No fuss, no muss, and a whole lot of fibre…

Last night I made a batch of one of my easiest homemade breads. It’s more of a method than a recipe, although the proportions have been worked out after much experimentation. (In the EAT section of my site, you’ll find other recipes, including other breads).

There’s nothing like homemade bread for breakfast, or a sandwich, or just as a snack – but I’m always trying to sneak in some more healthy goodness. One of my tricks is always to add some chickpea flour, for extra protein. This one also benefits from whole wheat flour, and whole grain rolled oats. It is a bit time-consuming (you’ll want to start a day ahead, or first thing in the morning to bake for dinnertime), but it’s worth the wait, and doesn’t require any kneading at all.


Better For You Bread

If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you’ll remember my obsession last year with sourdough. I still love it, but the care and feeding of an infant dough all the time can be kind of time-consuming. I still follow my “no store bought loaves” rule pretty well all the time (even hamburger buns, although I don’t know the last time I actually used them for burgers). Yet I will admit to using store-bought yeast as it does speed up the process.

I’ve made lots of changes to bread that really help it be healthier than what we buy in the store. Of course, eliminating salt really helps. Yes, salt can be a regulator of the rise, but frankly, with modern yeasts, that is really rarely an issue. Keeping the amount of sugar down is just plain good for you, and using something more natural, like maple syrup, is better than a refined version. What else can I do to make the break healthier?

Recently I needed chickpea flour for a recipe – and in my neighbourhood, we have lots of neighbours from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East – all of whom rely on this staple in their cooking. That means we can get it in huge bags, very cheaply. But what to do with the rest? I tried an experiment a couple of weeks ago with my bread, and it turned out really well. The texture was not compromised; if anything it was better, and the added bonus was to increase both the fibre and protein content of the bread.

Here’s what I did:

I always start with water that has been boiled then cooled to lukewarm, because that gets rid of some of the chlorine, which can inhibit the yeast. Begin with 3 cups.

I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and sprinkled on two tablespoons of traditional yeast, not the breadmaker or instant kind. This should sit in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes until it is good and foamy. Stir it with a fork and add to a large bowl. You can mix this bread with a mixer and dough hook, or by hand with a spoon and your hands, but the batch is a little large for a food processor. You could cut the recipe in half, but it seems a waste to heat the oven for a single 8″ loaf

Many traditional recipes have fat – butter, lard, or oil, but I added none to this. I did add a cup of chickpea flour, and then 5-6 cups of 100% whole wheat flour. Add the flour a cup or two at a time, with the machine running, or with the spoon, stopping to knead in by hand when it becomes difficult. About halfway through add tasty treats if you want – this batch had sunflower seeds, but I’ve also done raisins and cinnamon or other kinds of nuts or seeds.

Knead until the flour is incorporated and you’ve used just enough that it feels elastic and not sticky – or if using the mixer, until it cleans nicely away from the sides of the bowl. Remove it from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking oil or wipe gently with cooking oil, and put the dough back in, turning to coat. Let it rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for an hour or so (not much more, or it will deflate).

Then shape it into two loaves, or a loaf and a cookie sheet with 12 buns (divide the second half of the dough into 12 even pieces, and press or roll into discs, about 4″ or 10cm across). Cover with clean cloth and let rise for another hour. This is a great project for when you are also making soup, when you are snowed in, or when you have a long project you’re working on at home.

About 20 minutes before the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 400F. Bake your loaves about half an hour; if you make rolls, check them about 20 minutes in. Tap on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound to be sure they are done. Remove from the oven and take them out of the pans to a wire rack immediately.

The “no store bread” rule has meant I can enjoy my bread without eating too much of it, and that’s a compromise I’m willing to work for.

Alterations and substitutions: 

I have also substituted 1c/250 ml old-fashioned oats, soaked in an equal measure of hot water, for 1-1/2 c/375ml of the wheat flour.

I have used 1 c/250 ml of dark beer instead of the same amount of the water – this can make a very light loaf with a lovely flavour.

Any kinds of nuts, seeds or dried fruit can be added, about a cup or 250ml in total. Herbs, olives, or sundried tomatoes also make a very interesting bread.



Whole Wheat Sourdough LoavesI don’t buy store bread, typically, except the occasional pitas or wraps. I make bread once a week and that’s more than enough for the two of us, even if we have dinner guests. Lately, I’ve really been on a sourdough kick – inspired by Michael Pollan’s Cooked.

