Sunday, May 18, 2008

A day in the kitchen: Whole Wheat Ginger Bread

Hello everybody Nathan here at the ETC.

Another bread recipe has emerged as a success from the oven. I used the Tassajara method for making whole wheat bread, which involves making a sponge, mixing the remaining ingredients & kneading, then letting rise twice and proof before baking.
This recipe will make one large round loaf or 2-3 loaves in smaller loaf pans.

3 C Warm water
2-3 Tbs Yeast (active dry or liquid culture)
4-6 C Coarse/fine whole wheat flour
1/3-1/2 C Dark honey
1/2 C Safflower oil
1 Tbs Salt
A handful Chopped ginger
4-5 C Fine/coarse W.W. flour

Making the Sponge
I start with the body temperature warm water in a medium-large mixing bowl, adding in the honey and yeast, for this batch I used some yeast left over from brewing a hard ginger beer, which was fermented with dry-active bread yeast, however dry yeast will work as well, this is mixed into solution. Next, one cup at a time I mix in the w.w. flour until it is quite thick and hard to stir. At this time I give it about another 100 strokes with a wooden spoon to smooth it out. This stage is to allow the yeast to build up activity & strength in an ideal environment as salt & oil will slow the yeast down.
The sponge is set to rise for a time until it is nearly double in size. A warm environment is best for this, 70-80 degrees F with a lid/cloth over top to prevent evaporation. I usually head up a wide pot with water in it (120-180 F) and set the mixing bowl on top.

Making Dough & Kneading
Add oil, salt and ginger to the sponge and now instead of mixing/stirring, ingredients are incorporated by folding the dough, slide the spoon under the dough and fold from the edge up and over the top of the dough, spin the bowl a little and continue to fold and spin until it reaches an even consistency. Add flour 1 cup at a time, continuing to fold the dough. At some point this becomes difficult for me to do with a spoon so I fold with my hands in a fashion similar to kneading adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Once dough is not too sticky, bring it out onto a floured board or counter-top and continue to knead adding flour as needed, usually for 15-20 minutes or until dough is soft. Form dough into a ball by flipping onto folded side and bring in the sides which stretches the top surface, be careful not to stretch it too tight as it can tear the surface. Set the round dough into a clean oiled bowl and keep warm & covered. Let rise 60 minutes or until almost double, punch down, make round again and let rise 45 minutes or so.

Making loaves and baking
Preheat the oven to 375 F. At this point divide the dough with a sharp knife if you are using smaller pans, or leave intact if your are going to bake it in something larger, I use a large cast-iron pan 18-20'' and the dough doesn't touch the sides so it rises without assistance for a beautiful gently sloping round. A baking sheet may also work to bake a round like this. Regardless of what you bake it in take the dough for each loaf and knead it lightly, using just a little flour and form it into a ball with the folds on the bottom. If your making a round loaf set this in your pan and keep warm until it has risen for 10-20 min. If making in a rectangular loaf pan, let your dough ball rest for a few minutes, then with a rolling pin roll it out about as wide as your pan is long and then roll it up and pinch the seam. Oil your pan and set in the dough seam up which shapes the bottom, then let is slip out onto your hand and set it in seam down which gives you a nice and even top. As with the round loaf let this set in a warm place for 10-20 min.
Bake bread for 45-60 min and pull out once top is well browned, set out of pan and tap on the bottom if it sounds hollow it is probably done if not set it back in for a time. Once loaf is finished set it out onto a rack or cloth to cool and enjoy.

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