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Baking bread

Here are two CFS-friendly bread recipes. The first, "No-Knead Bread" makes soft white loaves with a holey texture and a chewy crust. I don't eat it much myself as I try to choose low GI foods but I bake two loaves most weeks for my husband to fill up on after he cycles to or from work. For variety I sometimes substitute wholemeal for some or all of the flour or vary the amount of salt and sugar and add malt, cumin, dill or carraway seeds or garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. So long as the ratio of flour to yeast to water stays the same it should work out fine.

"No-Knead Bread" takes about 24 hours to make, but only about 10-15 minutes of effort, and if you're not up to doing a particular stage when it should be done then all of them will happily wait a few hours until you are ready except for the final stage of actually baking the loaves.

Pumpernickel bread is a Northern European-style unleavened bread with a dense texture and a strong flavour. I eat it most days as it is low GI and makes for a simple, filling snack. It tastes best with strongly flavoured toppings like salami, manuka honey, peanut butter or relish or chutney with cheese or hummus. This recipe uses a crockpot/slow cooker, but you should be able to find similar recipes for cooking in the oven on the internet.

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from a recipe by Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, New York City published in the New York Times.

6 cups white flour, more for dusting
1/2 t dry yeast
1 T salt
2-3 T sugar
1. (midday or 3pm) In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add 3 1/4 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be very soft and sticky. Cover bowl with cloth. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature (hot water cupboard).

2. (9.30 am) Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Don't worry if a 'skin' has formed on the top. Work the dough a little, folding it on itself till it doesn't get any smaller (should take less than a minute). Cover loosely with tea towel and let rest on bench about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, separate the dough into two balls. Generously coat a baking tray with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put each dough ball on the tray and dust the tops liberally with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover loosely with a cotton teatowel and let rise somewhere warm for at least 2 and preferably 5-6 hours.

4. (3 pm) At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to its hottest setting - around 250 degrees. Put two heavy oven-safe containers (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or pottery; anywhere from 5-cup capacity up is fine) in oven as it heats, along with a shallow pan with a cup or so of water in it. When dough is ready (3.30 pm), carefully remove pots from oven. Drop the risen dough balls flour side down into the containers; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Bake uncovered 30 minutes, opening the oven door during the last 5 minutes of cooking to release the steam and make the crust a bit crisper. Turn onto a rack and leave to cool.

This bread keeps for about a week at room temperature and freezes well.

Pumpernickel bread

Adapted from Joan Bishop's New Zealand Crockpot and Slow Cooker Cookbook

3 cups stoneground flour (e.g. Healtheries rye meal flour) or semolina
2 cups 'bits' (any combination of kibbled grains, pearl barley, soy grits, sunflower seeds, bulghur wheat, walnuts etc.)
1/2 T salt
2 T treacle or molasses
2 T cooking oil
1/4 cup bran
3 cups boiling water
wholemeal flour for shaping
Mix together everything except the wholemeal flour in a large bowl and leave covered in a warm place overnight.

In the morning, preheat the crockpot on high 20 min. Divide the dough in two (it will be very soft and sticky) and work about 1/2 cup wholemeal flour into each half until it holds together and can be formed into a fat sausage shape.

Put a heat-proof (i.e. dishwasher safe) approx 1L container into the crockpot. It must not touch the bottom or sides of the crockpot - stand it on something like a preserving jar ring, jar lid, old-style 50c piece etc. Sprinkle a little wholemeal flour into the bottom of the container, put in one of your dough sausages and cover the container with tin foil.

Cook on high in the dry crockpot 3-4 hours. Lift out the bread, cool it on a rack, sprinkle more flour into the container, put in the second dough sausage, cover with foil and cook in the same way.

When cool, slice thinly with a very sharp knife, put in a lidded container and store in the fridge. It keeps about a week in the fridge, so if you won't eat it all in that time then put some of it in the freezer. If you overcook it it won't slice nicely and crumbles instead. When this happens I tend to mix it into a kind of salad with hummus and celery or even just pour hot milk over it and eat it with a spoon. Yum!

February 2008