Sidetracked: I made bread!

I know, I know, I promised something involving cake and lemon curd. Well, as is typical of me, I got sidetracked. That post isn’t ready yet, but this one is! So, the other day I had an amazing little pull-apart multigrain roll (the loaf form is pictured there) at Metropolitan Bakery. I don’t really eat bread that much, mostly because I like other food better, but this roll was completely worth it. This is coming from a girl who has never, not even once, had toast and jam for breakfast. I would prefer oatmeal or eggs any day. I am just not really a bread person. Until now. Well, there’s got to be a first for everyone, and let me tell you, this bread was awesome. It was incredibly grainy, which I love, and had the perfect amount of elasticity. I ate it like I ate croissants as a kid, pulling gently at the interior of the roll to separate out thin layers of bread, placing them delicately into my mouth and savoring every bite.

I’m sure most of you can relate, but I’m pretty much unable to eat something I like without wanting to go home immediately and figure out how to make it myself. So that’s what I did, I set out to learn to make bread. Now I have to be completely honest here. I have tried to make bread once before, but it was an utter failure, so I decided not to count it. I used a whole-grain bread mix, which I think was a bit too old (I’m trying to avoid saying “rancid”, but, well, there you go) and the bread just didn’t taste right. I also added way too much flour during the kneading and the resulting loaf was a little bit dense. Let’s just say you could probably use it in place of a dumbell.

This time, I decided to start fresh. Like everyone else in the past two years, I went straight for the NY Times no knead bread recipe. I have never tried it and thought it was about time. I had to add some seeds and grains and some whole wheat flour, of course, but other than that, the recipe is just the old standard. I’m happy to say it was a complete success! I even cheated and used a pot with a glass lid since I don’t have a dutch oven, and it still worked.

For the first time EVER, I had toast and jam for a late night snack, and it was wonderful.

NY Times No-Knead Grainy Bread

2 ¾ cups whole wheat bread flour, more for dusting
¼ cup oatmeal
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
3 teaspoons salt
*a few tablespoons each of millet, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or whatever else you have

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, seeds/grains, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 11⁄2-pound loaf.

Note: My loaf didn’t rise as much as other loaves I’ve seen in the past. Maybe the whole wheat flour and all the grains weighed it down? Oh well, it was still great, but next time I think I’ll try adding a little bit more yeast. Has anyone else had any success with whole wheat variations of this bread?  (Edit: I did add more yeast, and I let the bread rise longer.  It worked!  See my second attempt at this bread here).


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