One look outside and it feels as if it’s spring…step outside the house, and the blustery winds make you shiver. Yes, you can see spring in our neck of the woods, but can hardly feel it! Very unusual for our parts! But, at least the sun is shining now and then.
On the kitchen front, I hadn’t baked a yeasted bread for some time now. But, yesterday, I got my hands dirty and baked this delightful feta cheese, carrot and walnut bread.
I am actually quite excited about it. I was left pondering as to how much there is still to learn. I have heard about using steam in the oven for a delightful crust. For the last few times, I remember it only after the bread is out of the oven. But, not this time. I was determined to give it a try, and I was so I pleased I did…the steam from a pan of hot water can do wonders for your bread and give you a crust you can be proud of.
All I did was to place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven and baked the bread in the middle rack. Once the outer layer sets, the gases in the loaf can no longer expand to increase the size of the loaf.Applying the steam to the dough keeps the outer layer of the dough flexible and moist and helps to achieve the greatest loaf volume. The steam delays the setting of the bread’s crust, and as such, it allows more time to bake and brown. Moreover, the steam in the dough gelatinizes starch on the outside layer, and this produces a crisp crust. But, in the last few minutes of baking, when the crust is browning, a dry oven is required . This is when the steam can be removed from the oven, and this will help the gelatinous layer to dry out and form a thick and crisp crust.
I removed the pan of water, very carefully, five minutes before the bread was taken out. Now let’s see how I actually went about making the bread…
1 and 1/2 C mixed grain malthouse bread flour (is a mixture of brown wheat flour, malted wheat flakes, rye flour, malt flour)
1 and1/4 C whole wheat flour (atta)
1 small carrot, grated
100 gms of Greek feta cheese, cut into small pieces
2 T of walnuts
1/2 c of chopped babycorn ( can substitute this with more walnuts)
1 tblap of finely chopped rosemary
2 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 and 1/4 C warm water
- In a bowl, whisk together the flours, yeast, salt and rosemary. Add the carrots, cheese, baby corn and walnuts and mix well. add the olive oil and rub into the mixture with your fingertips.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and tip in the water. Mix well.
- Transfer to a lightly floured board and with lightly floured hands, knead for about 8-10 minutes to form a supple dough. To avoid being too sticky, sprinkle a little flour ( very little) on the dough while kneading.
- Place the dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Brush the top of the dough with a little olive oil. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and leave to rise, preferably in a warm place for about an hour.
- Knock down the dough with your knuckles and with lightly floured hands, knead for another 6-8 minutes.
- Cut the dough into two pieces. Shape each piece into an oval or round loaf (boule). I did one of each.
- Lightly flour a baking tray and place the shaped loaves in them, making sure there is enough space for them to rise and not touch one another. Make cuts across the top with sharp knife or blade. Cover the tray with an oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 40-45 minutes. You can use two trays for this. If you have just the one, and that is not big enough, then work with one piece of dough at a time and keep the other covered in the bowl.
- Pre heat the oven at 220 deg C. Boil enough water to fill 1/2 of a pan ( I used an 8inch square baking pan).
- Sprinkle a little flour over the loaves. Place the pan with the shaped and risen dough in the centre of the pre heated oven. Fill the other pan with the boiling water and place it at the bottom of the oven (please be careful ). Quickly shut the door of the oven to prevent the steam from escaping.
- Bake for 20 minutes and reduce the heat to 200 deg. Spray a little water on the walls of the oven, avoiding the light and the bread. Bake for another 15 minutes and , again, very carefully, remove the pan of hot water. Cover the loaves with foil to prevent over browning.Bake for the last five minutes. If you are baking both the loaves at the same time, rotate the tray in between.
- Transfer the loaves to a rack to cool completely before slicing
I am so glad I tried this new technique. The crust was an absolute delight and the crumb was soft and flavourful too. The baby corn was a last minute addition, but do not fret too much over it. As I said earlier, just add the same quantity of the walnuts in addition to the 2 tblspns. We wolfed down one of the loaves last night with some soup. You can also butter them up or make a sandwich too!