Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Honey Wheat Bread

It's been quite a busy few days for baking.  There are three entries I need to compile for the blog (including this one) so best get a move on.

So, to kickstart it all, I present honey wheat bread!  Been a while since I've done bread and this one was a PAIN.  It all started as a reason to use up the leftover buttermilk again.  I really wish I could get smaller pots of buttermilk sometimes.  I always have leftovers I need to use up.  Anyway, I was originally looking at cake recipes but then saw one for honey wheat buttermilk bread, which sounded like it would be a nice one to make for the fiancé.  I really wanted to make him something yummy since he had an eleven hour shift on Sunday, starting at 7:30am, with a 6 mile cycle to get there.  Not fun.  But this bread sounded perfect.

And thus I set about making it.  Seemed easy enough though the dough was ridiculously sticky.  I ended up adding a bit more flour just to make it more manageable, though still sticky.  It proved to be an annoying dough, since it really didn't want to rise on the first go around.  Then when I knocked it back, re-kneaded and put it in the bread tin, it did rise, albeit very slowly and with considerable help from the electric heater.  But fine, it looked alright and so in the oven it went. 

Now when baking bread, you know it's down when it sounds hollow when tapped on the base.  I cooked it for the time recommended, pulled it out, flipped it and tapped it.  Thunk.  No hollow sound.  Okay, I thought, I'll just put it back in.  I did this at least 3 more times and still wasn't getting a good sound.  So in the end, I just pulled it and left it to cool, thinking that maybe I was mishearing it.

But then the cutting came.  When I've made bread previously, we've always eaten it almost fresh from the oven and it's been scrummy.  So I was unbelievably disappointed when I cut into the loaf and discovered the bottom half was still raw.  The fiancé still thought it tasted good but I was not happy.

On to round two.  I decided there could be many things that caused the problem: needing new yeast; not kneading enough; the recipe was intended for a breadmaker; should have left it to cool completely before cutting.  One of those had to be the cause, right?  So I found a very similar recipe, this one not intended for a breadmaker, and had the fiancé pick me up new yeast when he went to the supermarket (along with more buttermilk).  Again, I did what the recipe told me and thought this time around would be more successful.  But it wasn't.  It was still raw at the bottom.  The oven temperature was right.  The internal temperature of the bread was right.  I left it to cool before cutting but nope, still didn't work.

Now I was determined.  I was going to give it one more shot and this time I was going to do what I had been avoiding, which was using a recipe from the only bread book I own.  I had not turned to it before because I feel bad posting recipes from just one book (despite how awesome it is).  But the past two failures had pushed me to it so I flicked through and found something fairly similar, though not identical.  This recipe didn't have buttermilk in it (though I added some in instead of some of the milk) and it wasn't a yeasted dough.  So it was a very quick bread to make.

And it worked!  I was so happy.  It rose nicely and looked good when I cut it up.  Plus it was cooked through.  Honestly, The Big Book of Bread never steers me wrong.  No wonder I only own one bread book.

The fiancé also enjoyed it.  Throughout the trials, I'd used varying amounts of honey.  The first had 4 tbsp honey, and you could really taste it.  The second had 2 tbsp and didn't come through at all.  This recipe also called for 4, but I made it 3, because the fiancé said that something between the two previous ones would be perfect.  So the honey taste is subtler in this one, but still clearly there and would not clash with any topping you chose to put on the bread.

Recipe - adapted from The Big Book of Bread
Makes 1 x 20cm/8inch round loaf
  • 450g/1lb wholemeal flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 25g/1oz butter
  • 3-4 tbsp runny honey
  • 55ml/2fl.oz buttermilk
  • About 200ml/7fl.oz milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and flour a baking tray.
  2. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl.
  3. Dice up the butter and add it to the dry ingredients.  Rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the honey and buttermilk and stir in.
  5. Add the milk a little at a time, mixing everything together until you form a soft dough.  You might not need all the milk.
  6. Knead the dough gently in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface for 5-10 minutes. 
  7. Shape into a 20cm/8inch round (a flattish circle) and place on the tray.
  8. Use a sharp knife to cut three slits across the top of the dough.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is risen and lightly browned.  It should sound hollow when tapped on the base.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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