Over the years I have played with bread baking, with mostly disappointing results. Each time I produced a loaf of thick, indigestible damper with a crust the density of an emu egg I’d be put off and wouldn’t try again till the next year. But that all changed when I faced my culinary fears and attempted a recipe from one of my favourite books by Cynthia Lair, Feeding the Whole Family.
The recipe titled “Homemade Whole Grain Bread” was created by Jeff Basom (chef at Bastyr University in Seattle), and utilises leftover grains or cereal as a starter dough. I love that this bread combines nutrition with kitchen savviness, putting to use the leftover porridge, brown rice or other grains from a meal and turning them into a most delicious and soft loaf. I have made this loaf again and again, and at times have made it with enough consistency to cater to our bread demands for the week. So far I have made this bread using either red quinoa, millet, brown rice, raw buckwheat, or kasha in the starter, mixed with either wholemeal bread flour or wholemeal spelt flour. All combinations have been delicious. The recipe is especially forgiving as you make the starter the day before, and can store it in the fridge for up to a week before turning it into 2 loaves, or about 16 bread rolls, or a combination of both. I always find bread rolls tend to dry out quicker than a loaf so was keen to build on my supply of loaf tins (I had all of one!).
I recently purchased two romertopf clay breadbaking pans (purchased here), which had been sitting interminably on my wish list, and they work an absolute treat. Once your bread dough is safely tucked into the pans, you sit the pans in a sink of warm water for 20 minutes as the dough has its second rise. The pans are then placed on the bottom rack of the oven, then the oven set to desired temperature, the moisture contained in the clay allowing the bread to bake at the optimum humidity. I no longer have bread loaves with burnt bottoms! I can highly recommend these pans to anyone who would like to take their bread making experience to a new level.
I would also highly recommend you purchase (or borrow from your library if it is there, or indeed ask your library to stock) Cynthia Lair’s Feeding the Whole Family. It is jam packed with some gloriously good recipes and some invaluable tips on choosing and preparing wholesome foods for your family.
I would love for you to share what recipes you love, and what your experience has been with bread making. For a fundamental food in many families home, it is a shame bread baking isn’t something that we all do, as a matter of course. I endeavour to make bread baking a regular habit in my family’s life so that we may benefit from its nourishing goodness.