A Focaccia with whole wheat sourdough, complex flavours, lovely crust and easy to digest bread. Yes some breads can be better for health than others. This one is.
I don't post my bread recipes often just for one plain reason. Bread baking is injurious to health if you are trying to control your carb intake and a deadly sin if you are allergic or intolerant to Gluten. At the same time, making a sourdough starter, kneading the dough, baking breads of different types and having them fresh at home is therapeutic in other ways.
I have posted a few basic bread recipes in the past and have urged you all to start baking breads if you are in a habit of having breads on a daily basis. The store bought breads are neither worth the money nor your tummy. Those crappy breads have to be given up at any cost, even if that cost is start baking your own bread. I am sure you are getting my point.
Starting baking breads is not at all difficult. I am here today with a very easy bread recipe that I baked using my sourdough starter, but it can be adapted to any kind of yeast available to you. You just need a bowl of frothy yeast (fresh, instant, dry or sourdough) to start this dough.
This is a homely whole wheat (100%) bread that can be baked on weekends and be had for breakfast all week, that if you eat bread for breakfast everyday. And yes, this bread is a sourdough bread, that tastes like a normal yeasted bread with a richer complex flavor. How do we get a sourdough bread not taste 'sour' I have mentioned in the pointers below...
Some pointers for your pet sourdough, yes sourdough is a pet, a bubbly happy one that gets stinky sometimes....
- Do not store the stater in an airtight container. Leave some space to breath. Starter is a living culture of yeast and Lactobacillus and it needs some oxygen in and CO2 out of the container. If refrigerating you can always use an airtight container which is half filled with starter, that is some space to breath. When refrigerated the growth is slowed down so lesser breathing is required. Think of a dormancy period for your starter.
- Feed it with equal amount of water and flour (weight wise) or 3 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp water for example if going by volume. Also, take care to double the amount of starter every time you feed it. You would want to discard half the quantity of the starter first and then restoring it with fresh flour and water. No sugar required.
- If kept on room temperature, the starter needs to be fed twice a day.
- The starter is ready to be used if it doubles in amount in a couple of hours. If it doesn't, keep feeding it 2-3 times till it gets ready. That is, when it doubles in amount within a couple hours. This indicates the starter is thriving well, out of it's dormant life and ready to leaven your bread.
- It's better to feed the starter just before refrigerating it, it revives faster this way when you take it out of the fridge. If you refrigerate an active ready to use starter , it would take a couple of feedings before it becomes ready to use. If fed just before refrigeration, it just needs one feeding at room temperature to get ready, after you take it out of the fridge. Saving time.
- If you want stronger taste of the sourdough in your bread add lesser amount of starter to begin with, it would take longer time to rise and would develop a stronger sourdough taste. So it's a rising time that decides the sourdough taste and not the amount of sourdough starter added in the beginning. Vice versa, if you like a mild sour dough flavor, add more sourdough starter, let the dough rise faster and the bread would develop a mild taste.
- You can always use up the whole batch of stater for your bread and just save a bit of the dough for the culture. Very convenient this way if you bake once a week or so.
- One point to remember when your starter gets stinky and the skimming surface looks darker in colour. just discard the upper layer, the lower parts will still be fresh as yeast is heavier than most other bacteria that contaminate a starter usually. If the starter is too dry to be decanted, just add some water let it stand for a while and discard the upper scum by tilting your jar of starter.
And now the recipe for this wonderfully flavored bread. I usually bake with either Pilsburry, Ashirvad or Shakti bhog brands of atta (whole wheat flour) here in my part of the word, I suspect they add some vital gluten to their flour as they claim the flour absorbs more water and results in softer rotis, and may be that is the reason the breads also turns out good texture wise. For my daily rotis I use a freshly milled wheat flour that is procured from a neighborhood flour mill, and the owner has been instructed to mill our flour coarse. This atta make the breads crumbly when a regular loaf is baked and the texture of the bread is inferior than the above stated branded flours. Flavor of the bread is definitely better. I use either of the flours according to convenience and mood.
