The first time I baked my own bread, I remember all the waiting time. Waiting for the sponge to rise, waiting for the dough to double in size, waiting for it (my face almost stuck on the oven door) to bake and finally waiting (in agony) for the bread to cool. That’s when I got to taste it. And after that, I was sure that this bread, was worth every minute of my time. There is nothing, repeat, nothing like baking your own bread. Watching the dough come to life, is like magic. Not to mention the smell in your kitchen while it bakes, or the personal satisfaction of mastering the art of bread baking. I learned about the steps of bread making, by reading almost the entire Bread Bible, a fantastic book by the baking goddess, Rose Levy Beranbaum. She is, in my opinion, one of the best bakers in the world.
When making bread you must not rush the dough to rise. A slow rise will help the flavor to develop and your bread will be delicious. You first need to make the so called “sponge” or “starter”. You can then put it in the fridge overnight and bake your bread the next day. Don’t be intimmidated, there is nothing difficult or complicated about this bread. It’s four simple steps:
- Make the “sponge” and sprinkle with the ingredients of the dough. Let it rise.
- Knead the sponge and the dough ingredients to form the bread dough. Let it rise.
- Shape your bread and let it rise.
- Bake the bread
The actual kneading/mixing time is not much at all. So all you need to do really, is manage your time, to allow for the rising.
Ingredients for the sponge:
- ¾ cup unbleached bread flour
- ¾ cup rye flour
- ½ tsp instant dry yeast
- ½ Tbs sugar
- ½ Tbs honey
- 1¾ cup water at room temperature
Ingredients for the dough:
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
- 3/4 tsp instant yeast
- 2 Tbs brown flaxseeds crushed in a blender (or left whole)
- 2 Tbs sunflower seeds
- 2 Tbs sesame seeds
- 2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
- ½ tbs salt
- ½ tbs olive oil plus extra for oiling the bowl
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the ingredients for the sponge. The mixture should resemble thick batter. Let the batter rest in the mixer bowl until you make the dough mixture.
Mix all the ingredients for the dough mixture except the oil. Using a spoon, sprinkle the dough mixture lightly over of the sponge mixture. Don’t mix. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in room temperature for 1 to 4 hours. If you plan to make the bread the next day, after one hour put the mixer bowl in the fridge and let it rise longer. Just make sure you bring it to room temperature before kneading. During this time the sponge will rise through the flour.
When ready to knead, add the olive oil to the dough/sponge mixture and beat in the mixer bowl, with a dough hook attachment. Start on low speed until all flour is moistened and then increase speed to medium. Knead for 7-8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. The dough will be on the sticky side. If it sticks too much on your fingers add some flour on the palms of your hand. Shape the dough roughly in a ball and put in an oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for an hour in room temperature. At this stage you can cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to rest over night. The dough will continue to rise. Alternatively you can let the dough rest and rise until double in size, and then proceed with the shaping.
Shape the bread and bake the bread. Preheat oven to 240 C. With a pastry brush, oil a loaf pan. Punch down the dough to deflate. Shape into a loaf and put in the oiled pan. Of course, you can shape the bread any way you like. Personally I like baking it in a loaf pan as it holds its shape and it’s easier for sandwiches Cover loosely with kitchen towels. Let the bread rise for 45 minutes, until almost double in size.
Bake the bread. Using a very sharp knife, make a long slash along the long surface of the loaf, about 1 cm deep. You can make diagonal slashes if your loaf is longer (like a baguette) or if you shaped your bread differently. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 210 and bake 20 minutes more. Take the bread out of the oven, out of the loaf pan and put on a rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. Don’t be tempted to eat it straight away. The bread continues to cook while it cools.