The other day in my bread post, I wrote
The whole rising process is perfect if you’re homeschooling or farming; you can make your dough, set it to rise and go off and do something else. If you’re longer than an hour, don’t worry; the longer rises give more flavor and also make recipes using more whole wheat flour (or all whole wheat flour) more tender; you can let dough with lots of whole wheat flour rise for 6-8 hours.
So I was happy to see that in today’s New York Times, foodie Mark Bittman, author of one of my favorite cookbooks How to Cook Everything (not entirely accurate but still quite comprehensive), in his weekly “Minimalist” column has an article called The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work. The article is based on a class Bittman took with New York bread baker Jim Lahey, from the Sullivan Street Bakery (no longer on Sullivan Street, though), who calls his method “a truly minimalist breadmaking technique that allows people to make excellent bread at home with very little effort. The method is surprisingly simple — I think a 4-year-old could master it — and the results are fantastic.” The recipe is in today’s Times too, and calls for an 18-hour rising period, which allows for an awful lot of reading, or farm chores.
When I get the chance, later today, I’ll post my favorite (non-Bittman, though) no-knead, long-rise bread recipe…
Hat tip to my mother for letting me know about the article this morning.
Updated, as promised: One of my favorite whole grain whole wheat bread recipes, with which I use our own stoneground organic whole wheat is from the “Breads” volume of the (now out-of-print but widely available at a garage sale near you) Time-Life “The Good Cook” series, and is originally from Doris Grant’s Your Daily Food: Recipe for Survival; Mrs. Grant popularized her loaf in England during World War II to encourage working women to eat well despite food rationing. From “Breads”:
Because it is high in bran content and low in gluten, whole wheat flour calls for special breadmaking methods. For a light-textured loaf, whole wheat dough either must be allowed to rise for six to eight hours or must be made with a large proportion of gluten-rich all purpose or bread flour. For a dense-textured loaf such as the one shown here, whole wheat dough must be moistened until it is almost as soft as a batter — a tactic that not only softens the bran, but also obviates any kneading.
To speed rising, the read is made with more yeast than usual. And the yeast is nourished with sugar, honey or molasses so that it begins to grow vigorously before it is mixed with the flour. Prepared this way, the yeast will cause the dough to rise to half again its original volume in 20 to 30 minutes.
For the rising, the dough is spread evenly in the dish or pan in which it will bake. After it is baked, the fully cooked bread can be given a crisp crust by moving it to a baking sheet and returning it to the oven for 10 minutes or so.
And here’s the recipe:
The Grant Loaf (makes three 9″x5″ loaves)
10-1/2 cups stoneground, whole grain whole wheat flour
2 packages (2 tbsp.) dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
5 cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp. brown sugar, honey, or molasses
Mix the salt with the flour. In very cold weather [probably not a problem for those of us in North America with central heating], warm the flour slightly — enough to take off the chill. Place in a cup 3 tbsp. of tepid water, sprinkle over it the dry yeast, and leave for several minutes for the yeast to soften before adding the sugar, honey, or molasses. In about 10 to 15 minutes this mixture should have produced a thick, creamy froth.
Pour this into the flour mixture and add the rest of the water. Mix well — by hand is best — for a minute or so, working from the sides to the middle, until the dough feels elastic and leaves the sides of the mixing bowl clean. The consistency should be such that it will just drop off the spoon.
Butter three 9″x5″ loaf pans and leave them in a warm place. Divide the dough, which should be slippery but not wet, into thirds and place these in the warmed pans. Put the pans in a warm place, cover them with a cloth and leave them for about 20 minutes, or until the dough rises to within half an inch of the rims of the pans; if you leave the rising dough too long it can sink again in which case you are best mixing again and letting it rise a second time, otherwise the loaf will be either hollow or soggy. Bake the loaves in a preheated 400F degree oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until they sound hollow when rapped on the bottom. When bread is done it should come away from the sides of the tin easily. Tip out onto a wire grid to cool.
I’d like to try the ingredients of the Grant Loaf with Jim Lahey’s methods, especially the longer rising time, though I’d try with a reduced recipe for one loaf only in case of the hollowness or sogginess problem. If I do, I’ll post here about the results.
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