When I first met my husband I thought I’d impress him by baking him bread for lunch. I was only two weeks into starting cooking school and feeling a little cocky- bread would impress a man of Don’s stature. A well travelled Cambridge graduate, a management consultant- well, lets face it, I was never going to impress him in a political debate. Bread would not only impress but it would be a great conversation starter. He would of course want to know how I made such a perfect pillow of doughy goodness and I would oblige him with only the most bashful modesty; of course.
Don, on the other hand, thought that he would impress me by presenting me with stargazer lillies – the ones’ with the really long stamens that splash you with stains of orange if you go within five feet of them. I was impressed- a man had shown up at my door with flowers and that was a first for me. Needless to say married life is yet to present me with any offerings of the sorts.
My first loaf of bread for Don was foccaccia- and it was completely horrifying. To say doughy pillow would be an understatement- this was a monstrosity of a pillow- fitting perhaps only for the BFG. The bottom was burnt and the middle still raw. The tomatoes that were supposed to be delicately nesting in said doughy pillow had exploded and in their deconstruction had left behind craters and a few charred skins.
And, yes I served it- I was too stunned by my own unprecedented failure not to. Plus I didn’t have a back-up, save for a few gooey cheeses. I need not have worried though- Don was impressed. Not only had I shown that I had balls by making bread on a first date but I had been plucky enough to serve such a frightful mess and call it lunch.
For our second date he took me out to eat.
Nearly five years later, a few unfruitful affairs with natural sourdough starters, some rather uncouth experiments with my Kitchen Aid dough hook and many, many duds thrown into the rubbish bin later (and breathe) and I have finally come to an peace agreement with bread. I will not torture it further so long as it willingly plays by my rules. And they follow. I will not keep natural starter in my fridge (or anything else that requires feeding for that matter) and I will not get fussed about kneading, risings and waiting for it to cool before I slice. Seeking out perfection has never been one of my strong points.
All I wanted was a bread that I could make in two hours rather than days and it had to make great toast. I went back to the one I made at University- a Delia Smith recipe that was simple, for simple souls like myself. Back then it used to last me a whole month- sliced very thin and kept in the freezer. Now that I live with Don it doesn’t last more than 24 hours- another good argument for making such an undemanding loaf.
I’ve changed things up a bit- adapted Delia’s method to my own cause- the squirrel that I am, I scattered in some seeds and I like to use a mixture of whole wheat flour and malted grain or multi-grain flour. This gives it more texture and flavour- which is more than can be said for my first foccaccia. The recipe I’ve provided makes one heavy unweetened loaf (just enough to feed the yeast), which is something that’s quite hard to find in the States. It’s solid and rustic and it makes smashing toast.
That’s not to say that I don’t have the greatest respect for those who do take more care and time in making bread- and one of these days I plan to have another go at it. You can read about Clotilde’s adventures here. But, for now I’m sticking to my rules and the results are satisfying to say the least.
Did I mention it’s practially effortless to make?
Keep reading for the recipe and watch the video to see how it’s made……
No-knead multi-grain bread
Watch the video for tips on making the bread! I adore this recipe it’s a hearty dense loaf and it’s not at all sweet- perfect for toast.
Makes 1 2lb loaf
Diet Facts: multi grain, minus the preservatives- just try not to eat the whole loaf in one sitting.
350g/ 12 1/2 oz multi-grain bread flour (or mixed seed or malted grain)
300g/10 1/2 oz whole wheat flour
1 7oz pkg active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
50g/2oz pumpkin seeds (optional) and/or flax seeds/linseeds
400-500ml hand hot water
1 Tbsp oil or melted butter
1/ Mix together the flours, yeast, salt, sugar and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl.
2/ Make a hole in the middle and gradually begin to add the water, stirring with a wooden spoon to gradually incorporate the flour. You want a smooth dough nothing wet or sticky, so don’t add the water all at once.
3/ Once it begins to look scraggly and has come together add the oil or melted butter and mix with your hands. Remove from the bowl and knead a few times just to bring it together.
4/ Roll into a log about 18 inches longs and tuck both sides back in on each other so that they meet in the middle. Grease a 900g/2 lb loaf tin lightly with oil or butter and drop the loaf in. Gently press down evenly cover and cover with a clean tea-towel and place in a warm place, such as a preheating oven.
5/ Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Make sure that the rack is in the centre of the oven. Place the bread into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and the tin and then place back in the oven upside down for 5 minutes so that the bottom gets crispy.
6/ Remove and try to let it cool or it has a tendency to break up! But this is harder than it sounds. Freezes beautifully pre-sliced if wrapped really well.