Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wholemeal Loaf For World Bread Day


Growing up in the lowfat nineties, I had no quarrel with bread. My favorite was a fluffy white loaf of French bread that was always available hot from our grocery store. Slathered with butter next to a plate of my mom’s spaghetti, it was bliss. The low-carb diet had not yet taken the nation by storm when I was battling the “Freshman 15” in college so, thankfully, I never went in for its restrictions on all things yeasty and wonderful. I am thrilled that the “bread is evil” mantra of early low-carb devotees has evolved to the current thinking, that whole grain breads are a healthy and essential part of any diet.

For sandwiches and buttered toast, nutty, chewy whole grain bread is my favorite. I will not pass up a gorgeous baguette or ciabatta loaf, especially when a bowl of fragrant olive oil is nearby, but whole grain is my everyday choice for a filling, nutritious slice. The best whole wheat bread I’ve eaten is the humble wholemeal loaf, available in every supermarket in England, in a stay-fresh plastic sleeve. Wholemeal toast with butter saved us many times after long nights out at the pub when I was studying in London during college. I loved it with a thick layer of cottage cheese on top, as well. Even though my flatmates cringed every time I ate this tasty snack, I was not deterred.

Wholemeal bread is one of many things I still miss about living in London, but I am hoping to rectify that situation with a recent discovery. The lovely people at the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Catalogue sell an Irish Wholemeal Flour. I ordered a bag recently and already used it to make my Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread. It turned out very well, but the real test came with this simple Wholemeal Loaf recipe.

After much googling, I decided to adapt a recipe from Delia Smith, one of England’s celebrity chefs whose audience seems to be the type of homemaker who would bake wholemeal bread for her family on a regular basis. The recipe is unbelievably easy, with only four ingredients that could be blended together in no time with a wooden spoon. I almost wished it would have been challenging enough to warrant using my nifty mixer, but ease of execution is hardly something to scoff at! I’ll play with my kitchen gadgets another day.

When I finally tasted my still warm wholemeal loaf, I was more than happy. Though it did not bake up to great sloping heights as I had envisioned, the yeast worked fine, and the bread baked evenly throughout. The wholemeal flour created a dense, chewy texture that is not as soft and light as supermarket bread, but that is the beauty of homemade. The taste was nutty with a slight, pleasant sourness. Eaten with grilled vegetables and cheese, and with a tangy fig tapenade, the wholemeal bread was flavorful without overpowering the toppings. Although I was full, I could not resist trying one more little piece straight up with butter. Perfect. Now I just need a group of tipsy college friends sitting around my table, and the scene will be complete.

I baked this wholemeal loaf in honor of World Bread Day on October 16th, as declared by The International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners (UIB). The German food blog, Kochtopf, will be posting a roundup of breads from bloggers around the world in the next day or two, so be sure to check it out.

World Bread Day '06
Fit the dough into the baking pans and leave it to rise, preferably in a warm place, for an hour, covered with a towel. Because the temperature is still in the 80s here in South Florida, I just turn off my air conditioner for an hour and I'm set.



Wholemeal Loaf
This recipe will work fine with regular whole wheat flour, but if you can get some wholemeal flour, I highly recommend it. It has a flavor and texture that is not quite like any whole wheat bread I have tasted in the U.S.

Makes 2 small (9x5x2) or one large loaf.

1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 c. hot water (should feel hot to the touch, but not scalding)
4 ½ c. Irish wholemeal flour
2 tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. light brown sugar
All purpose flour, for dusting

Butter 2 loaf pans, size 9x5x2. Pour the yeast into a small bowl. Add the hot water to it and stir quickly for a few seconds. Let it sit for several minutes until foam appears on the surface of the water. While the yeast activates, combine the wholemeal flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the center of the flour and pour in the activated yeast-water mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

From here, keep adding water in small amounts until you have formed a sticky dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. All the flour should be incorporated. Using your hands to mix the dough at this point might help you to judge the consistency. The exact amount of water will vary depending on your flour, so go slowly and stop when everything just comes together in a slightly moist ball.

Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with all-purpose flour. With floured hands, divide the dough into two pieces and form them into oblong shapes. Place each one in a loaf pan and press the dough slightly into the shape of the tin. Dust the tops with additional flour. Cover the loaf pans with a kitchen towel and leave them in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. After the loaves have finished rising, bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes (40 minutes if you have one large loaf pan). Remove from oven and invert loaves onto a kitchen towel. Using gloves, place the loaves back in the oven, out of their pans, upside down, in order to crisp the bottoms and sides for 5 minutes. If your loaves are already dark on the bottom, you may skip this step. You may also turn the oven off and let the residual heat crisp the loaves for the 5 additional minutes. Cool on a rack. This bread can be frozen once it is completely cooled.

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4 comments:

Sam said...

great minds think alike. I, too was having a yearning for that British wholemeal bread and made some for World Bread Day too.

it's not the kind of bread I would proudly serve guests, but it is the kind of bread I privately delight in.

This morning I had it for breakfast with a spread of avocado, a squirt of lemon, and salt & pepper.

It was absolutely delicious.

Just like yours!

Ivonne said...

Well done, Julie!

I love how you adapted the recipe and I especially love your point about good bread being part of any normal, healthy diet.

Happy Bread Day!

Bonnie said...

What a great celebration for satisfying a craving! Gorgeous loaves!

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