If you’re wondering why bread matters and what’s the matter with modern commercially-made bread, Andrew Whitley spells it out in Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own, and he doesn’t mince words. He spends the first 50 pages or so explaining why the commercial bread baking process (specifically in Britain, although I think it largely applies to most industrialized societies) is “a nutritional, culinary, social, and environmental mess.”
But maybe you knew that already, if you’re into baking your own bread. In that case, you might be drawn to this book’s unassumingly beautiful and wholesome breads, its chapter on gluten-free baking, or the recipe for kvas, a slightly alcoholic Russian drink made from rye bread, sourdough starter, and molasses.
Aside from looking like it would be just plain delicious (which it was), the recipe for Fruit and Nut Leaven Bread intrigued me because it includes the nuts (along with the dried fruit) in the soaker. This is unusual — most recipes call for nuts to be toasted or untreated — and Whitley promised the soaking would lend them “an almost buttery eating quality.” Also, the fruits and nuts constitute a wonderfully high proportion of the overall dough. I must say this was a really satisfying loaf to bake and to eat.
Publisher Andrews McMeel has generously offered to send a free copy of Bread Matters to one of you. Just leave a comment, before 11:59 p.m. PST on December 8, about your own reasons for baking your own bread, and I’ll choose a winner by random drawing. And no geographic restrictions on this one!
— Update: The giveaway is over. Comments are still welcome, though! —
Fruit and Nut Bread
(Adapted from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley)
Note: I made a few modifications to the original recipe, which calls for
- Mixing the flours, water, and salt together before adding the starter. I added them all at the same time.
- 190 g water. I found I needed 30 g more.
- Proofing the loaf right-side up on a baking sheet. I used a 9.5-inch oval brotform.
- Proofing for 3 – 5 hours. I found mine was ready in 2 hours.
- No steam. Whitley is not a fan of steaming baking bread; I am.
- Baking on a baking sheet, not a stone.
Yield: 940 g (one large loaf)
- Soak soaker: at least 4 hours
- Mix final dough: 10 minutes
- First fermentation : one hour
- Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
- Proof: 2 – 5 hours
- Bake: 40 minutes
Fruit and Nut Mix Ingredients:
- 50 g dried figs
- 35 g pitted dates
- 35 g pitted prunes
- 35 g hazelnuts
- 35 g brazil nuts
- 35 g walnuts
- 50 g water
- 200 g flour
- 70 g whole wheat flour
- 220 g water
- 5 g salt
- 200 g mature 60%-hydration whole wheat sourdough starter
- All of the fruit and nut mix
- Coarsely chop the fruits and nuts and combine them with the 50 g of water. Cover and let rest for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Drain any loose water off before adding the mixture to the dough.
- Combine all of the dough ingredients except the fruit and nut mixture in a bowl. Mix by hand until combined. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium-soft consistency.
- On the counter, continue mixing the dough by hand until it is smooth and elastic.
- Transfer the dough back into the mixing bowl. Cover and ferment for one hour.
- Turn the dough onto the counter and pat it into a disc. Place the fruit and nut mixture on the dough and fold the dough around them, repeating until they are reasonable well dispersed.
- Shape the dough into a batard and place it seam-side-up into a floured brotform.
- Proof, covered, until the indentation left by a fingertip springs back only slowly, 2 – 5 hours.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 425F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
- Just before baking, slash the top of the loaf.
- Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400F. Bake for 10 minutes with steam, and another 25 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 10 minutes, with the door ajar.
- Cool on a wire rack.
I bake bread because it’s healthier, it’s more cost-effective, it makes me feel proud, and it feels as though I’m creating a home when the smell of baked bread permeates.
I bake bread because it is so simple: flour + water + leavening agent = bread.
I bake bread because it is so complex; there are thousands of things to try.
I bake bread because of the satisfaction and pleasure that results from a great loaf.
Homemade bread delicious and you can try any variety you like.
I bake my own bread because I want to know what is going into it. I also love the process of feeding my yeasties beasties (my sourdough starters) and seeing them rise up and make bread for me to eat. The process is satisfying and the result even more so.
I take care of them and they provide flavorful bread for me.
Richard Cardillo says
I can think of no better way to demonstrate the power of collegiality, community, service and collaboration than baking bread and sharing it!
Baking bread can be a reward to yourself or those you bake for. Yeast can be simple to work with or a great challenge. For me it is all about satisfaction and artistry. If there is more to learn I’m up for that
Bread is my favorite thing to eat. I bake it because I know I will always love the outcome.
Is the yummy bread I had at your house over Thanksgiving? It’s to die for!!
Here in the Bahamas it’s incredibly difficult and/or expensive to get good quality food – baking my own bread is a hugely satisfying way to eat well for much, much less. Plus my boyfriend adores me for it…
I bake my own bread because it tastes so much better than store-bought bread!
Hmmm. Many reasons for baking my own. First, the process gives me peace. Second, I know what is in it. I can name all the ingredients and pronounce them! Third, it makes me happy to do that for my family, knowing that they are eating nutricious and delicious home made things. And lastly – my house smells GREAT!! 🙂
Lalycairn (at) gmail.com
bart henry says
Honestly? Store-bought bread is garbage and most bakeries don’t use the quality of ingredients that I want. Thanks for the chance.
Eli Ally says
most of the bird food that we have are just sunflower seeds, birds love sunflower seeds`-,
Lee-Anne Archer says
Love this recipe….plan to make it. We have been buying it for sometime, at a local bakery, only made on Fridays!! Now we can make it any day of the week at home!! Thanks so much.
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