I'm not sure you can say that there's really ever anything new in the world of bread. It's been around such a long time, has so many variations in so many parts of the world, I have to imagine that anything I might think of, someone else has already come up with. But here are two breads that debuted at the Real Bread stand last year, and found an appreciative following. Both of these breads are "mixed leaven" breads, which means they use both active dry yeast, like you buy at the grocery store, and sourdough starter. If you don't have a jar of starter bubbling away on your counter or slumbering in your fridge, here you will find instructions for starting your own starter.
Probably the most distinctive bread we came up with last year was our Apple-Cheddar Flats, an ode to Wisconsin in bread form. We based it on our fougasse, the Provencal-inspired, olive oil-enriched flat bread. To the basic dough we added grated sharp cheddar (I use the seven-year-old white cheddar we buy at Bolen Vale Cheese ) and grated apple from our own trees. The apples pretty much melt into the dough, leaving behind a slight appley fragrance, a touch of sweetness, and a nice springy texture. The sharp cheddar is very noticeable, especially when this bread is warmed, or sliced and toasted a bit on the grill.
If you have a baking stone, place the dough on cornmeal-dusted peels. If not, place them on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or covered with parchment paper. Let rise 30 to 45 minutes, depending on ambient temperature.
This started off as an attempt to make a slightly grainier version of our pain de campagne, a semi-sourdough country white loaf. I got a little carried away in the process, and the "6" took on a life of its own. Sorry about the slightly awkward measurements. I've cut it back from the larger batch we make for the market, and I want to present it as we actually make it.
We make this bread with all organic flours. Here in the Twin Cities, check your co-op for the flours from Whole Grain Milling.
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup well-refreshed liquid sourdough starter
2 1/2 tsp salt
scant 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
scant 1/4 cup cracked wheat
generous 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour (or sub regular organic whole wheat flour)
2 cups (or more) organic unbleached white flour (I use Gold n White from Natural Way Mills)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let it sit for about five minutes. Add the rest of the water, the starter, salt, honey, and all the grains down through the whole wheat bread flour. Stir to mix well. Add a cup of white flour and stir well. Continue adding white flour by the half-cup until the dough is thick and difficult to stir. It will take around two cups of white flour total.
Turn your dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for a couple of minutes, adding white flour as necessary, until you have a cohesive, slightly elastic dough. Put it back in the bowl, sprinkle the top with a bit of flour, and leave it alone for at least ten minutes and up to half an hour. Then put the dough back on your work surface and knead for a couple of minutes more, until the dough is elastic--that is, it bounces back quickly when you poke it with your finger.
Now the dough must rise, and it should rise for a good long time. I usually make the dough in the afternoon, refrigerate it for a few hours, then take it out, knead it down, and let it rise (or "proof," if you want to sound quite "baker-ly") at room temp overnight, shape it and bake it the next morning. But you can also make the dough in the morning, let it proof for seven or eight hours, then bake it off that evening.
Slash the tops any way you please with a very sharp knife (serrated bread knife works well) or single-edge razor. Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then turn the oven down to 410 and bake for another 20 minutes, until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. (We add steam by throwing three or four ice cubes into a small cast iron skillet that sits on the floor of our electric oven.)
Note: Check the bread a couple of times in the later part of baking to make sure it isn't browning too much--the honey can cause it to get quite dark. Tent with aluminum foil or turn the heat down if the bread is browning too fast.
Let cool thoroughly before slicing.
Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw