Portion/Yield:Makes 2 loaves
I love baking bread! I find it’s therapeutic and it actually helps me to collect my thoughts, calm down and get back in touch with reality. The main reason behind this is that you cannot fast-track bread-making, it takes as long as it takes, with magnificent and very rewarding results. As much as I can, I also try to apply this ‘method’ to my life and I find that if I slow things down in general, give things plenty of thought and time, along with a generous helping of good food, water, warmth and love, the end results are always worth the effort and time.
I have chosen not to use traditional loaf tins to bake these two loaves of bread and instead I have gone for free-form, more rustic-shaped loaves. I must admit it’s fun shaping dough this way as you are not quite sure what the end results will look like. I was very pleased with these loaves though, they’re looking great and very homemade indeed, plus they taste delicious!
Ingredients & Method
- 250g strong wholemeal bread flour
- 15g fresh yeast or 7g dried active yeast (don't use fast-action dried yeast – see Cook's Notes)
- 1 tablespoon clear honey
- 250ml tepid water
- 250g spelt flour
- 10g table salt
- 100g walnuts, chopped
- sunflower oil, for greasing
- plain white flour, for dusting
- 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
Place 50g of the wholemeal flour, the yeast and honey in a small mixing bowl and stir to mix. Add 50ml of the water, mix well, then cover and leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble.
Measure the remaining wholemeal flour, the spelt flour, salt and walnuts into the bowl of an electric stand mixer and stir to mix, then add the bubbling yeast mixture and the remaining water. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough on a slow speed for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, you can make and knead the dough by hand, if you prefer.)
Lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it into a smooth ball. Place the dough ball in the greased bowl, then cover with a clean dry tea towel or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour depending on the room temperature.
Meanwhile, dust 2 baking sheets with white flour or line them with non-stick baking paper.
Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, knock it back, then divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a ball. Place each ball of dough on a prepared baking sheet, gently cover with a clean dry tea towel or cling film and leave to rise again (prove) in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Carefully brush the risen loaves with the egg yolk and then use a sharp knife to make criss-cross cuts over the top of each loaf. Place both loaves in the oven, then pour about 100ml cold water directly onto the oven floor (or into a shallow baking tin positioned on the oven floor) and shut the door quickly. The water will give a burst of steam that will help the loaves to puff up and form a lovely crust.
Bake the loaves for 35–40 minutes or until risen and nicely browned. Tap the base of each loaf and if it sounds hollow, then it’s cooked.
Remove from the oven, transfer the loaves to a wire rack, dust them with white flour, then leave to cool completely before serving.
Wholemeal and spelt flours absorb more water, so if the dough feels slightly sticky at the beginning don’t panic as the water will soon be absorbed. If you add too little water from the start, then your bread will be heavy and dry.
I don’t recommend the use of fast-action dried yeast; I have had a disaster almost every time I have used it. I normally ask my local supermarket (or bakers) for some fresh yeast (if they have it they will normally be pleased to give you a small piece for free). Some delis or health food shops also sell fresh yeast.