Many people tell me they don’t make their own bread because it is so time-consuming. I always told them this wasn’t true. It’s funny how people chance their opinion. I loved to bake my own bread when I worked from home and was able to look after a rising dough or a baking bread from time to time. Now I don’t work from home and when I am home, I have to watch a toddler. So I told myself that watching a yeast dough and a toddler was way too much for me. Which is not true because I cook and bake other things while F. is around. While she is “helping” me by cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, peeling an onion on the floor, or “assorting” the regular and the whole wheat spaghetti by putting them all in the same jar.
To be honest, I don’t like cooking when I am distracted like that. For me cooking is a way to relax. When I have the time to watch my bread rise it helps me to come back down after a stressful day. Looking at the dough turning into bread is like meditation to me. But when there’s a toddler around trying to pick an old cookie out of the rubbish bin, I am not relaxed. And that is the main reason why I don’t bake much bread any longer. But still, this is an excuse, isn’t it? Because I am not the only person in this house who looks after F. and I can use the kitchen without having F. running around my feet. It’s not her fault that I have become so lazy when it comes to bread baking.
When I started to knead the dough for this loaf, I immediately remembered why bread baking is so rewarding. You can use your favourite ingredients. You know your ingredients. You can watch the whole process and then, when the loaf is in the oven and it starts to rise perfectly and you know you did everything right, something so simple as a homemade bread can make your day.
Those slashes are perfect and I am proud of them. I tried so man things to get them right and no knife and no method would work. Now I am using a very sharp carbon steel paring knife and finally my slashes come out beautifully.
Instead of making one large loaf I decided to make four smaller ones. I have a fancy baguette pan that I never use, so I just put the breads in there. Don’t worry if you don’t own such a pan.The shape of these loaves is totally up to you! (You can also see that I shaped them very sloppily and still the result was perfect.)
Light spelt flour and roasted nuts and seeds were my choice for these loaves which also freeze well. The dough is made with a lot of water and might be a bit difficult to work with. My experience with spelt flour is that it needs a lot of moisture otherwise the bread will dry up fast. One trick to store this moisture is by adding soaked seeds to the dough. The result is a heavy but not dense bread. It has the kind of weight that makes you realise that this is a good quality bread. It will keep fresh longer than your average store bought baguette. (Which is fresh for how long? Five minutes? So this is easy to beat.)
Spelt Bread with Hazelnuts and Seeds
90 g (2/3 cup) hazelnuts
4 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
3 tablespoons water
500 g (4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) light spelt flour
350 ml ( 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
10 g ( 1 2/3 teaspoons) salt
Add the hazelnuts to a small pan and roast for five minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent the nuts from burning. Add remaining seeds except for the flax and roast for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine flax and 3 tablespoons water and let sit.
Add the flour to a large bowl and make a well. Add water and instant yeast and let sit for five minutes. (Technically you don’t have to do this with instant yeast. But I feel that when I do this the yeast does a better job.) Add salt and knead the dough for 5-7 minutes or until smooth. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. This may take up to two hours, depending on the room temperature. Slowly is better, so don’t place the dough in your oven with the lights on.
Add roasted nuts, seeds, and flax and knead the dough until everything is incorporated. At this point the dough will probably be a bit sticky again, but that is normal. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and resist the urge to knead in too much flour. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and shape into small baguettes or batards and place on a greased baguette pan or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dust with flour and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F). Place a rimmed baking sheet or a large baking dish (metal not glass!) on the bottom of the oven. (You are going to fill this with a cup of hot water as soon as the bread is in the oven.)
As soon as you are ready to put the bread into the oven, boil one cup of water. Put on some kitchen mitts and place the bread in the oven. Immediately pour the hot water into the prepared baking sheet on the bottom. Be very careful and make sure your hands are properly covered so you don’t burn yourself. Close the door and decrease the heat to 200°C (400°F). Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the breads sound hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before serving.