Monday, February 6, 2012

Country Bread for the Urban Mom

When I was growing up, we lived down a long lane in one of the most beautiful rural communities in Prince Edward Island.  One of my absolute favourite memories is the feeling of walking up that long, red clay driveway after school, opening the back door, and being overwhelmed by the heavenly aroma of baking bread.  In addition to making regularly sized loaves, my mom would bake a mini loaf each for my younger sister and me.  They were still warm when we got home from school and the melted butter in that soft, chewy, bread is one of the most delicious experiences I can imagine.  In fact, when I dropped by my parents' home one day recently after a play date with a friend, that was the smell that greeted me.  There was even a mini loaf for my darling James.  So she's still at it, that mother of mine.

I have never made my mom's homemade white bread recipe, partially because I don't think it can turn out just the way it should if my hands, rather than hers, are the ones kneading the dough and forming the loaves.  Also, as gorgeous as that bread is, we try mostly to eat whole grain bread when possible.  Additionally, since having two busy children I find that bread making that requires a few hours of commitment and lots of kneading is just a little too much work at this stage of my life.

Enter this bread.  I find that this is the best bread recipe I've tried thus far for busy and working moms trying to make homemade bread on a tight schedule.  I first got the recipe from Chef Michael Smith's Chef at Home cookbook and then modified it to suit our tastes.  What I find so great about this recipe is that it requires very little kneading and depends instead on a long first rising period.  You mix the ingredients together, let it sit for 12-14 hours, then briefly knead it, let it rise, and then pop it in the oven.  So the first rising can occur while you're at work, or while you're sleeping, depending on which suits your schedule more conveniently!

It's also a very forgiving and flexible recipe that allows you to change up the ingredients, depending on what you have on hand or prefer to use.

So here it is:

Country Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup 12-grain cereal mix, sunflower seeds, or Red River cereal
1/2 tbsp (or 1 1/2 tsp) kosher salt
1/2 tsp of active dry yeast (slightly more than an even 1/2 teaspoon)

2 cups of very warm water

In your second largest mixing bowl, whisk the flour, oatmeal, cereal/seeds, salt, and yeast.  When it is mixed thoroughly, pour in the warm water and use a wooden spoon to mix it well together.  Use this opportunity to get the frustrations of your day out of your system.

The dough will be very sticky and you will wonder if it needs more flour.  It doesn't, don't worry.  Generously oil your largest mixing bowl with your hands (I use olive oil but canola and sunflower oil work well too) and transfer your dough to the oiled bowl.  Flip it over once to coat all sides.  Then cover that bowl with saran wrap and leave it in a warm-ish place for 10 to 12 hours.

The dough needs lots of time, but it's flexible.  If you only have eight hours, that's fine; if you went shopping and then decided to have lunch at your mom's and forgot about your dough and it went 14 hours, that's ok too.  You want the dough to double in size.

When it's time to knead your dough, sprinkle some flour on the kneading surface.  Generously oil a 9"x5" loaf pan and use your oily hands to get the dough out of the bowl and onto the counter.  Knead for a minute or two (really--all it needs is a few flips) and form your loaf and pop it into the pan.  I lightly oil the top and then drape a clean dish towel over it.

Allow to rise for 1-2 hours.  Depending on how warm your house is, you might want to keep an eye on it as you don't want it to rise too high.  Since the dough is so soft, if you let it over-rise it will droop over the pan and end up looking somewhat like a waterlogged mushroom after it's been baked.  Still tasty, but not pretty.

Once it is good and risen, preheat your oven to 400 and then bake your bread for 45 minutes.  Take the bread out of the pan right away and allow to cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

*I mentioned above that you can do substitutions with this recipe.  Within the parameter of using four cups of flour, I've changed it various times to include the following:

-3 cups whole wheat, 1 cup white
-2 cups whole wheat, 1 cup kamut, 1 cup white
-1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup kamut, 1 cup spelt, 1 cup white

Use whichever flours you most enjoy, but I would make sure to have at least one cup of white flour to maintain a decent consistency in the dough.  Lately I've been doing the 50/50 whole wheat to white simply because white flour goes on sale more regularly than whole wheat.

I've also substituted wheat germ for the oatmeal.  I like it, but like the oatmeal better.  And make sure to change up the "bits" part of the recipe!  For this particular loaf, I used sunflower seeds but I generally use multigrain cereal mixes.  Sometimes I really mix things up with a blend of poppy, flax, and sesame seeds; other times I skip the seeds/grains altogether and go for a smoother loaf.  It's up to you to have fun with it, and bulk barn is definitely your friend when it comes to bread baking!


  1. Is this the bread you made for Dad at Christmastime? Looks pretty tasty Rose! :)

  2. I love this bread :) When I make bread at home, it is ALWAYS this recipe :)

  3. Great book! I have it too. Great bread!! well done!

  4. i'm always looking for a good bread recipe to try! looks soo good! thanks for sharing!


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