I’m calling this loaf of wholemeal bread my last hurrah. About two weeks ago a doctor advised me to try going on a wheat free diet for six weeks to see if it helped with some recurring tummy pain. I had been munching on this loaf only that morning, so you can imagine my horror. The recipe is one I have pared down from the first Leon recipe book and I’d been enjoying it for breakfast right up until the point this doctor dropped the axe.
Saying dropped the axe may sound a little melodramatic, but I’ve had to take on board a whole different way of eating. I’ve always prided myself on not being “fussy” about food and always thought cutting out food groups is a stupid idea. But, for the last two weeks I’ve actually been feeling quite a bit better.
Instead of wheat bread and pasta, I’ve been filling up on Jersey Royal potatoes, rye bread, oatcakes, buckwheat noodles (crazy expensive), rice and A LOT of chocolate. So far, I’ve only reviewed a steak restaurant in the past couple of weeks, so I didn’t have to worry too much there. But, for a food journalist/lover like me to go without wheat has been a pretty scary thing.
That said, I’m all for being healthy, so if wheat and I just ain’t going to get along and I’m better off alone, then I guess it’s worth it. I’ve also managed to bake a batch of chocolate rye brownies and some very moreish chocolate peanut butter cookies made with chestnut flour (a later post).
Back to this loaf of bread. I was looking for a wholemeal loaf that wasn’t 100% wholemeal, cause that tends to come out too dense and this uses a happy mixture of white and wholemeal. It’s also particularly straightforward; doesn’t require much kneading and proves quite happily over 2 and a half hours.
Another thing I loved about this loaf was the delicious crust – you know how when you make your own bread, the crust is somehow absolutely delicious? Well, this one was, and nice and crisp – the result of a wetter dough.
I’m calling it my last hurrah. It’s a good’un.
Wholemeal bread recipe
The recipe is adapted from Leon, taken from page 147 of the first Leon book, Leon: Ingredients & Recipes by Allegra McEvedy. The book recommends adding aniseeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds and ground fenugreek, but I don’t like an aniseed flavour, so just used caraway. This is basically my pared-down version. It makes a 1kg loaf.
330g strong wholemeal flour (you can use strong, wholemeal spelt if you like)
170g strong white flour
5g fast-acting easy blend dried yeast
2 teaspoons crushed sea salt
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 and a half tbsps extra virgin olive oil
300ml warm water
15g sunflower seeds for the top
You’ll need a 1kg loaf tin, buttered.
Make the dough
Mix all the dry ingredients, apart from the sunflower seeds, in a large bowl. Stir in the oil then the water. The mixture should now stick together.
Knead with floured hands – remember not to add too much flour, because, as the book says, a wetter dough is better. Shape lightly, then place into the tin. Cut a pattern of deep gashes on the surface and push a few sunflower seeds into them (any that aren’t pushed in will more than likely fall off, but that’s no biggy if like me you love toasted sunflower seeds).
Sprinkle over a little extra flour and place the tin into a large freezer or plastic bag, tucked under the tin so the loaf is in its own miny greenhouse. Make sure it has room to double in size, which it will do in about two to two and a half hours in a warm kitchen.
Bake the bread
Bake in a pre-heated oven, at 230 degrees centigrade, 450 degrees fahrenheit or gas mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 degrees centigrade, 400 degrees fahrenheit or gas mark 6 for a further 20 minutes. Turn out and cool on a rack. Eat as soon as you dare with cold, unsalted butter. Wow.