Monday, November 26, 2007

Sesame Anise bread (baking is good for the soul)

I decided to bake today as I only have one class tonight at 5:30 pm. The recipe comes from The Garden of Vegan, and here it is: Ingredients: 1 T. dry active yeast 1/2 c. warm water 1/2 t. dry sweetener (I had some brown sugar so I used that) 1/3 c. soy milk (I used vanilla rice milk) 1 T. olive oil 1 T. maple syrup (I didn't have any so I used honey, so my bread isn't strictly vegan, but then, neither am I) 1 t. salt 1 t. anise seed (I used more than that because I like anise; I ground it first in my mortar and pestle) 1 T. sesame seeds (I didn't measure, just put in a handful) 2 1/4 c. flour (I used 1/2 soft whole wheat pastry flour and half organic spelt flour; the recipe doesn't specify so you could use any flour you like, I just like a rougher, more peasant-style bread) In a large bowl (preferably ceramic), stir together the yeast with warm water and sweetener. Let sit 10 min. Add soy milk, oil, maple syrup, salt, anise, sesame seeds, and 1 c. flour. (I make sure not to stir too much, just enough to blend uniformly as too much stirring can toughen the bread; and I make sure to get the dry stuff at the bottom of the bowl when I stir) Slowly stir in remaining flour 1/2 c. at a time. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic. (I kneaded it until it started to toughen and feel more dense; you can add a bit more flour if the dough sticks to your hands but the recipe gives good dry to wet proportions--I didn't need to add too much flour) Transfer dough to a large (clean), lightly oiled bowl, turning dough until covered with oil. Cover with a clean tea towel that has been wet with hot water and wrung out (this used to be called "veiling the bowl"), and set aside in a warm, non-drafty spot (I put it in my oven with the door closed--the oven was not on) and let rise until doubled in size (approx. 1-1 and a 1/2 hrs). Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Punch down dough (you can flour your hand for this if you have sticky dough), knead out air bubbles (I only kneaded it a few times--less than 10, because I didn't want it to become too tough), and place in a lightly oiled bread pan (I always use olive oil, even for oiling pans. You could also oil and flour the pan, or oil the pan and sprinkle sesame seeds on the bottom and sides for a crunchy crust. I just didn't think of doing this before I had put the dough in my pan, so I sprinkled some sesame seeds in the bottom corners of the pan where the dough didn't reach). Lightly brush top of loaf with oil (I want to eat some of this for breakfast tomorrow, so I dipped the tines of a fork in the honey jar and dripped a squiggle of honey on the loaf to make it a bit sweeter; I also sprinkled more sesame and anise seeds on top and made three diagonal slashes with a sharp paring knife). Re-wet the tea towel under running hot water, veil the pan now and let it rise another 15 min. (During the first rising, I went out to pick up some stuff at the print shop--just to say you don't have to hover over the dough for it to rise; I advocate a laissez-faire attitude to cooking and baking--I think giving the food a little breathing room to do its own thing without the cook/baker anxiously watching over it, poking and prodding it yields better results, and plus, you can get some errands done while it rises. And I wouldn't worry either if you're gone longer than 1 and a 1/2 hours due to traffic or lineups; the dough won't run away like the Gingerbread Man if you're five minutes late.) For the second rising, I couldn't put the pan in the oven since the oven was on, and my apartment is a bit cold today, so I put it on top of the stove, right on the back burner (which was turned off). The oven light beside the oven fan was on, and it's one of those fluorescent ones, so the heat from that combined with the heat from the preheating oven combined made the dough rise nicely and fill the pan. Bake for 30-35 min. (Put the pan with one of the long sides facing you, and in the centre of the bottom or middle rack--if you don't have a rectangular pan you could just as well make a round loaf in a round cake pan, or if you have neither, but you have a cast-iron skillet, I don't see why you couldn't bake it in that--but don't touch the handle with your bare hand!) I always set my timer for the lesser amount of time, then check it (checking the bread midway through baking lets cold air in and can cause the bread to fall. If you're lucky, you have a window in your oven door and can check progress that way with the oven light on; I have an old stove that is a fire hazard in itself and has no window, so I cross my fingers and wait. If it starts to smell burnt, then I open the oven door.) an aside: the image-posting function is down right now, hopefully will be fixed soon. ok, back to bread: my apartment is starting to smell good, the aroma of baking bread with anise is so comforting. My loaf took 30 min. to bake. A note on testing doneness: don't take the pan out of the oven to test it; if it isn't done baking, it won't continue to bake after you've taken the bread out and put the pan back in. I do two tests: I don't have a cake tester, so I use a spaghetti noodle, or whatever I find in the cupboard first, today it was a buckwheat noodle. The slashes are good "entry points" for the noodle. Second test: while the pan is still on the oven rack (you can wear an oven mitt and slide the rack outwards a bit, or if your oven mitts are worn, thin, or have holes in them and you don't want to burn yourself, a fork is a good tool to slide out a rack), tap the top of the loaf with the tip of your finger. If it sounds hollow, it's done. I wait for the pan to cool a bit before putting it on a cooling rack. I don't slide a butter knife around the edges if I can at all avoid it, as that can cut the outside (I like food that's attractive to look at as well as yummy-tasting). I put on both oven mitts, hold the pan in one hand, and shake the loaf out into the other mittened hand. If it needs a loving push or is a bit sticky, then I'll use a butter knife, being careful not to cut into the sides of the loaf. And voilĂ ! You have hot homemade bread for your supper to dip in your soup and clean the bowl with! And enough for leftovers for breakfast tomorrow, with jam. One last note, on storing bread: It will dry out if you put it in the fridge. Best consumed in the week you made it. I'm not sure why, but my bread always goes moldy if I leave it out, so if I've baked bread, I'll put it back in the cooled pan, and secure a plastic bag around the whole thing, after I've squeezed the air out, and I make sure to eat it in the next few days. I do hope it doesn't rain. Hmm...any thoughts on bringing knitting to class to knit during presentations? Or should note-taking take precedence?

No comments: