Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Bread Recipe - Finally

Dear Folks,

For a couple of years I have been struggling to get a bread recipe that really worked for me without trying to win the Ms Universe title for biceps.  I can't knead dough - too much achy joint issues.  Buying a really good mixer with dough attachment is an option Deane said he would give me, but I really wanted to get something that was so easy for me, it would work for everyone.

I also wanted to use a sourdough starter to give extra flavor.

Some of my early attempts were tasty but wound up more like 'hardtact" rather than the fluffy / airy bread I was looking for.  Having grown up on WonderBread and in more recent years falling in love with ciabatta - I wanted the best of all worlds, whole wheat with fluffy texture, able to take additions like herbs and cheese and still come out nutrient dense, tasty and passing the "Deane" test for hardiness (he did NOT grow up on WonderBread and considers it down there with rice cakes - totally unsatisfying).

So, as sometimes happens Deane gave me the probable answer to my quandary of why the bread would not rise properly no matter how much yeast I used etc. (I'm sure I was doing other things wrong also).


Early bread makers used potato water to create yeast and also to make good tasting bread.

I'm not using the water -- a whole small potato (2 inches approx) peel and all grated into the mix.

This bread comes out as a very thick batter and you can add more flour to approach a very, very soft dough - but here is the great part - TRULY NO KNEADING!   Done in under 3+ hours start to enjoying including rising.  In the picture, the front 2 slices are the raisin/walnut bread and the back is the basic bread.

The basic recipe is for a single loaf - at the end I give you the approximate ingredients to double it to make 2 loaves at a time.  Personally the one loaf at a time suits us - just us two, but we share with neighbors.  I use my toaster/over to bake so I don't heat up the whole kitchen and I can make a loaf quickly for variations (Deane likes raisins and walnuts).  The last loaf I made had fresh rosemary and grated Parmesan in it.

My Bread Recipe

1 cup of starter*
1   2" potato, rinsed, but not peeled
1 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
3/4 teaspoon of salt (do not use kosher - sea or regular table salt is fine)
2 tablespoons of ground flax seed (you don't need this but I like the extra health/nutrient impact)
1 cup of flour (I use an organic "white" whole wheat -- it really is a whole wheat, just a lighter variety -- I will most frequently use 50/50 of this with organic all purpose flour)
1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (any hard cheese will work)
Optional:  Any fresh or dried herb about a tablespoon or to taste

In a bowl, put starter.  Grate the potato right into the starter.  Add yeast and warm water and stir well.  Add cheese, salt and flax seed (and herbs if using) and stir well.  Add flour all at once and stir to make a thick batter.  You can add more flour if you like.

Turn into a well oiled/sprayed loaf pan, cover and let rise.  (I turn another loaf pan over - canted a little to let air in.  It takes from 90 minutes to about 2 hours to rise to near the top of the pan.

Place on a tray, put 2 ice cubes on the tray and put in a cold oven. Set to 400 degrees (I use glass pans - if using metal increase temperature to 425) and set the timer for 45 minutes.  When done the loaf should ring hollow when tapped.  Turn out on a cooling rack. Enjoy.

Raisin Bread - with the extra moisture the next time I'm going to decrease the temperature to 375 and back for 55 minutes.  The center was just a little extra moist than I thought it should be.

1/4 - 1/2 cup each raisins and nuts.  Add to mix before you add the flour and stir well to mix.

*I have sometimes failed and sometimes succeed with starters before and this time I have what I think of as the best method.  First I use the organic white whole wheat flour.  I keep the starter in the frig.  The day I want to make bread I take it out to warm up on the counter for an hour or two.  Then I feed it, and take the 1 or 2 cups I need for the recipe.  I let it sit on the counter for an hour to get going a little and then back into the frig until the next time.   If you made bread every day or 2 you could certainly keep the starter on the counter.

To double the recipe:

2 cups starter
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
potato small to just a bit larger (you don't need to double the potato exactly)
1 cup of warm water
2 to 2 1/2 cups of flour (start with 2 cups and add more if you need to thicken the batter more)

Follow directions above for 1 loaf.  2 loaf pans fit on my toaster oven tray side by side almost with room in the middle of the tray for a couple of ice cubes.

The ice cubes give a nice crust.

The potato is providing extra sugar / starch for the yeast to feed on.

Flax Seed - flax seed has to be ground to be properly digested by us humans.  If you want to add other whole seeds give it a try or sprinkle on top of the batter before rising.

Rising and air bubbles.  One of my loafs had a nice big air bubble in it when finished baking.  I corrected this in the next loaf by using my wooden spoon handle to poke down through the batter about 15-30 minutes into rising, then let it finish rising.  That seemed to take care of large air bubbles :-)

I hope you get a chance to try this recipe.  Comment on what variations you come up with.  My friend Kathy who gave me the original starter used rye flour one time with the starter.  No reason not to try making rye bread, maybe with dill and caraway - yum.

Have a great week,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady