As the expression goes, I’ve been baking since Hector was a pup. I’ve tried sourdough but have had no success, unless you count a bowl of semi-foamy smelly bread, water and supposedly wild yeast a substance that won’t poison you.
After lurking on several Facebook pages devoted to sourdough baking, I was energized but cowed by the glorious loaves folks were turning out regularly – such gorgeously artistic and firm-looking boules before and after baking. Mine, not so much. More boo than anything else!
I even ordered freeze-dried sourdough from a place called Breadtopia in California, but when the tiny package took three weeks to arrive and was postmarked Denmark, that should have been a clue that it wasn’t the magic elixir I’d hoped for.
Quick breads and yeast breads are comfort food and I have hundreds of attempted recipes to prove it.Quick breads – no problem ever, no matter how much I tinkered with the basic recipe.
Call me a traditionalist, but I had just about given up on the new-fangled quick methods of turning out tasty yeast loaves. I’ve made a few dozen no-knead loaves a la Mark Bittman of the New York Times and artisan bread from Jim Lahey. They’ve been okay, but having to sink my fingers into that mass of super-wet sticky dough was not my favourite thing to do. Then trying to get the sagging risen dough neatly into an extra-hot casserole and slapping on a lid to create a mini baker’s oven resulted in too many burned fingers, bad words and Tower of Pisa shaped results.
But I’m not a quitter, even though I gave up carbs for a while in the hopes of some miraculous health benefits and weight loss as touted by the gurus of Low Carb High Fat diets. As if.
Loved having lots of meat and butter on vegetables but after a while, even hollandaise sauce gets boring when there isn’t anything more toothsome than broccoli, green beans and cabbage to fill the plate. Getting creative with kale and artichokes didn’t make my day. And a burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a crusty warm bun is heresy.
When I attempted cauliflower crust and cauliflower faux rice, Hub – the man who will eat omelettes three times a week if I don’t feel like cooking – almost revolted. So I went back to basics.
I stumbled across a Facebook post or maybe it was a newsletter, that contained this recipe from a woman named Alexandra Stafford. Now I’m not one to tell you what to do, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. TRY IT!
Easy-peasy. I followed the recipe exactly the first time and used all purpose flour. I did substitute leftover whey from my yogurt making for the liquid.
It’s a very high hydration dough – WET. I mixed it up with a baking spatula then covered the bowl with cling wrap and left it in the oven with the light on. The mixture rose like it was filled with helium. The next step was to use two forks and draw the dough into the centre – sort of a gentle fold instead of kneading. Look ma, no hands!
She recommends baking the dough in 1 quart pyrex bowls – not sure why. But I buttered a loaf pan just in case.
Using the forks again, you divide the dough in two. There was just enough for the two bowls, though. The next thing you do is let them sit uncovered on top of the stove while the oven is heating. Again, they bubble like a witches cauldron.
Into the oven, cool them for a few minutes then place on a wire rack. Getting them out of the bowls was a trial – the next time, I used oil spray with the butter to make removal easier.
At first, the crust softens but after a few hours of cooling, it gets firm enough to cut neatly.
Great texture, nice crumb. Lightly toasted then slathered lightly with butter – heavenly. I thought the flavour was a bit bland, so for the next batch, I used half bread flour. The dough still was lively but the bread taste was a bit more pronounced. Next time, I’m using sprouted spelt flour and whole wheat.
For some reason, the bread is excellent toasted. It gets crispier and butter sinks into all those lovely little crevices. The loaves are smaller sized, which sort of reduces the guilt of carbing it up, but they make a nice-sized sandwich for lunch and hold up well with grilled veggies in olive oil or mayonnaise and cold cuts.
For now, I’ve found Nirvana in terms of bread making. It’s so easy to make a couple of loaves a week, slice them up and slip them into ziploc bags. My grandson even tried his hand at it on Monday and proudly took a loaf home to show off.