This bread recipe is the version I make using instant yeast instead of sourdough starter. For any of you who don’t have a sourdough starter, or if you forgot to feed the starter before bread-making day, this recipe doesn’t require any preparation and still produces a beautiful bread with a great flavour and minimal effort. It is basically the same recipe as the slow-fermented wheat sourdough, but uses a tiny amount of yeast in place of the starter and a slightly different step in the mixing stage called the ‘delayed salt method’.
Unlike most modern day breads, this method uses a very small amount of yeast and a much longer rising time at a lower temperature in order to create a more digestible and flavourful loaf of bread. The delayed addition of salt allows the dough to ‘autolyse’ and use its own enzymes to start breaking down the natural sugars and start the formation of the gluten structure without any kneading. The result is a delicious bread with a beautiful flavour and a caramelised crust. If you are short on time, you can add the salt right away, but delaying the addition of salt can help add more lift, colour and flavour to the bread.
In the fermentation workshops I’m teaching I talk about the main purposes for fermenting various foods. Grains contain antinutrients (phytates, lectins and saponins to name a few). Put relatively briefly, antinutrients are the natural substances found in either the bran or endosperm of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds which prevent them from sprouting at random. These antinutrients help store phosphorus to provide the needed energy to sprout once exposed to the perfect conditions. The antinutrients also bind to essential minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium in order to help provide the growing seed with the nutrients it needs. Once exposed to moisture and natural bacteria and yeasts, these antinutrients are broken down, allowing the grain, nut or seed to sprout. Pretty cool, eh?
The downside is that when humans eat these foods without fermenting them the antinutrients make the nutrients in the grains, nuts, seeds and legumes unavailable. In addition, the antinutrients act like magnets and pull the essential minerals from the other foods we have just eaten, setting us up for a potential deficiency. If we were ruminants (animals that have an additional stomach or three which contain bacteria to kick off the fermentation process – a cow is an example!) we would have no problem breaking down these antinutrients to make these foods more digestable and nutritious. But we are humans with one stomach, and the human stomach is full of peptic acid, which is excellent at breaking down proteins found in meat, and not so excellent at breaking down plant-based foods that haven’t been pre-digested. This is why humans started fermenting and sprouting plant-based foods such as wheat, barley, soy, rice, oats etc THOUSANDS of years ago. More on that in a future post.
Slow Fermented Wheat Sourdough: No-Knead Yeast Method
1/4 tsp instant yeast
375g (1 1/2 cups) filtered water – room temperature
455g (just under 3 1/2 cups) high grade white flour or use 340g white flour and 115g wholemeal or rye flour
10g (1 1/2 tsp) sea salt
- In a large (non-aluminium, non-copper) mixing bowl place flour and yeast, mix quickly to combine, and add the water and stir briefly until all the flour is moistened and you have a shaggy dough (see image below). There is no kneading involved at all and the dough doesn’t need to be smooth, but the flour needs to all be moist. Cover and allow the dough to sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 45 minutes. This time allows the autolysis to happen before the addition of salt.
- Once the time is up, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of the salt on the dough and use wet hands to start incorporating the salt by stretching the dough and folding it over on itself in the bowl. Continue to add the salt in this manner until it is has all been added. Gently lift, stretch and fold the dough on itself until you can’t feel the salt crystals anymore. It should only take about a minute or so total. You should feel the dough become slightly less sticky and a bit more elastic.
- Leave the dough in the bowl and cover the bowl with a plastic bag or clean moistened tea towel and leave on your kitchen bench for 12-24 hours or until the dough has doubled in size with lots of bubbles. In the warmer months I usually only leave the bread for 8-12 hours. In the cooler months I leave it 18-24 hours. But leaving it too long can cause the dough to over-proof and flatten as it bakes. You will need to use your judgement for this part. You can also put the dough into the fridge after 8-12 hours if you won’t be able to get back to it in time or if leaving it to rise fully will result in a 3am bread-baking session. It will be fine in the fridge for up to 5 days (unlike the sourdough which will get too sour after about 3 days), but shouldn’t be left for much longer.
- Don’t punch the dough down. We want to keep the air in the dough. Generously flour your work surface. With a wet rubber spatula or wet hands, carefully tip the bowl and scrape the sides of the dough and remove it from the bowl. The aim here is to keep as many of the bubbles intact as possible for a fluffyloaf. Flour your hands well and carefully pull the edges of the dough to create a rough rectangle (see images below for shaping).
- Fold the dough into thirds by bringing the side edges over one at a time as pictured. Fold again but into thirds vertically, bringing the top third down into the middle and then the bottom third up. Gently pinch your seams together. Place shaped dough seam-side-up into a floured banneton or a bowl lined with a well-floured tea towel. Sprinkle with flour and place a tea towel over the top. Allow the bread to sit in a draft-free location on your bench for 60-90 minutes or until the loaf has risen well (about doubled in size again). Sometimes this takes longer in my kitchen as it can be rather cool in the winter months.
- About 45 minutes before the bread has finished rising, turn on the oven to 240 degrees Celsius and move the rack to the centre position (I use an inexpensive oven thermometer to make sure my oven is getting hot enough). Place a baking tray on the middle rack of the oven and another tray or metal baking pan on the rack underneath the middle rack (this will be for the hot water to create steam). You can also place a bread or pizza stone into the oven at this point if you have one, but not necessary. **See note below for using a Dutch oven for baking in.
- Once the proofing time is up and the oven is very hot and has been preheated for about 30 minutes, carefully tip the loaf out onto a piece of baking paper. Slash the top using a very sharp knife or a bread lame. Slide the loaf onto the baking tray on the middle rack and pour a cup of hot water into the baking pan underneath and quickly close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is deep golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow the loaf to cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes (ideally 2+hours) before cutting into it.
**If using a Dutch oven with an oven-proof handle to bake the bread in, begin heating the oven to 250 degrees Celsius 45 minutes before the final proof is done. No need to add a second tray for hot water as the Dutch oven will trap the moisture as the loaf bakes and create a beautiful crisp crust. At the end of proofing, carefully tip the loaf out of the banneton or bowl onto a piece of baking paper. Slash the loaf with a very sharp knife or bread lame and place into the hot Dutch oven. Cover with the lid and set the timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and turn the oven down to 210 degrees Celsius and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the loaf is deep golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Carefully remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes (ideally 2+ hours) before cutting into it.
Shaping the dough: