Saturday, August 4, 2012

Baking bread

I'm having a bit of a bread love affair at the moment.  Earlier in the week I bought a book from the 'withdrawn' bin at the local library containing a random mix of bread recipes by passionate advocates of self sufficiency.  The book is approximately half sour dough recipes and each recipe has an accompanying story by the author of the recipe.  It is a world away from your typical, highly edited glossy cookbook.  I'm not trying to be mean about the book, just trying to describe it.  The passion this group of people have for good quality bread is patent and a little contagious.  Most home mill their own grain.  I'm not going to do this, but I am a lot more interested in the type of grain I use for making bread now.  I've also learnt a lot in a short time about improving the quality of home-made bread.

I made the most delicious loaf of beer bread using some of the tips that I gleaned from the book, so I thought I would share them here.

  • The second rise is the most important.  After you have risen the dough for the first time gently mix the dough (not a full-on knead) and then shape.  If you knead it too hard the second time you will knock out some of the air that has developed in the dough.
  • If you want a beautifully cooked loaf of bread then what you cook it in really does matter.  I find that my non-stick breadmaker makes kind of average bread.  That is because the tin doesn't really get hot, and a lot of steam is produced in a small crowded environment.  The bread is often very soft.  If you have proper metal tins, great.  I don't so I used my Le Creuset 'dutch oven' to cook the bread.  I put the pan and lid separately into the oven (i.e. the lid wasn't on the pot) and got them both really hot.  After twenty minutes I put the dough into the pan and put the lid on top.  After twenty minutes I took the lid off to get some great colour.  About ten minutes after that I flipped over the loaf of bread so that the bottom could crisp up.  It was my best loaf of bread ever.
  • You cannot just substitute white and wholemeal grains directly in recipes.  Wholegrain flours contain naturally present sugars so often an adjustment to the sugar in the recipe is required.  The more white flour you use, the more sugar will be required.
  • It is my experience that the best bread flavour (robust, earthy, nutty) come using at least a small amount of wholegrain flour.  I used wholegrain spelt flour in the beer bread I made - delicious. 
  • I found a really interesting range of wheat flours at Commonsense Organics.  I bought some NZ Purple Wheat flour as well as wholemeal spelt.  I'm currently using it to make a sour dough starter.  It looks slightly purple so I'm hopeful that a purple loaf of bread will be the result!
I've had the worst time with formatting my photos below!  I haven't felt much cooking mojo of late, but I was so happy baking bread that the rest of the meal followed.  We had mutton with lentils, beans and vegetables and a yummy walnut and pear salad.

Most beautiful beer bread.


  1. some good tips - thanks! Cast iron is the best thing for getting a proper crust isn't i feel like making some bread...

  2. Do you happen to have an idiot-proof beer bread recipe?