Wholesome Bread

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll note that I’ve started stalking following a few of the contestants from the Great British Bake Off. The show, itself, is a lot of fun to watch and the creativity of the participants is really unbelievable.

One of the things I like most about the show is the contestants are real people – they’re not professional bakers. They’re housewives, doctors, firemen, carpenters, teachers, and psychologists – all with a passion for baking. It’s rekindled my own baking interests, although I’m passing on the gooey desserts in favor of the savories and breads, right now.

One of the tenets of the show is originality coupled with creativity. It’s fun, because, unlike many professional bakers, the contestants are willing to think outside the box and play with things that by all rights shouldn’t work – but every once in a while really do work well. Yeah, there are failures, but it’s all part of the game.

The creativity bug hit me this morning when I decided to bake a loaf of bread. I bounced around a few of the contestant websites of the shows I’ve seen, and landed on the Wholesome Loaf from Nancy Birtwhistle – the winner of Episode 5 UK – and the first series we watched. I really liked Nancy on the show – a lot of spunk and great attitude.

For her bread, the first ingredient is 300g strong white bread flour. That’s bread flour, here in the USofA – and 300g is roughly 2 2/3 cups. Roughly. I use a scale.

Yesterday, I received my latest shipment of goodies from Palouse Brands in Washington – including a 5 lb bag of hard red winter wheat. I normally just cook the wheat berries in soups and such, or make salads during warmer weather, but, today, I decided to try milling some to bake a loaf of bread. I don’t own a flour mill – yet – so I used the food processor. It more or less worked – probably less than more – but I did end up with a usable flour after sifting a lot.

Whole Grain Flour

There was also a lot of kernel that didn’t grind down.

I mixed the dough with about 300ml water – about 1 1/4 cups – and after 10 minutes, it really wouldn’t come together in the mixer. It was hard and heavy – and wet.

Bread dough

My first thought was screw it and start again, but my natural pigheadishness kicked in and I decided to start kneading by hand to see what I could do. Another good 10 minutes of working by hand – thank you gym training – and the sticky blob turned into something slightly resembling a usable bread dough.

Bread dough

I set out to let it proof.

This is in no way Nancy’s loaf of bread. It really is definitely something different than what she baked, but it was her idea that got me started. It’s kinda what baking – or cooking – is all about – finding a good idea and playing with it.

It doubled nicely in size.

Bread dough

I then formed it into a  loaf and set it out for its final rise.

Bread dough

I have a problem with picture-taking and cooking. I just start doing things and forget to pick up the camera.

But into the oven it went…

Bread dough

Thirty minutes later, we had achieved bread.

Wholesome Loaf

Flavor-wise, it is excellent. It has all the characteristics of a hearty whole wheat – and it also has that rich, unmistakable earthy flavor of rye. It is dense – but not as heavy as some I’ve made. And it has a great crust. Whole wheat – especially chopped the way I did it – can get pretty heavy  – it sucks up moisture like there’s no tomorrow, and if you overwork it – as I most likely did – the bran can cut the gluten strands, breaking down the gluten structure.

But this wasn’t being judged for competition perfection. It’s an excellent loaf of everyday bread.

I’m quite pleased with the outcome.

Wholesome Bread