Push-ups and Power Bread

The Bread Baking Babes are at it again. They somehow seem to know what to do to get me hooked. This time they used all the right words–Peter Reinhart (everyone knows that I love his recipes) Soaker, Biga, healthy, sesame, raisins. . . Well I am listing all the ingredients. But tell me, would you not want to bake a bread which claims a healthy, power packed breakfast? This bread has no processed white flour, has raisins and honey to add to the sweetness, packed with seeds for that extra fiber and of course, just a wee bit of oats. (the recipe required oat bran and I was not going to buy a whole bag to use a few grams). No wonder they have called it the “Power Bread”

Now that I have decided that it is time for everyone at home to eat healthy, this bread seemed the perfect place to start. My push-ups and my exercise routines are not the greatest but I can at least make a bread that will make me feel like I could do a push-up. We all need to start somewhere right? Now before you get all excited, like I did, this recipe takes 3 days to make. That’s right 3 days. Before you hit the panic button, I only said it ‘takes’ 3 days. You don’t have to do anything much. Day 1 you just soak a few things–this is the pre-soaker. Next day you mix it in with some flour and water. This is your soaker. The you make a biga with a little more flour and water. This will take you totally five minutes. On day 3 you mix everything together and knead. This is actually perfect for the baker, who cannot spare too much time to bake a bread. You can do a little bit everyday and pretend that you are working really hard on the loaf.

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Don’t let all the fancy words intimidate you. The recipe is actually very simple. There is a reason why we let time do all the work. For one, it is whole wheat, so a biga and a slow fermentation belps bring out all the flavour of the grain and the gluten is developed far more easily. Then you have the flaxseeds which are soaked overnight. this soaking helps break down the enzymes making it far easier to digest. There is no processed sugar in this recipe. All the sweetness comes from the raisins which are also soaked overnight. The recipe also calls for some honey, which I will skip the next time. The raisins were sweet enough for me. Or better still, I would not mind adding some apricots for that slightly tart hit.

So let us do a time line for this recipe. On day 1 late into the evening, soak your raisins and flax seeds in water. That is it. You are done for the day. Go to sleep and wake up next morning to find that most of the water has been soaked up by the raisins and flaxseeds. Now pop that into a blender and pulverize the fruit. Add the next part of the pre soaker and mix well and let it just sit around while you get on with your days work. What that took you 5 minutes? Before you go to bed that night, make your biga and pop both the biga and soaker into the fridge for the night. While you sleep, let chemistry do its thing. Day 2 is done.

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So being your day 3 with a smile. Finally your bread is going to be ready today. Take out your biga a couple of hours before and chop it up into little pieces. Take a look at the specked soaker. To me it looks as pretty as the flower (or a pie chart. I prefer the flower. It sounds so  much prettier) I have tried to create! Now just put everything together knead and well, you the rest.

The recipe does ask for sunflower seed flour. Now where on earth am I going to get that you may ask. It is really simple. Measure out the seeds and use your trusty blender. Ta da! You have seed flour. I did debate whether to use melon seeds but sunflower sounded so much better. See we are going with the flower theme!

I did use some of stock of spelt flour and I am not too sure if this made my dough rise up double quick. Somehow in the oven, the dough rose only minimally. Maybe it did all the rising outside. Considering the loaf is packed with seeds, I was actually pleasantly surprised that it rose as much as it did.

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If you are by some chance expecting a loaf as light as air or a puff of cloud, this is a wrong recipe for you. This loaf will yield a substantial slice which is guaranteed to fill you and keep you satisfied. It is moist and soft but in a sturdy sort of way. The sweetness of the raisins contrasts beautifully with the unmistakable tang of buttermilk. While I supposedly slaved away at this bread, I could not help but think what fun it was to make this bread.

Remember to keep the bread a little on the sticky side. I had to use a couple of tablespoons of water more than the recipe asked for. A confession here–I also completely forgot about the steam for the loaf. However, it made little difference, because I did land up with a crusty loaf. And just one more thing–this loaf does not require any slashing. I just went ahead and did it. So all I landed up with is not expansion near the cut but a slightly disfigured surface. Not that it affected the taste in any way.

Now this recipe has all the measurements by weight and sometimes it is as specific as 72 gms. So I have tried to include cup measures for those who like things a little simpler. Personally I prefer to go by weight. So much more precise, don’t you think?

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INGREDIENTS

Pre-soaker

71 gms  (6 1/2 Tbs) Raisins
14 gms  (1.1/2 Tbs) Flaxseeds
170 gms  (3/4 cup) Water
Mix all pre-soaker ingredients together in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.
Soaker
All of pre-soaker
170 gms  (1 1/3 cups) Whole Wheat Flour
14 gms  (2 Tbs) Oats
4 gms  (1/2 tsp) Salt
1. Puree the pre-soaker in a blender, and mix with the remaining soaker ingredients in a medium bowl.
2. Stir for about a minute, until everything is thoroughly combined and it forms a ball.
3. Cover the bowl and leave at room temp for 12-24 hours (or, refrigerate it for up to 3 days, but let sit at room temperature for 2 hours before mixing the final dough).
Biga
170 gms  (1 1/3 cups) Whole Wheat Flour
1 gms  (1/4 tsp) Instant Yeast
142 gms  (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs) Milk or Buttermilk at room temperature
1. Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a large bowl. Wet your hands, and knead for 2 minutes. Then let it rest for 5 minutes and knead again for 1 min.
2.Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours to 3 days.
3. Two hours before you’re ready to mix the final dough, let the biga sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Final Dough
All of soaker (at room temperature)
All of biga (at room temperature)
56 gms (6 Tbs) Sunflower seeds, ground into a flour
56 gms  (7 Tbs) Whole Wheat Flour (I used spelt)
28.5 gms  (or 1 oz or 3 Tbsp) Sesame seeds, whole
4 gms (1/2 tsp) Salt
7 gms  (2.25 tsp) Instant Yeast
21 gms  (1.5 Tbs) Honey (next time I will skip this)
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METHOD
1. Cut the soaker and the biga into 12 pieces each.
2. Mix the sunflower seed flour with remaining ingredients, including the soaker and biga pieces.
3. Knead the mixture with wet hands for 2 minutes, or until everything is thoroughly mixed. Dough should be slightly sticky; if it’s very tacky, add more flour; if it’s very dry and not sticky, add more water.
 4. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, and then knead for another minute. At this point your dough should stretch to a ‘window pane’. If not, knead more until it can pass the test.
5. Form your dough into a ball, place it into a lightly oiled bowl, roll it around in the oil, and let it sit covered at room temperature until it’s about 1.5 times its original size.
6. Lightly flour your counter again, and form your dough into either a loaf shape or rolls.
7. Put the loaf-shaped dough into a lightly oiled 8.5″ x 4″ loaf pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it sit at room temperature until it’s 1.5 times its original size.
8. Pre-heat the oven and a steam pan (an empty metal pan on the bottom oven rack) to 220C.
9. Put bread in the oven, pour 1 cup hot water into steam pan, and reduce oven temp to 180C. Bake for 20 min. (I completely forgot this step)
10.Then remove steam pan, and bake for another 20-30 min, or until loaf is brown, have an internal temperature of at least 195F, and have a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
11.Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely (at least 1 hour) before serving.
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Like a lot of these breads, it tastes great toasted, served with a little bit of natural fruit butter. I found a couple of slices of the bread and a cup of tea I was good to go. I may not be doing the full on push-ups today but I can at least start with the plank!

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