I’ve recently been baking breads and experimenting with some different recipes. I’ve never owned or used a bread machine. I do believe that they are probably very convenient, but I also know that there’s nothing like mixing up some dough and kneading it by hand. It sounds like a big chore, but honestly, it takes a very small amount of time to mix some flour, yeast and a few other ingredients and knead them for less than 10 minutes. Yes, there is that rising time and forming time, but I just put on the timer, and forget about it until the buzzer tells me it has risen. Bread really is very simple and you can add things as you wish. Maybe some seeds or garlic or various spices. Remember, the women in Bible times did not have measuring cups and spoons. They reached into their sacks and took handfuls of flour till their dough was the correct consistency, so don’t be afraid of a little trial and error. Each loaf may be different, but still tasty!
Last week I decided to take liberty with my French Bread recipe. I decided to make it a bit healthier by using some whole wheat flour instead of all white. Next time I may even go heavier on the whole wheat ratio. I was thinking of the wheat baguettes at Panera Bread and decided to add some seeds. It actually tasted quite similar, so maybe I should call it my “Panera Wannabe Bread!” Some was given away, some gobbled up by grandchildren and my husband had no trouble polishing off the rest!
The women in Bible times didn’t have fancy kitchen gadgets either, but I would like to add a product review here, and tell you a little about some fabulous bread pans. I recently received a baguette pan (pictured), as a gift, and already had owned the Chicago Metallic French bread pan. The perforations in these pans allow the air to come through and evenly bake the bread giving a nice textured crust, while the rounded shape keeps the bread shaped and looking just as if it came from a bakery. If you want to invest in a nice bread pan that will last for many years, try one of these. Otherwise a regular baking sheet will do just fine!
Seeded Wheat Baguette
3 1/2 c bread flour (or all purpose flour)
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 1/2 T active dry yeast
1 1/2 t salt
1 T sugar
2 c warm water (110 degrees F)
2 T toasted sesame seed
1 T poppy seed
2 T millet
2 T wheat bran or wheat germ (optional)
1 egg white
1 T water
In a large bowl combine all of the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 c bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt and seeds.
Stir to mix dry ingredients and then stir in warm water and blend well with a wooden spoon. Add more flour (maybe another cup) until you have a firm but still wet dough.
Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface, adding and kneading in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. (Add as much or as little flour as necessary). Knead for 8-10 minutes total. Shape into a ball and put into a greased bowl, turning once. (I also drizzle and rub olive oil over the ball of dough to keep it moist). Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into thirds, or fourths if you like. ( I use a large knife to divide the dough). Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. You may roll out each piece of dough into a rectangle and roll starting at the long side, jelly roll style or you can just form it by rolling it “play dough” style!
Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it lightly with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down on the baking sheet, 3 inches apart. Using a fork, lightly beat the egg white with water and brush all over the loaves. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 35-40 minutes.
Using a very sharp knife, make diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep, diagonally, across the top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and again brush the loaves with the egg white mixture. If you wish, you may sprinkle the tops with your choice of seeds. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Allow to cool before cutting them.
*To toast sesame seeds, place them in a baking pan and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, until the color darkens. You may also toast them on the stove top in a large fry pan. Using medium heat and stirring occasionally until the color darkens and they become fragrant. Allow the seeds to cool and keep them in a tightly covered container at room temperature. Toasting the seeds gives them a rich nutty flavor.