We are in the depths of winter hereabouts so we are wandering off on a parallel path this week to talk about bread instead of gardens. The garden is under a couple of feet of snow and ice and there’s only so much you can say about feeder-birds to engage one’s audience.
When I am not wildlife/native gardening or birding my thoughts regularly turn to the subject of bread … not to the Loblaws cartel we are hearing so much about in the news at the moment, but rather good, proper bread that I can make myself. Buried deep, deep in the archives of this web journal are a number of pages written years ago about bread and some tried and tested recipes. The pages are still there but not linked to in the menu ( – note to self, remedy this before spring). Anyway … I am pretty sure readers will find the following of interest.
Let’s bake some bread
This is a sourdough wholemeal loaf with “extra benefits” as well as great taste. I will come to the extras after the recipe.
LoFo* Spelt and Oat Bread
Spelt flour, which is an “ancient” grain related to modern wheats, has lower gluten and FODMAP content than regular wheat flour (more on that later) and, to our minds, tastes quite a lot nuttier and nicer. It is widely available. The oat flour adds even more flavour and the steel-cut oats provide texture.
Don’t have a sourdough starter? The recipe uses sourdough to achieve the rise but if you just want the flavour of the flour mix and don’t have a sourdough starter in your kitchen (and don’t have FODMAP issues with your diet – see later) then you could easily make the bread using regular baker’s yeast. No oat flour? Substitute a cup of any other flour you may have around – regular white flour, buckwheat flour, some rye perhaps would all work. You can substitute potato flour too and that will give a slightly moister crumb to the final loaf.
- 1 cup steel cut oats (soaked 30 minutes in 200ml water)
- 1 cup oat flour
- 2 cups strong, white bread flour
- 5 cups spelt flour (sprouted or regular)
- 1.5 cups sourdough starter
- Water – approximately 700ml (including that used to soak oats)
Mix all ingredients and knead in the usual way for bread – you want a wettish dough that does not stick to your hands. Mixing in a stand mixer is a lot easier than doing the whole job with a spoon. Do this mixing after your evening meal, say around 8pm. A glass of beer or wine helps.
Put the dough in a large bowl and cover with ‘clingfilm’. You don’t need to keep it too warm, the longer and slower the rise the more interesting and complex the taste.
Leave to proof (rise) overnight for a good 12 hours … that’s why I suggest starting the process in the evening so it can be working overnight. The dough will rise more than the “usual” doubling most bread recipes aim for … often tripling or more.
Knock back the dough, knead briefly and gently to stretch it and then divide into two or three portions depending on the size of loaf you want. Shape your loaves and place in appropriately sized bread tins or, better, in a floured-cloth lined basket (see photo) – rise about another 2 hours, more or less, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
Slash the tops and place on baking sheets lined with parchment (see photo).
Bake for 10 minutes at 400F/200C then reduce temperature to 375F/190C for a further 20 minutes or until done.
Cool on a rack and eat … if you got the timing right this will be ready for luncheon.
Trust me – the flavour of this particular flour mixture is uniquely wonderful. It also makes wonderfully chewy toast when cut thick.
Now – the “Extra Benefits”
I am not one for food fads and woo in cooking. Nevertheless, many people avoid gluten and believe they have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. If you actually have celiac disease then indeed you really do need to keep far away from the stuff but it is now becoming established (lots of work published from Monash University in Australia and Kings College in London UK) that many, not all, so-called gluten sensitivities are nothing to do with gluten but are actually inabilities to properly digest a group of substances that are present in wheat flours alongside gluten.
These are collectively known as FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) and can be avoided – in bread, but not elsewhere – by avoiding the gluten they dwell alongside … BUT, let’s be honest, so-called gluten free breads truly are pretty awful things, more akin to cake than anything else and nutritionally and taste-wise not on a par with real bread at all. So we put on the white coat and applied a bit science and a lot of experimentation to come up with a solution that allows you to eat real, taste filled bread … and, what’s more a solution that should appeal to the tastebuds of anyone who likes a nice piece of proper bread with their cheese or toasted under a poached egg. Being able to markedly reduce the problem components while still having the gluten that gives your bread a good rise and an acceptable crumb structure is the extra benefit. If you don’t have digestion issues then just enjoy the bread anyway because that longer fermentation stage really does add significant flavour to the final product
The key is in the F of FODMAP – Fermentable.
Sourdough bread achieves the rise by fermenting the natural sugars in flour … so by allowing the fermentation process to run for a long enough time you markedly reduce the FODMAP levels in your bread while significantly increasing the interesting flavours. The reduction is achieved by the sourdough fermentation process. The recipe differs from many domestic sourdough methods by using an extended proofing stage and hence achieving more complete fermentation. Worth also noting that this bread is considerably cheaper than the stuff sold by your local artisanal bakery and that many so-called sourdoughs in supermarkets are only minimally sourdough aided by regular yeast and the addition of “souring” flavour enhancers.
Final note – happy to take questions on this process via the comments field below or by email.
*LoFo = Low in FODMAPs
References … if you want to know more: