Today is a wet, blustery and unusually chilly August day in the Blue Mountains. It rained all night. Heavy, incessant rain. Puddin and Pie, our two little rescues, who love going out for their morning walk, were quite put out to be roused and coaxed out the door and through the puddles on to the wet grass.
I sympathized with the doggies, and was thankful that I had no urgent business outdoors either. There was no reason to venture into town on this rainy day. It is never fun negotiating a clear path around fallen tree branches and rocky landslides after heavy rain. Along with the debris from last weeks storm and with more rain forecast, the narrow winding mountain road to Kingston will surely be more of obstacle course than usual. Coffee in bed was blissful and a day at home seemed like a gift!
When the lockdowns started last year, like so many, I turned to my kitchen and garden even more than usual. Self sufficiency became a necessity rather than a luxury. I love cooking, my work as a food stylist revolves around food! And I adore bread, I find it the most perfect comfort food, though commercial bread is not the tastiest or healthiest. I always wanted to eat better bread, but found the Idea of making bread intimidating! Until COVID!
Living miles from the closest supermarket, lockdowns made home made bread necessary and gave me the time I needed to learn. If I were going to make my own bread, i thought, I might as well use wholesome ingredients. After a number of toughies, literally, a few good loaves emerged, enough to keep me encouraged. Many months after I made my first loaf, I finally started to feel comfortable with dough. I wanted to keep my loaves simple. Flour, yeast and water. I’ve since admitted that a few more ingredients, a touch of sugar, sea salt and olive oil, makes it even better.
My basic recipe is a mix of 4 cups organic, unbleached white flour and 2 cups whole-wheat flour mixed with 2 tsps. yeast bloomed in 3 cups of warm (110-115 degrees F) water. This has been my go to recipe. A thermometer is a must! As I felt more comfortable with the process I began to make breads mixed with fresh herbs. Rosemary and sage, parsley and thyme along with chopped scallions makes a delicious and very special bread. Some days I prefer a sweet bread so I’ll add raisins, citrus peel spices and nuts. All mine are yeast breads, I haven’t yet managed the sourdough craze.
As the rain poured down in buckets, it was the perfect day to be in a warm kitchen making bread. I decided to try out the Ezekiel flour that a friend very kindly gave me a few weeks ago. Exekiel flour is made from old world sprouted whole grains and legumes. The sprouting process makes the grain easier to digest and is touted as a healthier, more nutritious bread. It has a strong bean smell which I wasn’t sure we would enjoy. The result however was really good. The loaf is more dense than one made with regular flour, but it has a pleasant nutty and earthy flavour. Ezekiel flour does contains gluten from spelt, wheat and barley and other grains so it is not suitable for anyone who is gluten intolerant.
I find it comforting to mix together a handful of ingredients, to feel the dough come together beneath my hands. The whole process, even the kneading is satisfying. The smell of fresh bread baking, filling the house with the delicious aroma, is magical! And who can resist the first slice cut from a still steaming hot Loaf! Oh yes, a fresh home made loaf is truly yummy and so worth the time, when you have it! 🌾
Here’s my rainy day recipe:
6 cups Ezekiel flour and more for dusting the board
1 tsp. Sea salt
2 tsps active dry yeast
2 tsps brown sugar
3 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
2 Tbl. olive oil
Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl snd combine.
Warm the water and pour into a large bowl or 4 cup measuring hug. Check that the temperature of the water is between 110 -115 degrees F. It is important because if the water is too cold the yeast won’t be activated. Too hot, the yeast will be destroyed. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the warm water. Stir well. Cover and leave in a warm place to bloom. When the yeast bubbles and appears frothy, about 20 minutes, It is ready to be used.
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour. Combine the mixture with your hands. Mix well. This will feel sticky. Don’t worry keep mixing, it will come together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured board and begin to knead. Add a little more flour if the dough is very sticky, or a little warm water if too dry and the dough is not coming together. Continue kneading, it should come together at this point. Continue kneading for 10 minutes, adding a dusting of flour as needed. Form the dough into a ball.
Brush a large mixing bowl with olive oil. place the dough in a warm oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and set aside to rise. The dough should be double in size after about 1 1/2 hours.
Prepare 2 medium sized bread loaf tins by brushing with olive oil.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Add 1Tbl olive oil to the dough and knead again for 5 minutes, adding a little flour if sticking to the board.
Divide the dough equally. place into the prepared bread pans. Press into the pan to fill the sides. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes Or until the dough fill the pan.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bake the loaves for 30 minutes or until the centre sounds hollow when tapped. 🌾