How long has it been since I have cooked or baked anything? I arrive home from being gone for weeks upon weeks and the chocolate cake I baked just before I left is still on the counter, gone stale amid an army of crumbs and the sausages and lentils I threw together is moldering away, abandoned and forsaken, in the back of the refrigerator, a delicate layer of green creating an eerie, distorted effect on the surface. A conference, a Florida visit and a workshop have carried me away, taken me from hearth and home and the urge to cook or bake, the natural instinct that leads me to the kitchen and crawls all over me in normal times seems to have been left somewhere far away, forgotten along the roadside. I find it awfully difficult to get back into the swing of things.
Yet, when the Babes call, I find I cannot ignore the sound of their melodious, dulcet voices. Another month, another loaf and I must bake. As I pull out a pad of note paper and dig through drawers to find a pen, as I begin to list the ingredients needed to create this Whipped Spelt Loaf, the familiar urging to cook, to chop, measure and stir, the craving for the rich, fragrant odors of a stew simmering on the stovetop or the yeasty, heady odors and warmth of baking bread hits me like a wave of icy ocean spray, knocking me down and filling my lungs. Where has it been hiding so long? A mosey through the market this morning and my refrigerator is now stocked with what it takes to make a warming Lamb Goulash, redolent with paprika and this bread is preparing for the heat of the oven.
I slowly, slowly organize my life. My suitcase is still spilling wrinkled, crumpled clothing onto the livingroom carpet, my laptop is surrounded by the dregs of too many working vacations, power cords, camera attachments, business cards strewn across the tabletop, snacks not eaten in one airport lounge or another… and I make lists of people I need to contact for interviews, scratch deadlines for this article or that into my notepad, scribble down restaurants to visit and ideas for new stories as I try to take charge of my life and quell the disorder. Baking bread or making stew always has the power to calm and soothe even the wildest and most out-of-control of us. It has the power to infuse us body and soul with comfort and a sense of home.
This month’s Bread Baking Babes challenge was selected by my friend and cohort (think From Plate to Page, Plated Stories, American Food Roots among other projects) Ilva of Lucullian Delights. She has the Babes and Buddies baking from a Nordic cookbook called Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry by Hanne Risgaard, a whipped bread made with spelt flour.
The dough itself, once whipped, was rather like a no-knead dough, very liquid. Ilva says to add more flour so it is slightly stiffer. Once out of the refrigerator the following morning, it was risen/doubled and bubbly. I allowed it two hours to come to room temperature and then scraped it out onto a very heavily-floured cutting board where I rolled it as lightly as possible – to not deflate the dough – in enough flour to add just a tad more body and so it wouldn’t stick. I sliced it in two pieces, again rolling each lightly in enough dough so they would not stick to hands or work surface. I very gently lifted each half onto a sheet of parchment paper, patted into two lengths and twisted together. I very quickly lifted the parchment and slipped it into a long, narrow loaf pan in order to retain the loaf shape.
The resulting bread was well risen and the crumb fluffy and tender yet a tad too sticky or moist and chewy for my liking. I will definitely make this bread again, especially as it is so fast and easy to put together, but I will shape it as does Ilva and the other Babes. Please visit their blogs to see how their breads turned out.
This is rather neutral, earthy-tasting loaf, perfect with savory or sweet toppings such as Wendy’s beautiful, creative, fruity jams from Sunchowder’s Emporia, handcrafted, artisan and unique. Or Ed Hick’s amazing artisan Bacon Jam. Both Sunchowder’s Emporia and Ed Hick were sponsors of From Plate to Page Ireland.
You can join the Bread Baking Babes and earn your Buddy badge by simply baking this same bread by May 26, mentioning and linking to the Babes (ask for the Buddy badge!), linking to the host’s (this month it is Ilva) blog post with the recipe challenge and emailing your link to her. Enjoy!
My fellow Bread Baking Babes – visit each one to see how their loaves turned out:
Karen of Bake My Day
Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen
Pat/Elle of Feeding my Enthusiasms
Heather of girlichef
Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies
Ilva of Lucullian Delights
Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups
Lien of Notitie Van Lien
Astrid of Paulchen's Foodblog
Gretchen of Provecho Peru
Katie of Thyme for Cooking
I will share this link with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!
WHIPPED SPELT BREAD
From Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry by Hanne Risgaard
The original recipe for 2 loaves:
840 g (30 oz) sifted spelt flour
160 g (5,65 oz) whole-spelt flour
10 g (0.35 oz) fresh yeast
20 g (0.70) oz salt
800 ml (scant 3 ½ cups) warm water
My changes for 1 loaf:
400 g (14 oz) all-purpose or French regular flour
100 g (3.52 oz) whole-grain spelt flour (substitute whole wheat, if necessary)
5 g (0.18 oz) fresh yeast
10 g (0.35 oz) salt
400 ml (1 ¾ cups) warm water
Mix the two types of flour in a large mixing bowl. Crumble the yeast and, using your fingertips, rub the yeast into the flour. Add and blend in the salt. Pour the warm water over the flour. Mix the dough at high speed using a whisk attachment until the dough no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl. Scrape the soft dough off the whisk, put a lid on the mixing bowl or cover well with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
Gently turn the dough onto a generously floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with a little flour. Divide the dough into 4 (2 if halving the dough as I did) equal-size pieces. Quickly twist the pieces together in pairs, preserving as much air in the dough as possible. Place the 2 (or 1 for a half recipe) twisted loaves on separate baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Let them proof until nearly doubled in volume.
Preheat either a convection oven with baking stone or a regular oven to 250°C (480°F).
Generously mist the inside of the oven with water. Ease the loaves, along with the parchment paper, onto the baking stone – or place the loaves/loaf on the parchment-lined baking sheet into the oven. Spray a little more water into the oven. Repeat after one minute. Alternately, place a pan with water on the lower shelf of the oven, checking during the baking time to refill when the water has evaporated.
After 5 minutes of baking, lower the heat to 210°C (410°F), then bake the loaves for another 20-30 minutes more.