This week I’ve felt like experimenting with my breads, just to broaden my palate (pun intended). In making bread pretty much every day for the last ten months, I have stepped beyond the recipes I have found or adapted from others… now I get to make it up as I go along!
This particular recipe can be baked in a standard 2lb loaf tin, or in four half-size loaf tins. I chose to make the smaller ones because I give most of my bread away. Of course, you can always make this as a boule or a bâtard as well. That’s the beauty of cooking: there are always so many possibilities.
This particular bread has a lovely delicate sweetness that is perfect for afternoon tea, with jam.
200g boiling water
150g cold water
A dozen strands dried saffron
4-5g (one tsp) dried yeast
120-130g levain at room temperature
250g unbleached bread flour
250g unbleached all-purpose flour
(optional) 50-70g light rye flour
10g kosher salt
5g (one tsp) ground cardamom, if desired
Extra flour for kneading
1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the honey and hot water until the honey dissolves. Stir in the cold water (so that the water ends up hand-hot), and add the saffron, yeast, and leave in a warm place for five minutes to activate the yeast and the saffron. Meanwhile, measure out the flours, salt, and cardamom in a smaller bowl.
2. Using a electric hand mixer, beat the liquids together until smooth. Dump in the dry ingredients, and beat until well combined. Use a stiff spatula or wooden spoon to incorporate wet and dry until you have a wet sticky dough. You may need a little more hot water to dampen all the flour.
3. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with oil or Pam; press this onto the dough. Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes to rest and develop, or autolyse.
4. At the end of 20-30 minutes, the dough should be soft and a little puffy. Sprinkle flour on your counter, and scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the flat surface. Knead for about five minutes until the dough is springy and not picking up more flour. You may need to use a dough scraper to keep the counter clean.
5. When I made this bread, the dough weighed 1124g. I split this into four equal pieces of 281g. Oil or spray your loaf pans, knead each piece for a minute or two, shape into a loaf, and place each piece in its mini loaf pan. Leave in a warm place for an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
6. Heat your oven to 450°F/230°C. If you have a baking stone, place it on the middle shelf, and place an old cast iron frying pan in the bottom of the oven (for boiling water later).
7. Five minutes before putting the bread in the over, boil a kettle. When the oven is hot, slash the top of each loaf, then place the loaf tins on the baking stone. Pour the boiling water into the frying pan, and shut the door as rapidly as possible to retain the steam.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Take out one loaf and tap the bottom; if you get a hollow percussive sound, the bread is ready. If not, leave it in the oven for another five minutes.
9. When ready, pull the pans out of the oven and tip out the loaves onto cooking rack. If you can resist the temptation to eat it warm, the bread will cut more cleanly if you let it cool completely before serving.
I like to eat this bread warm, with a smear of vegan cream cheese; it is also delicious toasted with unsalted butter. Store in a paper bag at room temperature, or wrap it well and freeze for up to two months.