When someone asks me what home is, it’s the aroma of fresh baked bread. What is it about cooking dough that is so intoxicating? Whatever it is, I don’t want to know for fear it would ruin the luster surrounding that warm, dreamy loaf ready to butter up and melt with.
My first experience making bread was more like adventuring in fabricating culinary doorstops, you know, those dense, brick-like structures used to hold open a door? Yes, it was quite the experience; I quickly learned the power of fresh/ active yeast and why it’s best not to use a half opened package you find in the back of cupboard from 5 years ago. *Sigh* memories. Just yesterday I had a good laugh with my mom about that one. Her next comments were sweet and endearing as she portioned out praise and gleamed with pride at how I learned to bake “so naturally”. She definitely taught me the basics, and from there on, I suppose I ran with it…sometimes stubbing my toe on a door stop, but enjoying every minute of the lessons, recipes, flavours and successful creations.
It’s called the joy of baking for a reason…
I don’t want to sound dogmatic, however, it’s always been a deep belief of mine that we teach children (and adults, for that matter) how to bake and cook for themselves; it’s an everyday skill, an art form and a survival tactic if it ever came down to it. I can’t express enough how important cooking and baking have been in my life, shaping who I am and giving me a canvas to spread out my creative wings…I truly believe it’s something that can benefit us all. People find themselves through creating food. It’s a simple and available means for those that consider themselves “not creative” to discover that they actually are!
I recall many days coming home from the office in downtown Vancouver with hands begging to touch ingredients, substance and texture…something real and tangible other than the abstract world of keyboards and computer screens. Coincidentally, here I am (ever thankful) that I’m typing away about something I love so deeply…a part of who I am…and sharing with you all.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand: how to make a loaf of bread and avoid “the doorstop”. A good lesson to be had. Hopefully, you’ve already learned from my first mistake. Aside from having fresh yeast, there really isn’t that much more to it. You need some good flour (all purpose, bread flour, whole wheat or spelt), a big bowl, a wooden spoon and a little patience. The best part about this recipe is you don’t even need to know how to knead dough. If you’re interested, there’s plenty of video tutorials out there, but for this one, you don’t ‘knead’ to get into that…
This loaf is large, rustic, slightly sweet and has a crumb that is soft and spongy…it’s one of my favourite loaves to make and eat. Spelt flour is fairly similar to whole wheat flour in taste and texture, however, it is much more nutrient dense compared to wheat based flours; I prefer it for that characteristic alone. Spelt flour, along with whole oats adds plenty of fibre which surprisingly adds to the lovely soft texture of the crumb; it’s fantastic. One final note, Spelt is not a gluten-free flour so if you are looking for a non-glutenous flour alternative, don’t use it. Perhaps there is some confusion out there that if it isn’t wheat based, it’s gluten free, which isn’t always the case.
I hope this recipe turns you into your own ‘breadventurer’ [bread-adventurer]. Once you know the basics, you can alter ingredients and flavours to make something truly your own and something you can be proud of…proof (pun intended) that making bread is really not complicated at all.
NO KNEAD MAPLE OAT SPELT LOAF
Makes 1-16″ Loaf
- 2 Cups Warm Filtered Water (~110’f)
- 1-1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (instant/rapid rise/bread machine yeast is fine)
- 1-1/2 tsp Salt
- 3 TBSP Maple Syrup
- 2 Cups Whole Spelt Flour (or whole wheat flour)
- 2 Cups Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1/2-3/4 Cup Whole Oats
1. Warm a large heat proof bowl by placing it in the oven and turning the temperature to 200′ F. Leave it in the oven for a few minutes until it is warm, but not hot to the touch. Alternatively, you can use a microwave safe bowl and place it in the microwave for approx. 1 minute. This step is important to ensure the water stays warm and activates the yeast quickly and effectively. It makes for a faster proofing time.
2. To the warmed bowl, add the water, yeast, salt and maple syrup. Give it a quick stir just to combine. Gently add in the spelt and bread flour and combine until all the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl to ensure all the flour has been incorporated into the dough. You should now have a rough looking ball that is ready to proof.
3. Cover the bowl/dough ball with a lid or lint free towel and place it in a warm draft-free place for proofing. One option for proofing is to place it in the oven at 150′ F, then immediately turn the heat off; this will give you an optimal temperature for proofing your dough. Proof for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the dough is at least doubled in size.
4. Once the dough has finished it’s first proofing, remove the lid and de-gas the dough by pressing the air out with your hands or a spoon. Form the dough into a smooth ball and sprinkle the oats on top turning the dough to coat all sides.
5. Scrape the dough ball onto a piece of parchment paper and place the dough and parchment paper into a warmed 5 quart dutch oven. Pre-warming the dutch oven will enable a quicker proofing time; if you used the oven method to proof, your dutch oven should still be warm. Cover let proof for 30-45 minutes (or until doubled in size)
6. Preheat the oven to 400’F and place the covered proofed dough into the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes (approx) to brown the crust.
7. To cool, remove the fully baked loaf from the dutch oven and remove the parchment paper. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. This loaf will last you several days stored in an airtight bag and can be frozen for up to one month.
NOTES | If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can use two 9×5″ loaf pans. You’ll want to line them with parchment paper and grease them well to ensure the bread releases from the pan. You’ll need to divide the dough into half after the first proofing, roll each half in oats, form them into a rough oval shape and place them in the pans to proof, covered with a lint free towel. Bake at the same temperature uncovered, although you may need to watch them closely to ensure they don’t over brown or burn; if need be, place a piece of aluminum foil over the top to prevent burning. If you can’t find spelt flour, simply use whole wheat all purpose flour in equal measure.