Extra cooking and baking

Extra cooking and baking

Look out for this symbol for extra baking/cooking. It is much more economical to cook in batches and freeze portions for busy days ahead. Of course, not all meals can be made ahead of time, but having at least part of the meal ready will save time on busy days.  Cooking from scratch is so essential if you want to eat healthy and keep a good, steady weight. Then you know exactly what is in your food and no more hidden sugars, transfats, or too much salt.

Make your own Artisan bread: 

Recently breadmaking has become very popular.  I have had a breadmaker for years and have been doing my own sourdoughs. Once you get the hang of it, it is a very easy and healthy way to make your own bread. 

The recipe below is for a simple and tasty mixed loaf that can be done in any conventional oven. No breadmaker or sourdough is needed.

You will need kitchen scales, the ingredients below, a ceramic dish with a lid (ideally round), a bowl, and a mixing spoon.
baking bread

Ingredients: 560g wheat flour, 190g rye flour, 550g hot water, 16g salt (ideally sea salt or pink Himalayan salt), some cumin seeds (1/2 a teaspoon should be enough), 3 grams of active yeast. You could add some linseeds or other seeds if you like. If you want to add sourdough (see recipe below) please add 1-2 tablespoons to this recipe. 


1) weigh all the ingredients and put them together into a big kitchen bowl. I use a big mixing spoon to blend them all together. Then add some flour to your hands and knead the dough.  (please use enough plain flour on your hands, otherwise, the dough will stick to you). After a few minutes of kneading, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. I suggest a minimum of 3 hours. You could also prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. Then it will be ready for baking the next day. 

Tip: To see if the dough is ready for baking. Pull some upwards.  If it rips easily it needs to rise a little longer.  A dough that is ready for baking should glide out and not rip straight away. Traditionally you let the dough rise up to 5 times. It sounds complicated, but you let it rise in the bowl and then just take a few minutes to knead it again and let it rise again for a couple of hours. It makes sense to make a few bread loafs at the same time. Then slice them and freeze in separate freezing bags and it will give you a good amount of bread for the next weeks. 

2) Once the dough is ready,  preheat the oven to 250 degrees C (480F) and put the empty ovenproof dish with lid into the oven. Yes, that is right – empty to heat it up! A few minutes is enough to get it quite hot. 

3) Be careful when taking the hot dish out of the oven and put it on a heat-resistant mat or coaster. Add some sprinkles of plain flour to cover the bottom of the pan. This is important as otherwise, the bread will stick to the pan and it will be hard for it to come out.
Then add the dough. With the mixing spoon create a line in the top of the dough – that is where the crust can rise and sprinkle some plain flour on the top.  Put the lid on and bake the bread (middle shelf) for about 35 minutes.
My Tip: Pour water into an oven dish and put it on the bottom shelf, so the bread bakes in moist air.

If you make your break in a bread machine, I would still make the dough as described above as bread machines don’t have enough resting time built in. Once the dough is ready, transfer it to the bread machine and choose the wholegrain setting. 

Sourdough starter: 

This is an old recipe from my grandmother. In Austria most loaves of bread are sourdoughs and when I was a child I can only ever remember eating sourdough bread. Here is a recipe for your very own sourdough starter. If you put it together today, it will take a minimum of 5 days before you can use it. But once you have started, you can keep your sourdough going for years. If it is fed regularly, it gets better and better. My current one is about 4.5 years old. You can give part of your starter away to friends – to give them a headstart in their own sourdough process. 

What is sourdough? 
In essence, it is fermented dough that you add to your bread mixture before baking.
The reason it has become so popular is that it tastes so good as well as being beneficial for your digestion. Sourdough contains strains of the helpful lactobacillus, also called the friendly gut bacteria. If you suffer frequently from bloating or even IBS, switching to sourdough from conventional bread will help. 

Here is how to make the starter: 
You will need 250ml of milk, 250ml water, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2.5 teaspoons of dry yeast, and 450g of plain flour.  If you are lactose-intolerant use lactose-free milk. 

Warm the milk to almost boiling and add the water and sugar. When the temperature has cooled to 40degreeC (105F) add the yeast. Cook at a very low temperature for about 5-10 minutes. The yeast must start to foam a little. Pour this mixture into a container that has a lid and add the flour. Mix well. Initially, you need to keep the lid off as it is essential that air can get to your new starter. I suggest you cover it with a tea towel or muslin cloth. Keep it stored in a warm place like an airing cupboard. The warmer the better – around 30C (80F) is ideal. After a day or 2, it starts to bubble. It is important to stir it once or twice a day. Soon a greyish liquid will form on the top – don’t be alarmed. This is absolutely normal and good. Hurrah it’s working! 

Once it starts to smell sour – hence sourdough – it is ready to use. Now you can put the lid on and that is how it is stored. If you don’t intend to bake immediately put it in the fridge. There you can keep it literally for years!  Be aware it is a live organism and therefore needs the occasional feeding to stay alive. 

This is how to do it: Replenish it with 120 ml warm water (4fl oz) and 120g of flour. That’s it. Leave it to bubble up (ideally do this a day before baking and leave it outside). Once used, return it to the fridge.

If you keep your dough outside the fridge, you need to replenish it quite regularly (say once a week), when I keep it in the fridge, I only do it sporadically, usually once a month, depending on how much I use.  Even if you don’t use it, it needs the occasional stir otherwise it will separate too much. 

Now you are good to go. You can add this sourdough starter to the bread recipe above and you will have baked your first sourdough bread. 


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