Good morning, sunshine. It's actually cloudy just on the other side of this porch window at my elbow. But little birds are chirping and the trees are glowing with pride over their brand new leaves. The rain this week is helping everything bust out all over.
I thought we could start the day with some toothsome and nourishing cinnamon-raisin-walnut bread.
Bread baking is an almost daily occurrence in my oven. This is not because I have nothing better to do. This is because home-baked bread is worth it to me. Even if you buy the better flour, like King Arthur Flour, it is such a fraction of the price. Additionally, it will not have any cheap throw away oils or preservatives in it.
Let's be clear about this: I do not raise or slaughter my own chickens. I do not grow all my own vegetables. I do not keep sheep, sheer wool or spin my own yarn. We no longer cut firewood. What's my point? You do not have to devote your life to being a wilderness "do-it-yourselver" to make your own bread. Choose your battles, and once you get the hang of it, bread is such a worthy and pleasant endeavour.
If you choose to go the sourdough route you have the added benefit of the grain having been broken down by the useful and healthful bacteria, similar to the bacteria found in yogurt. If you have trouble digesting wheat bread you may find sourdough much more comfortable in your gut.
This recipe uses a "before bed, before breakfast" sourdough technique that makes frequent bread making possible for a busy Mom.
The night before:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
at least 1/2 cup raisin
at least 2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup whole wheat or rye flour
between 1 1/2 cups and 2 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour
cornmeal for baking
In a glass large non-metal bowl mix together all your ingredients up to the all-purpose flour.
Mix in enough of the flour to get a sticky dough that holds it's shape with a little sagging. Like this:
The Next Morning:
When you wake up and first make your way to the kitchen peek inside your bowl and breath in the smell of that sourdough doing it's amazing job. It will have spread and filled the bottom of the bowl.
Stir it with a spoon by pulling the dough up from underneath and stretching it over the top. Do this over and over all the way around until it is fully deflated and smooth. If it is so sticky that it won't pull like elastic, sprinkle some extra flour in until it will come together like a soft ball.
Turn it out onto the counter with a little flour underneath it fold it over itself a few times, pressing the seams together to make a smoothish shape. You can make it round or oblong.
Place your shape on an upside- down cookie sheet sprinkled with enough cornmeal to keep from sticking. Leave in a warm place.
Put a heavy pot with lid in your oven and turn the heat on to 425.. Leave the pot to warm for about 20 minutes to half an hour. You can put your dough on the stove top, just make sure it isn't directly in the way of the vent.
Bring the pot out to the stove top and quickly sprinkle a little cornmeal in the bottom. The dough also has cornmeal stuck to it so you don't need a lot. Very gently lift your dough into the pot. If it is too floppy, lift the whole cookie sheet and gently turn the dough over on it's side into the pot. BE CAREFUL OF YOUR FINGERS.
Put the lid on and pot back in the oven for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes carefully remove the lid and turn your oven down to 350. The bread will be pale, and at this stage it is up to you how crispy you decide to let it get. Try 10 minutes without the lid and see how it looks. If it still looks a little light give it 5 more minutes.
When it looks right, take everything out and let the bread cool on a rack. Do not cut it when it's still steaming. This is still part of the baking and the inside will be gummy if you rush it.
It's a lot of writing, but once you've got the feel of it you can bake this bread by principle. Trying adding more flour to make a little stiffer of a dough, Try some seeds, or stone ground flour. Herbs and minced garlic make e a wonderful dinner bread.
If you have any questions let me know, I would love to answer them.
And if you have success, I would love to hear about it.
Enjoy your bread!