Monday, January 3, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread - The Minimalist Way

My husband knows me too well. He was dead on in his birthday gift for me last week, picking out a cookbook that I hadn't even mentioned to him but is, nonetheless, the kind of thing I am totally into: Mark Bittman's "The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living". Most of the recipes involve vegetables, whole grains, and occasionally a small garnish of meat. Better for the environment, for the world, for our bodies - doesn't that sum up most of our New Year's Resolutions?

Known as the Minimalist in his food column for the New York Times, Bittman has a way of simplifying cooking. Take, for example, his recipe for REAL whole wheat bread (no cheating using part bread flour; this is what he calls an "honest loaf"!). His method requires no kneading, merely a process of "stir-wait-pour-bake". The resulting bread is dense and flavorful, and I love that it's so low-maintenance you could mix it in the morning on a work day and bake it when you get home. We ate ours with Stew and Minestrone Soup. Thank goodness there's still such a thing as an honest loaf in this world!

Real Whole Wheat Bread

3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil or vegetable oil

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 c. water and stir until blended; the dough should be quite wet, almost like a batter (add more water if it seems dry). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for at least 12 (or up to 24) hours. the dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Rising time will be shorter at warmer temperatures, a bit longer if your kitchen is chilly.

2. Use some of the oil to grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Scoop the dough into the loaf pan and use a rubber spatula to gently settle it in evenly. Brush or drizzle the top with the remaining oil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, an hour or 2 depending on the warmth of your kitchen. (It won't reach the top of the pan, or will just barely.) When it's almost ready, heat the oven to 350F.

3. Bake the bread until deeply brown and hollow-sounding when tapped, about 45 minutes. Immediately turn the loaf out of the pan onto a wire rack and let cool before slicing.

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