bread (makes 4 loaves)

Total time:  about 5 hours 

Ingredients:  Bread doughNove,mber 21 garden 003

2 c. water, 1c. half and half or coconut milk, and 1/2 c. spiced rum,  1 1/2 TB dried yeast,  1.5 c. dried fruit,  1. cup toasted nuts

6-7 c. bread flour, divided.  (You may substitute 2 c. white whole wheat flour plus ¼ c. Vital Wheat Gluten for 2 c. of the white bread flour if you wish.)  More flour is needed when forming the loaves

1 c. butter, divided,  ½ c. honey,  2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. salt, 1 TB ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground cloves, and ½ tsp. cardamomNove,mber 21 garden 039  

Confectioner’s sugar to finish, about 1/8 c. per loaf

Filling

2 c. ground almond meal, 1/2 c. softened butter, 1 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. almond flavoring, ½ tsp. pure Vanilla extract

Enriched dough includes eggs, butter, sweetener, and milk.  The batter looks golden because it has two whole eggs and 1/2 c. honey already mixed in.

Enriched dough includes eggs, butter, sweetener, and milk. The batter looks golden because it has two whole eggs and 1/2 c. honey already mixed in.

Preparation

Chop dried cherries and dried apricots, and place in a bowl with dried cranberries to total 1.5 c. of fruit.  Pour spiced rum to barely cover all fruit, about a half cup.  Loosely cover the bowl with waxed paper and allow it to stand in a warm place at least an hour as the fruit absorbs the rum.  (The red color of the cherries bleeds into the rum and makes the finished loaves brown.  Substitute chopped dates for the cherries to produce a lighter colored bread.)

Toast 1 cup of walnuts, pecans, or filberts in a 350F degree oven until fragrant.  Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

Dough

Mix the spices and salt into the flour before mixing into the wet ingredients.

Mix the spices and salt into the flour before mixing into the wet ingredients.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine 2 c. warm water, 1.5 TB dry yeast, ½ c. honey, and 1 c. bread flour.  Whisk to combine.  Stir in 2 beaten eggs, a cup of half and half or coconut milk, and 1/3 c. melted butter.  Measure 3 more cups flour onto the liquid ingredients.  Before stirring, measure 1 tsp. salt, 1 TB ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground cloves and ½ tsp. cardamom onto the flour.

Mix the fruit and nuts with flour before mixing them into the dough so they are well separated and suspended in the final dough.

Mix the fruit and nuts with flour before mixing them into the dough so they are well separated and suspended in the final dough.

Combine dry ingredients gently with a rubber spatula, and then stir them into the liquid to form a very loose dough.  Pour the fruit and remaining rum onto the dough along with the chopped nuts, and top the fruit with another cup of flour.  Gently mix the flour with the fruit and nuts, and then fold into the dough with strokes from the sides of the bowl into the center.

Add additional flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until the dough forms a ball and is no longer wet.  Fold the dough over from the edge of the bowl towards the center to stir in the flour.

Add additional flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until the dough forms a ball and is no longer wet. Fold the dough over from the edge of the bowl towards the center to stir in the flour.

Turn the bowl as you work, folding all ingredients into the dough.  Add flour ½ c. at a time until the dough comes together into a ball and is no longer wet looking.  (About 2 more cups)

Cover the dough with a sheet of waxed paper and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to sit in a warm place in the kitchen until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.

This dough is ready to cover and allow to rise.

This dough is ready to cover and allow to rise.

Either form the dough into loaves immediately, or cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to continue to develop in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before baking.  The dough is easier to work with if it sits in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before forming the loaves.

Filling

Almond filling

Almond filling

Combine 2 c. ground almonds, 1 c. confectioner’s sugar, and 1 stick of softened butter (1/2 c.) in  the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade.  Process to combine.  Add 1 tsp. of almond flavoring and ½ tsp. of pure Vanilla extract and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.  Use immediately, and refrigerate any leftover almond filling in an air tight container.  Allow to warm to room temperature before using again.

Cut the dough into four portions with a floured knife.

Cut the dough into four portions with a floured knife.

Assembling the Loaves:

Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, and plunge a large knife into flour to coat it.  Sprinkle 1/8th cup of flour onto your work surface.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the bowl of dough into 4 fairly equal portions, and remove one portion onto the floured work surface.  Nov 21 stollen bread 011The dough will be sticky, so coat all sides lightly in flour, and gently form into a ball.  Stretch and push the dough into a large oval, about 12 x 14”.  Form about 1/3 c. of almond filling into a long rope the length of the short side of the dough (about 11”) and place it about 4” in from the right edge.  Nov 21 stollen bread 014Lift the other side of the oval and drape it over the almond filling.  Form a second rope of filling and place it on the dough, about 3” in from the left edge.  Lift the free end of the oval and drape it back across the filling towards the left.  You will have a loaf 3 layers of dough thick, folded accordion style.  Gently transfer the loaf onto the parchment covered baking pan.

Repeat with the other 3 sections of the dough to make up to 4 loaves.  The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days if you decide to bake only part of it at a time.Nov 21 stollen bread 016

These loaves have risen for 40 minutes, and have been brushed with an egg wash.  They are ready to bake.

These loaves have risen for 40 minutes, and have been brushed with an egg wash. They are ready to bake.

Proofing and preparing to bake.

Cover the loaves with a sheet of waxed paper and allow them to rise for an additional 30-45 minutes if the dough was room temperature, 60-75 minutes if the dough was chilled.  Placing the loaves in a slightly warm or unheated oven will speed the process.

(Remove the loaves from the oven) Preheat the empty oven to 400 F.  Whisk an egg white with 1 TB of water, and brush on to the loaves just before putting them into the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the loaves are nicely browned.

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November 21 finished bread 003

 

Cool the finished loaves on a rack, and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.  The loaves slice best when allowed to cool completely.

Still warm, and with a cup of chai, these beautiful loaves are a heart warming treat.  They are especially good served with sharp cheddar or a savory cream cheese spread.  Please don’t wait until Christmas to make these beautiful fruit and nut studded loaves for your family.  Celebrate this season of abundance with healthy bread, filled with nuts and dried fruit, beginning now.

 

November 21 finished bread 009

Cheers!

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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