This bread is made with the same coarsely milled whole wheat flour. More because I wanted to bake this bread for a Bread bake together going on at Chef at large facebook group and I didn't have any other flour at home. Also because I wanted to bake a bread to suit a beautiful jar of fruit preserve gifted by Apeksha Jain of Gourmet Jar. This was a Plum Cointreau fruit preserve that needs to be refrigerated because no preservatives have been used in the making. I love such healthier options of jams.
All you need to bake this bread...
a cup of ready to use sour dough starter (or 1 tbsp of fresh yeast/1 tsp of dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup of flour and lukewarm water+1 tsp sugar+a pinch of salt and rested to get frothy)
1.5 cup of whole wheat flour ( I used coarse flour)
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup o chopped dried Prunes
1/2 cup of chopped sun dried apples
a handful of Oats bran to sprinkle on top if you wish
a handful of Pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top if you wish
some butter or olive oil to brush the bread just after baking
lukewarm water to knead/mix
a sheet of parchment paper greased and sprinkled with cornmeal, broken wheat or bran
Mix the sourdough starter, the flour and some lukewarm water to make a very loose tacky dough. Mix and knead for about 15 minutes using your hands. In a machine till the dough starts feeling strong. If you are kneading by hand, the dough starts like a loose wet mix that doesn't resist much to pressure. As you knead it, the dough starts developing gluten and resists your force, if you lift a small part it feels stringy. Very cohesive and strong.
This is how the dough looks like when given a thorough mix. Barley a dough, more on the batter side. Cover it with a metallic lid (no cling film required) and rest it for an hour. Or just till it rises about 1.5 times. The temperature here was 30 C plus so it rose well.
The dough rises, we will call it a dough as it is going to make a bread in it's second life, and we add the dried Prunes and sun dried Apples ( I brought a big stash of them last year from Leh and they are real good)..
Mix lightly and let it rest for about half an hour this time...
It rises about one and a half times it's original volume. Wait longer if it doesn't. Once risen, tilt the mixing bowl and plonk the dough into the baking tray lined with the greased parchment. don't worry about what shape it takes.
Sprinkle with bran and whatever seeds you are using. Bake for half an hour at 200 C. The bread rises some more inside the oven and gets brown on the crust. The tray feel lighter when you take it out of the oven and that is an indication that the bread is cooked through.
Cool the bread preferably on a rack and then slice.
You can see how the holes in the bread are quite large interspersed with very minute holes that do not rise much due to a coarse whole meal used. But this does not cause the bread to taste any different. This a heavier bread, a smaller slice will be filling but the taste is quite good. Better than any store bought bread.
To store this bread, wrap it in the parchment, use the one in which it is baled and another sheet on top and then slide it into a paper bag before refrigerating. Many people don't like refrigerating their bread in western countries but in India we can't take any chances with the climate being so conducive to microbes.
Serve it warm with your choice of fruit preserve/jam or butter. I prefer microwaving the slices for 30 seconds before applying any butter or jam on it. This is a sweetish bread, owing to the dried fruits added, otherwise all such breads are used with my dinner soups mostly.
Look at the lovely jar of Plum Cointreau jam gifted by Apeksha Jain who runs The Gourmet Jar. This natural Jam and the bread complement very well to each other.
Look at the spread of this lovely jam. Arvind loved it for breakfast with his usual milk.
PS : How did I forget to add an interesting bit of happening with this bread? When I posted a cellphone picture of this bread as my facebook update, a couple of friends conspired to kidnap me so I can bake such goodies for them :-) Another great friend Suranga Date who is a retired Bombay IIT Professor and a scientist who has worked with many organisations, also writes a poetry blog called Strewn Ashes apart from a few others, wrote a poetry on this bread within 10 minutes of seeing this picture live on facebook. She is brilliant with her imagery with words. Go read her poetry inspired by this bread here. Isn't that a huge complement for a humble sourdough bread? I feel humbled and proud at the same time. Proud to have such talented people around myself. Thank you Suranga.