Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baking Bread

I’ve loved making bread since I had the good fortune to have Mrs Hamilton as my intermediate school home economics teachers. She taught me the basics of bread making, and now I’m a pretty confident baker. In fact, we rarely buy bread – apart from some speciality breads – because I try and bake my own.

Last time I lived in Japan I bought a bread machine, but I wasn’t a fan of the bread it made. Also, it felt like cheating. One of the best things about bread making is seeing the magic happen in front of your eyes. Another is of course the kneading, which is a great way to work out frustrations!

A couple of years ago Healthy Food Guide featured a basic bread recipe that could be easily tweaked to make white – wholemeal – multi-grain or fruit bread. I’ve made some adaptions of my own to the basic recipe, playing around with the sugars and volume of flours, and now use this recipe 99% of the time I make bread.

Of course, making multigrain bread in Japan is not as simple as in New Zealand. There just isn’t the same baking culture here, and certainly a limited but growing awareness of the variety of grains available. Let’s just say this – you can’t buy wholemeal flour at the supermarket!

Luckily there are several baking supply companies that deliver. I’ve found both Cotta and Kikuya great – they have a massive range of baking suppliers, from ingredients to tools to packaging.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for multigrain bread. The basic rule is to keep the flour at 7 cups (unless adding lots of extra grains as below. Then 6 cups is fine).

Mixed Seed Bread

2 level tsps active dried yeast
1 ¼ cups hot water (boiling)
1 ¼ cups cold milk
1 ½ Tbsps raw sugar
2 cups white flour
3 cups wholemeal flour
½ cup rye flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup cornmeal
1/3 cup amaranth
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
4 tsps salt
¼ cup olive oil

Combine water, milk and sugar, sprinkle yeast on top and leave aside till frothy.

Combine dry ingredients in a big bowl.

Add frothy yeast mixture and oil to dry ingredients, mixing to form soft dough.
Turn dough onto a floured board and knead well, stretching and turning dough for 5 - 10 minutes until it becomes smooth, elastic and satiny. Add flour as required during kneading to prevent the dough sticking. Less and less will be needed as the dough is worked.

Place the dough into a clean greased bowl, flip it over once to grease the top surface to the dough, cover and leave it to rise. (Placing in a large plastic bag can improve rising times). Leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

When dough has risen to double its bulk, knead it lightly and shape as required.
For loaves, divide the dough into two, roll or press the dough into rectangles slightly longer than the tin. Roll up tightly from the long edge, tuck the ends under and place, seam side down, into a well greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or return to plastic bag.

When loaves have risen for about 10 or 15 minutes, cut diagonal slashes in the top with a serrated knife.

Leave until doubled in size then bake at 200°C for around 40 minutes, until golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Makes 2 loaves. Slice and freeze if you don’t plan to eat within a few days.

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