Yeast scares me. I have the worst luck with it. I admire those who can whip up a fresh loaf. In the past the buns I would try to make were super dense, or loaves too heavy. (Except for the hot cross buns from Easter Weekend!)
Ironically my first job was in a bakery! For two years I would get up at 4 am on weekends, and go into the shop early, help the baker, prep the store for opening and be done just after noon. It was around this time that my brother bought my mom a bread machine. She used to make fresh bread on Sundays. I couldn’t stand the smell of waking up to bread baking. “How can anyone not like the smell of bread baking?” you may ask. Well, I attribute it to working in the bakery (Kind of how I couldn’t stand movie theatre popcorn after working at a theatre).
Anyways back to the yeast…so because I never really felt the desire to make bread, I never really got the feel for making it. Now for some reason I finally have got the bug. Maybe it is the world of blogging, reading about everyone’s triumphs, or maybe it is because I am really enjoying making everything that I can from scratch…regardless I want to start testing the waters.
So as my first attempt I chose a recipe from one of my new cookbooks: “Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes” – and yes, I know that Vancouver is at sea level…but this way I am prepared for any vacations or moves that may be in our future! Of course I can never just follow a recipe. I have tweaked this one a little. I will certainly make it again. A great loaf warm. Served with soup. Toast, or even a plain old sandwich meat bread.
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup homo milk
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp veg oil
2 1/4-1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour
coarse sea salt
- In a cup combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir and set aside for about 5-10 minutes (until the mixture bubbles).
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the milk, the 1/2 cup water, oil and salt. Set over low heat until it feels warm (120F) and bubbles just begin to show around the edges.
- Our warm liquid into a large bowl, allow to cool until 110F.
- When you are sure it is not too hot, stir in about 2 cups flour and then the yeast mixture.
- Beat hard for several minutes using a sturdy spoon. You will have a thick, soupy mass with a few lumps. Gradually mix in about 1/4 cup flour. Continue to mix, adding 1-2 Tbsp more flour as needed, until the dough begins to come together and looks stretchy.
- Flour your hands and the counter lightly, kneed the bread for 5 to 8 minutes. Re-flour as needed. Continue to kneed until the dough looks smooth and atiny and no longer feels sticky to the touch.
- In a large clean bowl, add 1 tbsp oil, add the dough, and turn it once to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel.
- Place bowl in the oven (turned off!) on the centre rack. Also have a roasting pan of very hot water beneath it on the lowest oven shelf.
- Let the dough rise until nearly double in size (60-90 minutes).
- Once the dough has risen, punch it down to remove large air bubbles. Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead once or twice.
- Return it to the oiled bowl for the second rise.
- Oil loaf pan .
- Once the dough has gone through two rises, shape the loaf: turn the dough onto the counter and knead a few times and then pat and press it into a flattened rectangle about 8″x11″.
- Workign from one short end, roll the dough up into a log about 3 1/2 by 8 inches and punch the seam and ends to seal. Set the dough seam side down in the prepared loaf pan, over lightly with oiled plastic wrap and set to rise in the microwave (or any other warm place).
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Whisk egg.
- Once loaf has almost doubled (45 minutes). Remove plastic wrap, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, poppy and sesame seeds.
- Bake for 30 minutes. The top should be a rich golden brown. top the loaf out of the pan and rap your knuckle on the bottom; it should should sound hollow. If it needs more time, return the loaf to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer before resting.
- Tip the bread out of its pan and cool on a wire rack.
- When cool, slice with a serrated knife.
The recipe calls for a water bath in the oven while the bread is baking, I totally forgot to do that, and it still turned out ok.