new year | our daily bread: honey spelt loaf

happy belated christmas, and new year, folks!

i hope the last few weeks that i’ve been away have treated you all well! i certainly can not complain.

it is pretty damn cold over here in atlantic canada (-18 today with a windchill of -28 tonight………), so i’ve been busying myself about inside my (sometimes – when the heat pump doesn’t shut down from the cold) cozy house. i’ve been doing the 30 days of yoga for the last week with Adrienne, whom i’ve been following for a couple years now and absolutely adore. of course, i’ve been just as busy in the kitchen – you likely know this if you follow me on instagram; i’ve been experimenting with challah, double pie crusts (vegan AND flakey, whaaaaaaat!?), and even homemade butter made in the kitchenaid! 

honestly, for me it has felt like 2015 for months now – i feel like SO much has happened since the beginning of 2014 that it couldn’t possibly have just been a year ago. last january marked the first time since i was 5 of not attending school, as i decided that university was notttttttttttttt my thing. i was struggling with depression and anxiety and my weight was no where near in a healthy range due to my poor relationship with my body and with food. i bought my first car in february. a couple months after that, i traveled to ontario and had full intentions on moving there. i came back in late april and filled my free time with muffin baking and sad attempts at bread. i got a job in a small cafe for the spring and summer. i quit said job in august. i continued making sad attempts at bread. i made my first successful sandwich loaf in late october and have been baking our bread weekly ever since! throughout all of that, i reconnected with myself and reattained a healthy relationship with food and am now back at my healthy weight for the first time in 2 years. i am happy – the last few months i have said this and actually meant it for the first time in many years.

2015 marks the beginning of a year that i have started off happily and healthfully. i do not make resolutions generally, but i am resolving to complete this year in the same condition that i began it.

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with all of that, i am about to share with you the recipe that has been in productions for months and months and months – our daily honey spelt sandwich loaf. many times i have failed painfully at variations of this bread, only to throw the scraps out the back door for the crows whom i swear began to eat every meal here… assuming that crows have meal times.

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anyhow – i have been making this exact loaf for my father and i since late october and we have yet to buy bread from the grocery store since. it is everything you want your sandwich bread to be. it’s made with a mixture of unbleached all-purpose and spelt flour (which has a beautiful flavor and is said to be more digestible), it is lightly sweetened with honey and balanced with a generous amount of sea salt. it is airy and fluffy with a sturdy crust.

you want this loaf in your life, friends. trust me on that.

the instructions are a bit of a mouth full, but i wanted you to avoid any of the confusion that i went through in the beginning.
happy bread baking, friends!

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Honey Spelt Sandwich Bread
(yield one 9×5 loaf)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm liquid (i use 1 cup water and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk – you can use dairy milk too)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2-1 tbsp salt
  • 3.5 – 4 cups flour, divided (I use 2 cups unbleached all-purpose and 1 cup spelt flour to start)

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1. Activate your yeast: warm water and milk to a warm bath temperature – warm enough to notice and keep your finger in comfortably. if you’re using a thermometer, this will be anywhere between 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit. transfer liquid to a large mixing bowl and stir in sugar, followed by yeast. allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until yeast has bubbled up to the top and is foamy. (if this doesn’t happen, your water may have been too cold or warm, or your yeast is old and you’ll have to start over *sad face*.)

2. Make a loose dough: once yeast is foamy, stir in oil, honey, and 1 cup of all purpose flour to combine ingredients as a batter. add another cup of all purpose flour and your salt – adding salt in the beginning can effect the activating of the yeast. this will create a thicker batter. add half a cup of spelt flour at a time, until your dough is shaggy and beginning to come together. at this point you have added 3 cups of flour and your dough should be sticky and shaggy and too thick to stir, and the remaining flour will be added slowly and only until needed. add a mixture of all purpose and spelt flour (maximum 1/2 cup at this point) just until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl – it will be very loose and sticky. fill 1/2 cup measuring cup with all purpose flour for kneading

