For 2 to 3 large loaves
Whilst 6 hours is the minimum ferment time, longer is better, allowing the activated enzymes t-i-m-e to do their priceless work.
So I prefer the overnight ferment, creating the dough at sunset, which means you get a loaf of 12>16 hours’ fermentation. But at a squeeze, you can make a dough at 7am, and bake it in the evening. Remember, the longer the ferment, the more nutritious and digestible the bread.
Doughs and ferments will vary according to many factors – seasons, temperature, humidity, presence and types of local wild bacteria, different flours, and so on.
First make the yeast mix in a small bowl:
Granulated yeast – half a level teaspoon
Plain flour 1 teaspoon
Ginger powder 1 teaspoon
Jaggary, Rapadura or molasses 1 dessertspoon
Add 1 cup of tepid water, not so hot that it burns the finger. If it burns the finger, it will kill the yeast also.
Stir it well and leave; the yeast, etc. will slowly dissolve. A sourdough (wild yeast) starter may be used in place of baker’s yeast. But don’t be afraid of baker’s yeast, as it also positively transforms in the long ferment.
Prepare the dough mix in a large bowl:
Put 2 to 3 kgs of 80% unbleached organic plain wheat flour (not wholemeal, as bran is indigestible) plus 20% other flours (for a mixed carbohydrate spread). For this 20%, I use plain spelt, kamut and either rye or barley flours.
I’m vague on measures, because I do it by feel, even when it’s 10kgs of flour. Precision in measures is not necessary for bread. It can vary, so can the end result. After getting the basics, you will develop the feel also. Using a higher % of plain wheat flour means a lighter loaf.
Add Ginger powder - 1 heaped teaspoon (best yeast growth material).
Good salt (Celtic) - 1 teaspoon
Now with a claw pasta spoon, stir this dry mix so that it becomes evenly distributed.
Before proceeding to the next phase, first ensure that all ingredients in the yeast mix have dissolved. Stir it.
In a suitable bowl, mix the following - a quarter cup of olive, coconut or other good fat, plus half cup of yoghurt, and 2 cups tepid water. Toss the (dissolved) yeast mix on top of all that and stir with a wooden spoon.
Then pour this liquid mix into the flour mix and immediately stir in with a wooden spoon until it gets too thick to move any more. Then it’s the hands’ work.
As I am unsure of proportions (which as I said doesn’t matter, as any combo of ingredients will basically work, simply giving different textures and tastes), this mixture may be either too dry or too wet. Once the spoon has done all it can, get your hands into it, squeezing, kneading, punching dents into the idle of the dough and then folding it over itself, getting air into the dough –for about ten minutes.
You MAY have to either ADD more FLOUR to a TOO wet mix, or ADD more WATER to a TOO dry mix. Check and record your quantities, timings, as you go, and your own recipe will evolve. When the kneading is done, make sure you have NO dry flour remaining anywhere in the mix, on the sides of the bowl, etc.
The end result should be ever so slightly sticky to touch, not too dry, not too wet. Then make a lid, not touching the dough, of a damp cloth cover, and leave to rise. Or a normal lid will be ok, but there must be space in the pot for the dough to rise DOUBLE.
When you get up in the morning, the dough should have doubled, and ideally will be standing up strong. If it has dropped or sagged, it means that the combination of heat/humidity plus yeast has been too volatile, so you can cut the amount of yeast next time. Given t-i-m-e, even the smallest amount of yeast will eventually spread throughout the dough, causing it to double. Overnite doughs in winter may need a LITTLE MORE yeast to double, unless you find a slightly warm (not hot) nook where it can stand.
You’ll get it after a while. Persist; it’s well worth the apprenticeship.
Next morning, lightly oil your bread loaf tins (or you can make bread rolls on an oven tray). Coconut oil is best, as it produces gorgeous brown crusty loaves, and the loaves don’t stick to the sides. If the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, no problems, simply smear a very fine film (half-teaspoon spread with hand) of coconut or olive oil on your table top and on your hands (this helps prevent sticking), throw the doubled dough on it, punch it down, and start kneading and folding over itself, getting air INTO it, treat it rough for 5 minutes. Do NOT add more flour at this stage, as it will not be fermented, which would defeat the whole purpose.
Then cut into pieces large enough to fill HALF of each bread tin (it’s gonna rise double again). Separately knead these pieces a little more, creating an unbroken top. Place in tins, and with a very sharp knife, cut across the top of each dough 4 slices at 1 cm. deep. This allows the rising to be better accommodated by an opening upper surface.
