I’ve long been a fan of dark and oaty homemade soda bread not least for the ease with which it can be knocked up in less time than it takes to eat it (ideally slathered in butter and smoked salmon). I’m less offay with proper loaves simply because I rarely have three hours spare at the weekend to knead and prove but whilst on holiday for a few days in Cornwall recently, I decided no more excuses, it’s time to make a good old fashioned brown loaf. Wholemeal bread is apparently more tricky to get right than your traditional white due to the lower gluten content which often results in a rather overly dense loaf. Whilst it is possible to get hold of wholemeal flour which behaves more like white without sacrificing all the fibre and other good stuff, traditionalists prefer wholemeal bread made with stone-ground flour. There is all sorts of varying – and confusing – advice out there when it comes to making the perfect wholemeal dough. Some – such as Delia – advocate a long rise or even making the mixture the night before. There’s the slam dough method favoured by Richard Bertinet, the classic method or the relatively pain free no knead method. But seeing as I’m on holiday and for once I’ve actually got a bit of time to devote to the art of bread making I’ve opted for kneading little and often – Dan Lepard style. He says that kneading helps develop the gluten which gives a lighter texture and even recommends crushing up a vitamin C tablet and adding this. Unfortunately the only tablets I had to hand were paracetamol so thought best to leave that out. The bread was remarkably easy to make and we left it to prove whilst we embarked on a mammoth walk from our little cottage to Lands End. It took about 3 hours and we (by that I mean James, Margot and I) rewarded ourselves with Cornish pasties about the size of a small car. We ate the bread later, slathered in butter and strawberry jam…
Dan Lepard’s recipe (with a few adaptions)
300g strong wholemeal flour
150g strong white flour
2 tsp easy blend yeast
Half a 500mg vitamin C tablet, crushed (if you have it)
2 tsp salt
3 tsp brown sugar
400ml warm water
50g melted butter
1. Tip the flours, yeast, vitamin powder, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Add 300ml water, and stir in well, then pour in the butter and work in well. You should have a soft, sticky dough: if not, add a little more water. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
2. Tip out on to a lightly oiled work surface and knead for 10 seconds, then put back in the bowl and cover. Repeat twice more at intervals of 10 minutes, then leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about the length of your baking tin, then roll up tightly, and put into a greased tin, with the join facing downwards. Cover and leave to rest in a warm place until it has doubled in height (at least 1½ hours).
4. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200C and cook for a further 15–20 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out on to a cooling rack.