I've got a few bread cookbooks I don't look at much. For the most part I just want to make variations on a French country loaf with, these days, increasing amounts of various whole grains thrown in. But that doesn't give me anything to talk about here and I need the material. And that's why I was leafing through those cookbooks looking for something different.
The recipe I started with today was from Real Bread by Maggie Baylis and Corlie Castle. They've got a whole section on breads that you never knead. You just beat it vigorously as you build up from a wet batter to a dough that's stiff but very wet. The pumpernickel bread I made a while back used a similar method, but I didn't realize that it was an actual category of bread. OK, I'll give it a try.
The recipe starts with 1 1/3 cups of oatmeal, but it turns out I'm nearly out so I used the half cup I had along with some barley, polenta and bulgar wheat to fill out the amount. To that I added 2 Tablespoons melted butter, 2/3 cup molasses, 1/2 Tablespoon salt and 1 1/3 cup warm water. The recipe uses boiling water and a half hour soak, but I'm soaking overnight so warm should do. And as long as I'm soaking whole grains, I added the 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of gluten flour too.
That means, in the morning all I had to do was mix in another 1/2 cup of water, 1 Tablespoon of yeast and 2 1/2 cups of bread flour. This became hard to work quite rapidly so I switched to the mixer and let it do the work. I think this is the right final texture. It's still quite wet, but it's holding together and not sticking too the bowl too much. It's climbed right up the dough hook which means there should be plenty of gluten worked up in there.
I let that rise for an hour (it would take two hours in a cooler kitchen), scraped it out of the bowl, formed two loaves, put one in the freezer, and let the second rise to fill a loaf pan. I wish I had a slightly larger pan as this started a little too full and I couldn't get all the rise I wanted before it started mushrooming over the lip.
The recipe calls for starting with a cold oven, setting it to 350 degrees and baking for 35 minutes but there's no way that's going to work so I tacked on 20 minutes more. That turned out to be just right to get to 210 degrees internal temperature so well done me.
After getting it out of the pan, I put the loaf back in the oven (turned off but not cooled down) for another 10 minutes to crisp up the sides and bottom a little.
The texture is quick-bread soft, but less crumbly. It is holding together nicely even if it hasn't got the chew a well-kneaded bread would have. There's some good hole formation (from being so very hydrated) so the loaf is fairly light.
The barley hasn't softened quite as much as I'd hoped so there are crisp little bits dispersed in there--not toothbreakingly hard, thankfully, but hard enough to disconcert. Lesson learnt there.
The flavor is molasses-y bittersweet and buttery, but not quite as hearty as I had hoped. This is the first loaf I've made using large amounts of white whole wheat and it's living up to it's mild reputation. Maybe I should use half white and half red as a compromise in these sorts of loaves. I think I went a little light on the salt, too. Beyond that the flavor balance makes it a good bread for sandwiches; it's assertive enough to frame the filling without being a full partner. Unfortunately, it's too soft for a good clean slice. Maybe it'll work with stews?
In all, it's decent enough, but I miss the chewy texture. I suppose this might be a good choice for people who aren't comfortable kneading, but the method has challenges of its own. I'm curious how this category of breads came to be. The information I've found on-line touts them as a good intermediate step for bakers just learning to work with yeast; maybe they only exist as bread-baking training wheels? Any ideas?