So I’ve started making most of my own bread this summer, basically just because I wanted the grandma skill of being able to make bread without a recipe. I’ve made it enough, and iterated enough, that now I successfully can produce a loaf of bread just the way I like it without using a single measuring cup or spoon, and my smugness is infinite.
But some friends wanted to know my method, so today I made my bread and actually measured what I was doing, and now you, too, can become grandma.
This is a recipe that’s very much “toss everything in the cupboards at it”-style — I’ve done it with and without any of the seeds, the oats, the tahini. I am afraid that I will have to don my terrible grandma hat and tell you that as long as it feels right it’ll be right. Bake with your heart, my child.
It uses three kinds of flour (white, whole wheat, and rye), just because I like the flavour balance. You can swap out any of the flours you like. For the add-ins, the sesame seeds and oats basically disappear texturally — I don’t notice them at all. The millet is the most noticeable, and it’s heavy enough that some will fall out of the dough and be absorbed back in while you’re kneading, and again some will fall out once the bread is baked and sliced. If you want it to be richer, you could add an egg or two and lower the amount of water in the dough; I did that my first few trials, and it worked well, but I like it just as well without. The tahini gives more a subtle richness than a real sesame flavour; if you actively want to taste the sesame, up the tahini and/or swap the oil out for sesame oil.
I don’t have a bread machine or a stand mixer, so this is all worked by hand (which is why I can get away with fa-la-la let’s just toss some of this in-ing so much); I am sorry that I have no suggestions on what to do if that’s what you’re working with. The dough is worked first in its mixing bowl and then straight on the baking sheet to minimize cleanup. (I also typically measure by pouring things straight into the bowl or my cupped palm and then the bowl, which means my usual cleanup consists entirely of 1) the bowl 2) a knife 3) the baking sheet. Grandma style is a deeply lazy style.)
This makes a tender, “””hearty””” bread with a soft crust.
- 1 3/4 cup white flour
- 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
- 2/3 cup rye flour
- 1 package, or 2 1/4 tsp, dry yeast
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp each poppy and sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 tbsp millet
- 1/3 cups quick rolled oats
- 3 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp honey
- just over 1 cup hot water (from letting the hot water tap run till it’s not boiling, but a little uncomfortable to keep your hand under)
Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and stir it with your hands till it’s all combined.
Make a little well in the centre and add all the wet ingredients except the water. Start mixing the dough with one hand while adding the water with your other — my usual tell for when there’s enough water in is that there isn’t any more loose dry flour on the bottom of the bowl under your mass of proto-dough. Knead the dough right in the bowl, and it should come together in a few minutes. If it’s too wet to work with, sprinkle some more white flour on top, and if it’s too stiff, add some more water. I usually work the dough with my right hand (doing a folding-down-the-dough, quarter-turn, folding-down motion) while keeping my left clean to brace the bowl and grab some more flour or water as needed.
(Note: when I was making this recipe tonight and measuring things, I forgot both the oats and the honey, so you may need a little less or more water. This is where baking with your heart, my child, comes in.)
Knead the dough till it’s ready, a few minutes. You can tell it’s ready by when it’s all one mass that holds together and feels a little bouncy. It’s good if it’s just a little sticky, as long as it separates well from the mixing bowl and your hands — because rye just doesn’t rise as well as white flour, I like to give it a little extra help by keeping the dough wet. Work the dough into a ball.
The next step is to let the dough rise. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl, and pour a teaspoon or so of canola or vegetable oil into the bottom. Plop the dough back into the bowl on top of the oil, and using both hands because it’s heavy, swirl the bowl around like you’re swirling a wineglass in your best patrician manner so the dough spreads the oil around till it’s halfway up the sides of the bowl. (You could also just use your hand or a paper towel to grease up the bowl, but this way you don’t get oiled up.)
Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let rise for two hours. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Once your dough has become a big strong boy and roughly doubled in size, uncover the bowl. Holding it by one hand, and with another hand waiting under it, tip it slowly upside down over your kitchen sink so (a) the excess oil pours out somewhere safe and (b) the dough slowly detaches from the bowl’s walls and falls into your hand.
Sprinkle some flour along the underside of the dough where it got oily. Lay your dough out on your prepared baking sheet.
If you want a bread with an airy crumb, just gently press the air out of it, cut the dough into as many pieces as you want with a serrated knife, and shape them quickly. I like a fairly dense crumb, so what I do is press the air out and then fold the dough on itself a few times. This amount of dough can make 6-8 rolls or two smallish loaves; I’ve been doing small loaves the last few weeks. Once the dough is folded, pinch the seams closed, shape it into a rectangle, lay it seam-side-down, and slice into two halves. Roll those halves into loafly logs, and if they still have any seams visible, lay them down on those.
Cover with the same cloth, and let rise forty minutes. Thirty minutes into that, turn your oven on to 375f.
Once the dough’s proofed, uncover it and score the top diagonally with your knife at roughly two-inch intervals. Put it in the oven to bake.
For rolls, I’ve found 20-25 minutes works well, and 30-35 minutes for loaves. I left tonight’s batch in for 32 minutes (I meant to aim for 30 but got distracted), and that was just about perfect.
Let it cool before you slice it — if you cut it when it’s still too hot, you’ll crush the crumb.
I didn’t put the left loaf seam-side-down and it blew out a bit at the seam; we all beef it sometimes. That’s life (and that’s real grandma wisdom).