Danish Bread Making
Earlier this year I shared a home bakery day taught by a very talented baker Laura Hart http://www.hartsbakery.co.uk/. It was tremendous fun and thoroughly professional and Laura’s expertise has inspired me to make a couple of loaves of bread most weeks since although I did let the sourdough starter diminish to the point of no return. I found if I bought the best quality bread flour and followed the recipe on the back of the flour packet the results were still pretty good.
A quality flour is essential and is confirmed in HOME BAKED Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry by Hanne Risgaard http://www.greenbooks.co.uk. She and her husband grow their own grain and along with recipes the book is full of stunning images of fields of rye and wheat in the Danish landscape. Hanne’s aim is to emphasise the virtues of grains and flour and the role they play in reducing illnesses plus the benefits of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. Initially I feared the book was for really experienced bread makers, the images of the loaves are pretty professional. But the second aim of the book is to show that bread and pastry baking is simple, rewarding and fun to make. So I started with the basic bread recipe using spelt flour, salt, water and yeast and here is the result.
I learned several important things from reading the book before getting started. Working the dough and what happens in the process is illustrated with step by step photographs. But Hanne is happy to say she sometimes uses her kitchen machine with a dough hook for kneading if time is short. Then the importance of resting the dough is explained and most significantly how long to let the dough prove before putting the bread in the oven. Until now I had not appreciated that proving should be no more than 45 minutes. Any longer and the bread may collapse in cooking and this has happened to me on several occasions. Hanne also recommends sitting the dough in a proving basket for this stage and her basic loaf image showed delightful ridges on the cooked loaf imprinted from the basket. The basket allows you to tip the uncooked dough onto the cooking surface hands-free to keep the shape.
Another useful tip was to use a pizza stone or an un-glazed tile heated along with the oven as it reaches the desired temperature. This ensures immediate heat to the raw dough and reduces heat loss when the oven door is opened. Finally she cuts the dough just before it goes in the oven with a razor blade to get attractive crosses on the surface.
I can’t wait to try out other recipes and to make my own sourdough starter which is fully explained. So I shall stock up with seeds and grains and different flours to experiment and I’ll also get a bread thermometer to ensure the heat has reached the middle of the loaf.
A friend brought me a stunning bunch of cut flowers of Hydrangea macrophylla Elbtal furthering my passion for this shrub. I have no idea why these plants weren’t on my radar till a year ago but now I am totally hooked.
A hedge of Sarcococca (Christmas box or sweet box which says it all really) is looking healthy outside the kitchen door. It’s a tough evergreen with shiny dark green leaves and white flowers that bloom in December and January. The fragrance, sweet and powerful, provides a stunning scent on a winter day. I took cuttings in June and last week tipped them out of a pot of compost ready to make another hedge by the garden gate.