*Note: this recipe has been updated! See here.
I don’t have to try to convince you that home-baked bread is better than anything you can buy. It’s a bit of an obsession of mine, in fact – but I am referring to other people’s homemade bread. You see, I have bread-baking fear. Not sure when this started exactly, as I’ve never had a great baking disaster that totally traumatized me. You’d think someone so into bread would have learned how to make it themselves long ago, but no. This is one of those culinary challenges that I have simply avoided, and now the molehill seems like a mountain. Deep breath. Baby steps.
The bones of this recipe came to me by way of a good friend who, over a cup of tea, boasted that she made fresh bread every morning. Ha! I said. Thanks for making me feel so incredibly inadequate. She assured me however, that if you have time to brush your teeth before bed (which I sure hope you do), then you have time to make bread. She then jotted down some ingredients sans measurements I might add, on a scrap piece of paper and the next night, there I was making dough before I hit the sack. It took all of three minutes (seriously!) and there was no kneading involved and not even a bowl to clean.
I don’t know how you feel about the bread in the supermarket these days, but I think it’s getting pretty freaky. Have you read the ingredient list on a bag of sliced bread lately? I realize that by compromising taste, texture, and nutrition, you get an extra couple hours during your week, but seriously, is it worth it?! I pulled this ingredient list from a standard bagged bread loaf found in a large chain supermarket:
Enriched wheat flour, water, sugar/glucose-fructose, yeast, dehydrated potato flakes (potatoes, monoglycerides, sodium acid pyrophosphate), vegetable oil (canola or soybean), salt, potato starch, wheat gluten, vinegar, calcium propionate, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, monoglycerides, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, sorbic acid.
Um, yeah. Without going into too much detail here, we can see that the first ingredient uses a tricky adjective to make nutritionally-void white flour sound healthy, and after water comes sugar. Sugar. I am not even going to tackle the rest – you get it. So stop eating it.
By baking bread yourself, you control the ingredients and actually end up with a health-supporting food. On a higher level, you can become one step closer to the food you’re eating, and re-connect to the beautiful process that feeds you and your family with so much more than calories.
Baby Step Buns
3 cups whole grain flour (I use spelt)
1 cup grain mix*
2 cups lukewarm warm water (test on your wrist)
20 g. fresh yeast OR ¾ tsp. dry active yeast
½ Tbsp. sea salt, plus more for garnish
2 tsp. olive oil
nuts and seeds for garnish (optional)
* You can purchase grain mixes specifically for baking at natural food stores and good grocers, but making your own is easy. You can blend any of your favorite grains, nuts, and seeds together – I like ground flax, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, sesame, rye kernels…you get the idea.
1. If using fresh yeast, dissolve it in some slightly warm water (not too hot, or you will kill the yeast).
2. Combine dry ingredients well, then add the water and oil.
3. Mix with a wooden spoon until well combined – the dough will be very wet, that is how it is supposed to be. Cover with a tea towel and let sit someplace warm overnight (beside a radiator is a good spot).
4. In the morning, preheat oven to 400F, line a couple baking trays with parchment paper, and spoon dough onto them. You can make these as large or small as you like, mine were about the size of my palm. Sprinkle with nuts and/or seeds and sea salt.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a tap on the bottom of the buns makes a hollow sound.
Now, for a little bun taste and texture review: My favorite aspect of these buns is how crispy they are! The crust is delightfully crunchy, but they also manage to maintain a soft center. I think the sesame seeds on top were a very good idea, as they add even more crunch and nutty flavour. They taste really good too. I suppose my only criticism is that they are a little too flat, and once sliced the two halves are just not as substantial as I would like them to be. BUT because I have no idea about bread chemistry I am not sure how to remedy this. Anyone know?
I don’t often post recipe “experiments” in the sense that they are still in the experimental stage, but I will admit that these buns are just that. I have NO idea what I am doing, and although winging it seems like a rad idea, I know for a fact that there is lots of room for improvement here. I am excited to see where it goes, and what I will learn along the way. I bet I will look back on these funny little buns someday and laugh at my sweet, baking innocence. But hey, baby steps my friend.