The idea of bread that rises without the use of commercial yeast appeals to a person like me, who loves inventing things, and wanted to grow up to be an astronaut.  Combine that with my search for the perfect technique that combines my commitment to using as much whole-grain flour as possible, with getting great crust, a moist interior, and that elusive “spring” where the interior forces itself through the slash as it bakes in the oven, and you can imagine lots of sourdough-baking in my future.

Unlike the precision of, say, cake baking, sourdough isn’t so much a recipe as a science experiment (albeit a tasty one). I don’t typically use a recipe so much as check out other bakers’ successful tips and then work at adapting it until it feels right. I’ve used different versions, but for starters I would suggest you check out Anne Marie’s (the Zero Waste Chef). Check out her other incredible, helpful, and sometimes edible posts, also.

You might also like the post specially-designed for beginners from The Perfect Loaf. He has many, many versions of sourdough – which makes me slightly fearful of my eventual fate, having embarked on this journey.

The most interesting thing I’ve noted is that both the examples provided by these excellent bakers seemed lately to be unduly wet. Sourdough afficionados will tell you the dough should be wet, but I’m talking ridiculously wet, almost like soup. Yet it didn’t start out that way at the autolyse stage, nor during the folding. It seemed to happen during the bulk fermentation. What I’ve realized is that, being a typical Toronto summer, it is much more humid than it was in the spring, and definitely more than the winter. So I think the dough is absorbing more moisture from the air. The other day it was 60% humidity inside, with the air conditioning turned on. So I’m learning to adjust for that.

Anyway, each loaf has turned out very well, some better than others. This pair of loaves have been a real treat, as you can see! I hope you’ll share your favourite way to use sourdough bread.

PB Toast Scrambled Egg Sandwich
















This is how we roll…

Buns? Or rolls? Growing up we called them hamburger rolls. But now that we are more selective about what we eat, our favourites are these whole wheat sun dried tomato rolls.

They’re great on their own, or filled with cheese, hummus, or a burger. This morning we filled them with home grown greens (lettuce, mustard, romaine, beet, kale) and a couple of slices of tomato. Then we added a soft cooked egg, some sharp cheddar, and a smear of Dijon. Magic!


If she's lucky, the girl will have one of these with her soup…

  Our daughter is coming tomorrow for a visit, in advance of her anniversary party. She tells me she’s sick, so soup will be in order. If we aren’t too greedy, she might get one of these as well.

These sun dried tomato olive herb buns are adapted from an old favourite, the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. I love that there is no added sugar or and very little oil. We switched up the flour to 100% whole wheat and added olives when I ran out of tomato pieces.  I also shaped them like burger buns so they would be great for sandwiches of all kinds. All the fresh herbs are from our garden, and we skipped the salt. For a vegan version, simply omit the egg white glaze. Makes 12.

2c/500 ml boiling water

6 sun dried tomato halves, not oil packed, cut in slivers

6 stuffed olives, chopped

1T/15ml yeast

875ml/3.5c whole wheat flour

1/4 c chopped herbs (I used rosemary, oregano and thyme)

1 beaten egg white

In a 2 c glass measure, pour boiling water over tomatoes and let stand about 5 minutes. Then scoop them out with a slotted spoon into another dish and set aside for later. Pour off enough liquid from the measuring cup so you have 310ml/1-1/4c and let it cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm tomato water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Measure flour into a large bowl. Stir yeast mixture with a fork, then with a wooden or silicone spoon, mix it all at once into the flour, stirring until it mostly cleans away from the sides of the bowl. 

Scrape onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 30 times until smooth. Shape into a ball.

Spray your mostly-clean bowl with cooking spray or coat with a very light coating of olive oil. Put your ball of dough in it and cover with a clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm place about an hour, until doubled. (Honestly it was quite chilly in the kitchen today but it worked fine).

Punch down the dough then knead in the herbs, tomatoes, and olives until well distributed. 

Divide into 12 pieces and on a lightly floured surface, pat each into a circle about the size of a burger bun. Place on cookie sheets on parchment or Silpats, about 3 fingers apart, and cover again. Let rise for another hour. Notice how if you are working on something at your desk in the home office, the buns summon you to take a regular break to move around.

Preheat the oven to 400F /200C/ Gas mark 6. Brush tops with egg white if you are using it, and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. 

Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.