Hi, my name is Baking Barrister, and I’m a carb addict. If it were a healthy option, I’d live on bread. But alas, this is not feasible, as I am not a 12th century peasant. Le sigh.
I recently went to a live demo on yeast breads put on by King Arthur Flour. While there, I learned all sorts of things about the breads we find in supermarkets. An attendee asked how we, as home bakers, could get our bread to stay fresher for longer, like the bread we buy at the store. Fresh homemade bread starts going stale after a few days because it doesn’t have preservatives (although adding the liquid of one Vitamin C gel cap will extend the life of your bread). It also isn’t sprayed with mold retardant or contain only commercially available tenderizers. When you add in misleading labels touting supposed whole grains, you have no idea what you’re getting when you purchase bread.
Thus, I figure, if I am going to indulge in the wonders of bread, I should at least know what I am eating and strive for a healthy yet delicious balance. My plan has started with flour. First, when what I have is used up, I am going to start purchasing only unbleached flour, because the bleaching process actually leaves nasty chemicals in our flour that are used to induce diabetes in medical research animals. Second, I am adding different kinds of flour to my pantry and my bread. This includes whole wheat (including white, which is just a different strain of wheat) and rye, and may include others as I get more adventurous. I replaced half of the flour with whole wheat in the recipe below—generally the limit when using a recipe calling for all-purpose or bread flour only. I also try to stick to breads that don’t add much sugar, or where sugar can be replaced with honey. My last trick is to add seeds and nuts when possible. All of these things make the bread more nutritious and more filling.
As a side note, the one thing I refuse to do is nurture a sourdough starter. I know I could make some awesome bread, but I don’t have the patience or desire to actively watch and feed bacteria. This will likely become more true when I finally start work.
Makes 1 loaf.
1 1/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ whole wheat flour
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbs of chopped fresh basil
1 tbs of chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water (use ¼ cup if not using whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Mix your starter. Cover and let sit for 2 hours on the counter until it is bubbly. Then refrigerate overnight.
2. About an hour before you want to start mixing the dough, take the starter out and place on the counter so it gets to room temperature.
3. In your mixer bowl (or any random bowl if you’re doing this by hand), mix ¼ cup all-purpose flour and the 1 ¼ cup of whole wheat flour. For the mathematically challenged, you should have ½ cup of all-purpose flour on reserve, regardless of whether you use whole wheat.
4. Add your herbs and the salt to your flour mixture. Beat with the paddle attachment to mix fully, or use a whisk if you don’t have a mixer.
5. Add your yeast to the water to dissolve. Then add this mixture to your starter. The texture should be pretty liquid.
6. In your large bowl with flour, add starter-mixture and your olive oil. Mix until the dough reaches a consistency easy enough for hand kneading, regardless of whether you are using a mixer. It should hold together pretty well and all of the flour should be incorporated. If your mixture is too watery, slowly, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, add in that reserved ½ cup of AP flour. Once you hit this consistency, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
7. Knead until smooth but still a little sticky to the touch. Do not add more flour to knead if doing it by hand or you will end up with dry dough. Instead, try flouring your hands. This should take about 8 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook set on 2, or low. DO NOT OVERKNEAD.
8. Place dough in an oiled bowl (I use my mixer bowl) and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes. Place your dough on the counter, gently degas, and fold. When you fold, do an envelope fold, kind of like you’re making an origami envelope. Place back in bowl and cover, letting sit in that warm space for another 45 minutes to an hour.
9. Once your dough has doubled, transfer it to a piece of parchment paper and shape. If you Google information on how to shape bread, you will have seemingly endless information on how to shape dough properly. Cover and let rise until it doubles, approximately an hour.
10. Preheat your oven to 475F, with a pizza stone if you have one. If not, preheat with a metal, inverted cookie sheet. Also place a metal broiler pan on the shelf underneath your stone that is easily accessible. I use my cast iron skillet.
11. Score your loaf in a crosshatch pattern or simply a line down the middle.
12. Carefully place your bread on the stone or the baking sheet. If you are having trouble, just leave it on the parchment paper when transferring, but remember to take the parchment paper out about 10 minutes in or it will burn.
13. Immediately pour about half a cup of water in your broiler pan/cast iron skillet. Shut the oven to trap the steam. The steam helps get the awesome crust.
14. Bake for about 20 minutes. Internal temperature should read about 195F if you are unsure.
15. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before cutting. This ensures that the crumb sets.