3. Kneading dough: dump dough on a counter surface floured with all purpose flour. sprinkle flour on top of  dough and begin kneading. i like to alternate between two different methods of kneading:
– method 1: pull a section of outer edge of dough to the center and press down, rotate dough slightly and repeat. continue to work in this circular method.
– method 2: classic kneading. push down and away on with your palms. dough will form into an oblong shape horizontally, at this point, rotate the dough so that the oblong is vertical and fold it over onto itself. continue kneading.
i like to start with method 1 and continue with this until the dough feels slightly more firm. i then use method 2 until dough becomes too sticky. at any point that the dough feels “bubble gum sticky” add a generous pinch of flour to the dough and the counter surface. the kneading process can take anywhere from 10-25 minutes depending on temperatures, humidity and your kneading. allowing the dough to rest for 5 minutes during kneading helps the dough absorb liquid into the flour, making a more manageable dough – i like to do this near the end of my kneading, when the dough begins to hold itself in a round and the surface is smooth.
**** 1/2 cup of flour should be plenty for the kneading process – adding too much flour during kneading will result in a tough and dry loaf.

4. Test the “doneness” of the dough: there are various ways to know when your dough is ready to be left alone to rise. the more you work with yeast doughs, the more you will be able to recognize this. first, your dough shouldn’t be “bubble gum sticky anymore”, only slightly tacky. when your dough is in a neat mound and the surface is smooth, poke the top to see if it springs back. the ultimate test, for me, is the window pane method: flour your fingers and grab a golf ball sized piece of dough. roll it slightly and bring each forefinger and thumb to the center of the ball and pull away from eachother, stretching the dough. if the dough rips before it is stretched thin, it isn’t ready and more kneading needs to be done to develop the gluten. if the dough stretches thin and light can be seen through, it is ready.

5. Take a break!: when dough is ready, wash out and lightly grease your large mixing bowl, just enough oil to lightly coat the dough when it is rolled around. cover bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel and set out at room temperature. YES – ROOM TEMPERATURE. many of my failed bread attempts were due to over-proofing my dough in the “warm oven” that many recipes call for. i found that room temperature (18-21 degrees Celsius) proofs dough in the perfect amount of time – anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and 15.
**i like to set my mixing bowl with the dough in it and covered on a warm burner for just a moment to warm the bottom of the bowl to help kickstart the proofing, and then set the bowl on a dishtowel on the counter.

6. Prepare to bake your loaf: once dough has risen, but not quite doubled, poke it in the center. the indent should stay there without disrupting the rest of the dough – if this happens, your dough is ready to go! many recipes say “punch down your dough” at this point – this doesn’t mean to literally punch your dough. please don’t punch your dough, guys. gently pull dough away from the sides of the bowl and place on a floured surface. form dough into a rough square, a couple inches thick (roughly 8×8). fold in the left and right sides of dough and press down quickly with fingers to seal the dough together. the dough should now be in a rectangle shape. from the short end closest to you, begin to roll dough, sealing it as you go. the dough should be stretched taut, but not ripping. once you get to the end, pinch together the seam. place seam side down into loaf pan.
** if your dough is too long to fit in loaf pan, don’t fret – fold in the sides accordingly and pinch together.
**
if the dough still seems too long and is pressing up against the ends of the pan too much, fold it in and under itself, pulling the top of the dough good and taut.
– pat the top of the dough with a bit of olive oil (to avoid sticking and to help brown) and cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel and allow to rise for about a half hour. halfway through, when the dough is just reaching the edges of the pan, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Bake your loaf: when dough has risen well above the edges of the pan (but no more than an inch!), place in preheated oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven. i use a convection oven and my bread is ready around the 30 minute mark. it is deep golden in colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the top (a thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf into the middle should read 210 degrees Fahrenheit).

8. COOL YOUR LOAF FULLY!!!!: when your bread is done and beautiful, resist cutting into the magic – it won’t be magic yet on the inside, it will be gummy and horrible. place bread to cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour, until it is barely warm to the touch. at this point, stuff your face, or wrap it with plastic wrap and put in a bread box or in the pantry for up to a week (the last few days are a bit crumbly, but still delicious).   

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