Everything is home made. The peach-ginger jam was made from white peaches, which have pink flesh inside when sliced, but cooked in the jam pot turned reddish-orange. The ricotta is Ina Garten’s recipe made from whole milk and cream. It is delicious, smooth, and creamy. The multigrain bread is a Serious Eats recipe by Stella Parks that I’m baking until it’s perfect. I altered the recipe by adding whole wheat flour which changed the hydration because whole wheat and white bread flour do not hydrate at the same rate. The first time I made it I baked the perfect loaf but since then I haven’t been able to replicate those results: soft, chewy, tender slices of brown bread.
After several weeks of experimenting with this bread recipe and watching videos on kneading bread dough, I’ve come to understand this recipe and most importantly, how to work around the challenges of bread baking in Thailand. It’s hot and humid here which affects the chemistry of flour, yeast, and water. My everlasting exasperation was with this dough’s horrible stickiness. I have tried swapping bread flour for all-purpose and I can’t say it made any difference in the stickiness of the dough. I have tried reducing the liquid 10% to compensate for the humidity. No appreciable difference. I decided to accept that this dough will probably always be sticky for me considering my kitchen’s location. Lessons learned that recipes never tell you:
- Resist the temptation to add more flour just because the dough is sticky. Sticky dough is a nightmare: it sticks to you and the countertop leading to despair that it will never come together. But it will come together eventually, so I must be patient! I found that the slap-and-fold method works very well with sticky dough. Besides, it’s fun to slap the dough on the countertop. Here’s a video demonstration of the technique.
- Rising dough needs time, so the times given should be taken as a guide, not a rule of thumb. I’ve learned to let the bread rise go longer than the recipe has stated when it didn’t rise as expected. That said…
- Always go by how the dough looks and feels. Trust your experience with the dough. For instance, I’ve kneaded dough for 20 minutes rather than the 8 or 9 minutes stated in the recipe because the dough was still sticky.
- Personalize the recipe. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Take notes and learn from your experience with the dough. Your kitchen and where you live are unique so your bread recipe is as individual as you are!
- Baking bread and enjoying it is a very subjective experience.
Remember this is a rough guide:
Minutes to prepare: 40
Resting time: 5 hours 40 minutes (includes cooling)
Minutes to cook: 35
Yield: 2 loaves
177 g (1 1/4 cups) 5 or 7 grain hot cereal mix
2 1/2 cups boiling water (due to humidity, I reduced water 10% to 2 1/4 cups)
360 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (can substitute bread flour 1:1 but doing so may change the product’s texture)
170 g (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour (called hard wheat here)
1 tablespoon table salt
4 tablespoons golden honey
4 tablespoons (59 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds or 1 cup flaxseed (optional)
3/4 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans (after sifting out the powder and tiny pieces) (optional)
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats or quick oats
1 egg, lightly beaten mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Place cereal in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add boiling water and stir. Let cool to 100˚F about 20 minutes to 1 hour. Whisk flours with salt in a large bowl and set aside.
Add honey, melted cooled butter, and yeast to the cooled cereal. Stir to combine. Attach the bowl to a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn it on to speed 1 and add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Knead until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stop the mixer. Remove the bowl and dough hook from the mixer, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest 20 minutes. The dough may be very sticky but do NOT add more flour. Using a plastic dough scraper, turn the dough out on to an unfloured board. Knead the dough, working through stickiness because it WILL come together eventually. Continue kneading until the dough no longer sticks to the work surface or to your hands.
Do the windowpane test. Cut off a walnut-sized piece of dough and stretch it as thin as possible. If it stretches without tearing and is translucent when held up to the light, the gluten is developed and kneading it is done. It is time to add the nuts/seeds.
Dust the work surface very lightly with flour and place the dough on it. Dust the top. Flatten and stretch the dough into a rough rectangle and sprinkle half the nuts/seeds on top. Press them into the dough. Fold up the dough in thirds, horizontally, like a letter. Turn the folded dough vertically and press the dough flat again with your fingers. Sprinkle the remaining nuts/seeds on top, pressing them into the dough. Fold up into thirds again. Knead the dough for a few minutes to disperse the seeds/nuts evenly. Use the dough scraper to scrape up any bits of dough and seeds/nuts, and knead again. Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly dust it with flour.
Grease a bowl with 4 quart capacity. Put the dough ball into the bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic and a towel and put in a warm draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45-60 minutes. Because of the whole wheat flour in the dough, it will not rise to the top of the bowl but to about two-thirds of the bowl.
While dough is rising, adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Spray two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. I like to use pans with a dark finish which absorb heat and contribute to a more even rise during oven spring. Set pans aside.
Transfer risen dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pat it into a 9×12 inch rectangle. Using a dough scraper, cut the rectangle in half so you get two pieces 9×6 inches each.
You’re going to roll one half tightly into a cylinder. Starting from the short side, roll until you reach the end. Pinch the seam closed. Tuck in the dough sticking out of each end and fold a bit of the top over to cover the end and pinch it closed. Roll the cylinder lightly on the board to smooth it. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash. Pour 1/2 cup rolled oats into a large plate and press the brushed top into the oats. Don’t roll it. Center the loaf in a prepared pan and lightly press down all over the top to make sure the bread will rise evenly. Repeat with the second loaf. Cover loaves lightly with plastic and a kitchen towel and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30-40 minutes. The loaves should rise 1-1 1/2 inches above the rim of the pans.
Bake until the loaves reach an internal temperature of 200˚F, about 35-40 minutes. If the loaves darken too soon, tent them with aluminum foil, and reduce heat to 350˚F/175˚C.
Remove loaves from oven and cool in the pans 5 minutes on wire racks. Remove the loaves from the pans and allow to cool completely before slicing.