Place these tins in a warm place, a cosy corner, near a wood stove (NOT HOT). However, if the climate is warm, normal atmospheric temperatures are adequate for this second rise. If it’s a cold winter morning, I prefer to place the tins directly into the oven at 40 degrees C., completing the proving this way, then simply increasing the temp. to 170C. as the loaves again reach their peak rise. Or prove the loaves on top of a stove with the griller below on lowest heat. Once the loaves have doubled again (anytime from 1 hour onwards), put them into a pre-heated 170°C oven – and bake for 35/40 minutes.
Ovens vary a lot. Fan-forced ovens give a better distribution of heat. You will discover your own timing eventually. 35 minutes in my German Blanco oven makes a dampish, springier loaf; 40 minutes a drier, crustier loaf.
Catching the loaf as it reaches peak rise is an art that cannot be explained. If this second rise goes OVERtime, it may sag in the cooking, or if it goes into the oven UNDERtime, it will still expand while cooking and so crack along the sides. This will not affect the edibility so much, more the aesthetics. If your oven is cooking unevenly, open the door after 20 minutes and turn the bread tins around for the last 15 to 20 minutes. Tapping the crust of the bread will indicate if the loaf is cooked. There will be a hollow sound, and the surface will spring back. With experience you will be able to tell, by touch, tap and tone, when the loaf is just done, medium done or well-cooked.
Remove loaves from tins immediately once cooked, or they will keep cooking and dry out. Place on cooling racks. VOILA!!
Once the loaves are totally cool, you may package and put in freezer. Later, when you de-freeze it will be as fresh as when you cooked it. The loaf that you start to eat direct from the oven should stay in a bread bin for the first day. That evening, put it in a sealed plastic bag and keep in the fridge.
Long-fermented bread has a much longer shelf life than quick bread. All raw food wants to ferment. If we don’t pre-ferment, pre-digest it, it’s gonna ferment in our stomachs anyway. It’s the same with breads. Quick breads will soon develop fungi, long-ferment breads hardly at all, even after weeks.
You may make many variations upon this theme. Eg. Add olives in a savory loaf. Add organic dried apricots and fermented walnuts with rapadura sugar and cinnamon for a sweet loaf.
Sourdough Starter Recipe
Instead of using baker’s yeast as a bread starter, many people prefer to use sourdough, which is simply a flour and water mix that collects wild yeasts from the atmosphere.
In a ceramic bowl, mix well 1 cup plain, unbleached wheat flour with 2 cups spring water (no chlorine). Cover with a cotton cheesecloth, and peg it to the rim. Leave this near the kitchen window, not in direct heat or light, but in a warm nook. Give the mix a stir a few times during the day.
After 2 to 3 days, stirring regularly, bubbles will appear on the surface, evidencing the presence and action of wild yeasts. Now feed it, like a new baby, by adding 1 heaped dessertspoon of flour, plus same amount of water and mix well, until there is no dry flour left, and transfer the mix to a new, dry, clean ceramic bowl. Feed it more when the bubbles again appear, but when 7 days has passed, it’s ready to use.
You have your sourdough starter. And each is unique according to the variety and density of the yeasts gathered there. There are hundreds of different yeasts in the atmosphere.
Sometimes, some brown liquid (hooch) may form on the surface. This is ok. If the mix is already fairly wet, you can drain off the hooch. If not, you can simply mix it back in.
Some sourdoughs being used in the US and Europe today began their lives as far back as the 1850’s!
After 7 days, distribute the mix into 500ml (or less) glass jars, perhaps 3 to 4 jars will be needed. Don’t use metal or plastic containers. Always leave some space at the top of the jar for expansion, and the lid should have a small breathing hole, like nail size. Store these jars in the fridge.
For use in sloooow bread-making, to make about 3 medium loaves, mix well 250mls (8.5 ounces) starter well into the dough, and leave it sit overnight (as per the previous recipe pages). It will rise slower than baker’s yeast.
When you have just 1 jar of starter left, empty it into the ceramic bowl again, add 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and leave out, covered, for 24 hours, giving regular stirs. This activates a new batch. If you want more, do the same again next day. Then put back in clean jars once again, and into the fridge.
About the Author...
An explorer of all things freeing, I. N. Cognito is a Super Hero who strives to bring clarity and focus to issues of health and food freedom.