Gentleman's Portion

A good helping of life, love and whisky

ONE OF LIFE’S GREAT PLEASURES

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One of life's great pleasures

A crusty loaf awaits beside the hearth

Omar Khayyam said: “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.” This afternoon Diane is off to see a movie with a friend and I am at home baking bread. When she returns I will offer her Omar’s three great pleasures. Perhaps she’ll accept two. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Today I’m using whole-wheat flour in the hopes of making a healthier loaf. When it has cooled sufficiently I shall cut myself a slice and slather it with unhealthy butter and eat it just like that. If it turns out well, I shall have deserved it.

The yearning for bread is visceral. When you want a slice of bread, nothing else will do. Your diet will tell you to eat a piece of crisp bread, but somehow it just doesn’t work. Sink your teeth into the lovely soft dough, crusty crumbs flaking onto your lips, butter melting onto your fingers. Mmm!

Bread is probably the oldest prepared food. We humans were eating bread 30 thousand years ago. It’s simple, wholesome, life saving food.  As I knead the dough, I feel a connection to all those bread making ancestors. Truly, this is a stress releasing experience. If you’ve already tried the white bread in my posting of January 31, 2013, you’ll know what I mean. Now you are in for an even healthier treat.

WHOLEWHEAT BREAD
Makes two 9 in by 5 in loaves
Preparation time 2 1/2 hrs
Baking time 45 min

Ingredients
Step 1
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp dry active yeast
Step 2
1 egg
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups warm water
6 cups whole wheat flour

Weapons
large mixing bowl
small mixing bowl
measuring devices
pastry spatula
loaf tin
knife

Simple yet delicious

Simple yet delicious

Preparation and cooking
1. Prepare the yeast by dissolving the sugar in warm water and then adding the yeast. Sprinkle it on top and stir to mix. Set aside for between 5 and 10 min to “proof” until it foams.
2. In the large bowl, beat the egg, add the melted butter, salt, sugar and warm water and mix well. Add the proofed yeast and mix again.
3. Add half the flour and beat well so there are no lumps. This step is hard work. Then gradually add the rest of the flour mixing it well all the time. About half way through this process the ball of dough will easily lift away from the bowl. Now start using your hands to knead the dough. When enough of the remaining flour has been added to make a soft ball of dough, turn it out onto a floured surface.
4. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 min, until it is smooth and elastic. Take the ball of dough, using the heel of your palms and a lot of effort, force the dough into a rough circle. Then fold it in half, rotate it a quarter turn and repeat. This is so much fun, I always do the full 10 min.
5. Cut the dough in half and put each half into a separate lightly greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm, draft free place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, or until the dough had doubled in bulk.
6. Punch the dough down, shape into loaves (or see options below) and press into loaf or baking pan. Cover with towel and set aside to rise until double again, about 45 min to 1 hr.
7. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Bake the bread until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped, about 40 to 45 min.
8. Turn out of the pan and cool on a wire rack.

A perfect accompaniment to any meal

A perfect accompaniment to any meal

Options
Rolls
5.Take one of the bowls of dough and after it has risen (step 5) make a large rough circle of dough by pulling and stretching it into shape. The dough will be quite elastic. Cut the circle into 8 segments.
6. Roll each segment very firmly in the palms of your hands until a perfect ball is formed.
7. Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Place the ball on the paper and press it down. Make a slice in the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Repeat until all the dough is used up, spreading the balls out so they don’t touch. Cover and allow the dough to double, about 30 to 45 min.
8. Preheat the oven to  375°F/190°C. Bake until golden brown or about 15 to 18 min.
9. Place on a rack to cool.

Crescent rolls (NOT to be confused with croissants)
5.Take one of the bowls of dough and after it has risen (step 5) make a large rough circle of dough by pulling and stretching it into shape. The dough will be quite elastic. Cut the circle into 8 wedges.
6. Take each wedge, starting with the wide end of the triangle, and gently pull the dough to widen it. Roll it up into a tight crescent.
7. Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Place the crescent onto the paper and push down to hold its shape, spacing them out so they don’t touch. Cover and allow the dough to double, about 30 to 45 min.
8. Preheat the oven to  375°F/190°C. Bake until golden brown or about 15 to 18 min.
9. Place on a rack to cool.

Other options
Substitute honey for brown sugar.
Add 1 cup of raisins before you knead the dough.
Add 1 cup toasted nuts or sunflower seeds.
Add 2 to 3 tbsp dried herbs to the flour while mixing.

My thanks to chef Paula Bambrick and the Loblaws Cooking School on Queen’s Quay for these recipes.

PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in this recipe. Or please add your own variations for others to share.

Author: Nigel

Freelance director and writer

One thought on “ONE OF LIFE’S GREAT PLEASURES

  1. One of the best loaves of bread I ever tasted. No butter, jam, spread or topping required. It was perfect in every way.

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