Thursday, 3 September 2015

Cracked Rye and Oat Bread


Germans bake good bread heh? I've lost count about how often I heard the sentences: "You must love bread!", "German bread is the best!" or "Do you miss your bread?" during my time in London... If I would've got a pound every time someone said it to me....  
I'm seriously amazed by the reputation of my nation's bread! Okay, we always want what we can't have and appreciate rare specialities much more then our daily bread - pun intended! 



I've never appreciated a proper dark rye or whole spelt/wheat bread with nuts/seeds etc. more than during my time on the island were it was hard to come by even during the current hype of sourdough bakeries. So what makes our bread so special? Let's start with the variety: over 300 different types of bread plus 1.200 rolls, buns and other small bakes can be found in bakeries across the country. We are all huge fans of sourdough breads and there's hardly a home that doesn't enjoy some kind of bakery bread at home. We don't buy our bread in the supermarkets we still go to the bakery.  My mom comes from Westphalia - the german region were the well known "Pumpernickel" bread has it's heritage.


I was raised with a proper "Abendbrot" - see even the german word for dinner ("Abendbrot"="evening-bread") involves one of our favourite diet staples ;-). Apart from at least one variety of bread this means a variety of cold cut meats, ham, salami, cheese, pickled and fresh vegetables and butter. Every day. And we don't grow sick of it - if you are lucky your baker is creative and changes his products during the season: a lightly seeded wheat bread in spring, deep, dark malted rye bread in winter or a spelt bread with nuts and dried fruit in autumn. 
When I was younger my favourite was a "Mischbrot": Not just wheat and not just rye but the best of both worlds: flavourful rye with wheat to lighten it up. Still dense and very moist but not as hard to chew as a Pumpernickel stuffed with seeds or nuts. A thin layer of butter and a slice of cheese or a bit of cold cut meat. Yum!


Nowadays I often turn to a lighter dinner of salad or vegetables but a slice of good ol' bread is always welcome to sneak in if there's fresh one around. Or I keep it as a special treat for a relaxed weekend breakfast when there's a full feast of eggs, cheese, butter, honey, jams or nut butter. 
So today I've brought you a bit of german bread feeling for your own kitchen. It's not a sourdough based bread to make things easier. There's a bit of cracked rye inside to make it nice and chewy. Plus it's packed with the goodness of oats and whole rye. It's soak, mix, loooong slow rise, shape, rise, bake, serve. Based on Jim Lahey's famous No-Knead Bread it's very little hands on time for a super delicious, flavourful bread. Enjoy and let me hear your bread stories!




Cracked Rye and Oat Bread (No-knead Method)
- makes one loaf, inspired by Jim Lahey's famous No-knead Bread
First step:
- 150g cracked rye
- 200g boiling water
Second step:
- 290 g water, warm to the touch
- 300 g oat flour (or simply process some oats in your food processor), may be substituted by all purpose or whole wheat - just keep in mind that the texture of the bread may become lighter
- 1/2 tsp dried yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt

1. Put the cracked rye into a heat-proof bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for an hour.
2. Mix the remaining warm water and the yeast. Put half of the soaked rye into a large mixing bowl. Pulse the rest of the rye in your food processor or blend with a blender until it has a batter-like texture - some bits are totally fine. Add to the cracked rye along with all other ingredients. Mix well and cover with cling film.
3. Let rise in a warm, draught free place for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight or up to 24 hours for more mature flavours. Flour your working surface - put dough out of the bowl and flatten into a rectangle. Fold each of the four sides into the middle, like a package. Place seam side down on a floured tea towel or in your tin lined with baking parchment. Cover with the cling film again and let it rise for 3 more hours.
4. Now place your dutch oven or another heat proof dish with a lid in your oven and preheat to 250 °C for 30 minutes. If your dough isn't in the tin or on parchment (for a free form loaf) yet, do that now. Then put your loaf in a tin or without in your dutch oven, place the lid back on top and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, lower the oven temperature to 220 °C and continue baking for 30 minutes or until loaf is nice and brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Enjoy!


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Harvest Cake {w/ zucchini, beetroot, carrot & apple}


My arms are becoming really strong lately. And no this isn't thanks to some super secret training method which transforms you into a human version of the incredible "Hulk"overnight but rather because of all the fresh vegetables our allotment harvest brings us. Zucchini, potatoes, herbs, beetroot, carrots, spinach, beans, pumpkins - you can almost see the crops growing. Our vegetable box is overflowing from all the goodness and even with the combined "eating powers" of friends and family it seems like we can't conquer the masses of fresh produce ;-). So as every year it's veggies 24/7 - no complaints - zucchini pancakes are a great breakfast btw.


It's kind of a tradition for me to bake a cake or bread with some of the fresh produce (e.g. this Zucchini and Thyme Bread  or these baked Beetroot Chips) and this year I just combined a bit of everything: zucchini, beetroot, carrots plus apples, a hint of cinnamon and the usual suspects flour, fat, salt etc. plus crumble - you can't go wrong with crumbles.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Nut & Cocoa Nib Cookies


So I'm a serious cookie lover. As a child I couldn't get enough of soft, chewy super sweet Chocolate Chip Cookies. Serve them with a glass of milk and I was more then happy. Nowadays I am a bit more aware of nutritional values and prefer wholesome nutritious alternatives to cookies as an afternoon-snack. Yet every now and then a cookie craving hits. I always have a tea or coffee in the afternoon and finding a good cookie that combines all the points on my list (nutritional value, taste, ability to be dunked without falling apart, yet no brick texture) it's a very serious business. :-)