Regular readers will know that I used to bake a lot of bread, but for one reason or another my bread-baking has fallen by the wayside in recent months. Working away from home a lot, writing a large book, and a very busy work schedule meant it somewhat slipped a few notches down the priority list. But as I made the kids lunches in the mornings with the supermarket loaf, I started to get a niggling nag in the back of my head – I wanted to make it myself. And so, on Sunday, I rolled up my sleeves and started baking again. In for a penny, I was going to try to make it as good and wholesome as possible – so I opted for half wholemeal flour, and a fistful of nuts and seeds thrown in for good measure… The enthusiastic response from the household tells me this is the first of many many loaves to come!
250g wholemeal flour
250g plain flour
7g packet dried fast action yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
150g walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds – in any quantity
400ml warm water
First, blitz your nuts and seeds in a food processor and set to one side. I used around 80g walnuts, 40g sunflower seeds and 30g pumpkin seeds but any mixture of nuts or seeds will do – use what you have and love.
Sift the wholemeal and plain flours into a large mixing bowl – some of the larger grains of wholemeal flour won’t pass through the sieve, so tip them in – that’s the good stuff! Add the dried yeast, sugar, salt, and your blitzed nuts-n-seeds, and give it all a good stir.
Make a well in the centre and measure out your water – warm water from the tap will do, but a temperature comfortable to leave your hand in for a few seconds – if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your poor yeast, which is a little living thing too… Pour most of the water in and give it all a good stir, adding more water as you go to form a soft dough. Don’t overwork it at this stage, as it will release too much gluten, and become tight and stiff and not much fun at all. (If this does happen, and trust me it happens to the best of us, add an extra splash of water to loosen it up, cover it and leave it to breathe for an extra half an hour or so before knocking back and kneading – then carry on as below).
Tip your dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for a good five minutes until soft and springy. (If you’re not sure how to knead bread, this simple tutorial on the BBC Food website is a great two minute guide – and once you know, you know!)
Shape it into a round (or a triangle, or an ampersand, if the mood takes you). Lightly dust the inside of your mixing bowl with flour and pop your dough back in. Cover with a clean cloth or cling film, and leave for forty five minutes to rise.
When the dough has risen – it should be around twice the size it was – carefully tip it out of the bowl and heat your oven to 180C. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour and pop it on, lightly knocking it back into shape. Use a sharp knife to score a line down the middle just less than an inch deep, dust the top with flour, and pop it in the oven for 50 minutes, until risen, crusty on the outside, and hollow-sounding when you tap it on the bottom. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Will keep for around 3 days wrapped in a food bag and kept in a cool, dry place, or 3 months in the freezer.