There has been a resurgence in interest in making bread from scratch. Here are some recipes to try so that you can experience the heady aroma of fresh-baked bread wafting through your home.
Roasted Beet Bread
This bread is unique, delicious and beautiful. Filled with pastrami, havarti cheese and mustard, it makes a delicious panini sandwich.
250 ml (1 cup) bread flour
1 ml (1/4 tsp) instant yeast
250 ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
In a large bowl, combine these ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 12 to 16 hours.
250 ml (1 cup) pureed roasted beets plus any juice
125 ml (1/2 cup) stone-ground whole-wheat flour, plus extra for sprinkling
3 ml (3/4 tsp) instant yeast
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme
8 ml (1 3/4 tsp) salt
675 ml (2 3/4 cups) bread flour (approx)
50 ml (1/4 cup) lukewarm water
To "night before" mixture, add pureed beets and any juice, whole-wheat flour and instant yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon till smooth. Let sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add thyme and salt; mix till smooth.
Start to add bread flour. Once it becomes too hard to mix in the bowl, turn dough onto a flat surface and knead for 10 minutes. This will be a sticky dough, so be careful not to add too much flour. Add just enough to prevent dough from really sticking to your fingers when kneading.
Add a little olive oil to a clean large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn over a few times to very lightly coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise for 1 1/2 hours or till double in bulk. Turn onto a flat surface. Cut dough in half and mould each half into desired shape.
Place shaped dough on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Spray tops with a little oil spray and cover with plastic wrap for 1 hour or till double in bulk.
Heat oven to 200 C (400 F) and place baking stone on centre rack. Place a cast-iron skillet (filled with lava rocks if you have them) on oven floor or on lowest rack.
When loaves have doubled, sprinkle with a little whole-wheat flour and slash an X on top of each.
Place in hot oven directly on baking stone. Pour about 250 ml (1 cup) boiling water into hot skillet and close oven door. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or till loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom. (Or stick a meat thermometer into the centre of loaves; when it reads 82 C/180 F they're ready.)
Let cool on a wire rack.
Makes 2 loaves.
Spinach Feta Bread
The flavour and texture of this savoury bread is amazing, combining rye, whole-wheat and white flour.
175 ml (3/4 cup) bread flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm water
1 ml (1/4 tsp) instant yeast
In a large bowl, combine these ingredients and beat till well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 to 16 hours.
15 ml (1 tbsp) oil
500 ml (2 cups) chopped fresh spinach
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) lukewarm water
125 ml (1/2 cup) dark rye flour
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) whole-wheat flour, plus extra for sprinkling
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
2 ml (1/2 tsp) instant yeast
500 ml (2 cups) bread flour
250 ml (1 cup) feta cheese
In a saucepan, place about 15 ml (1 tbsp) oil and set on stove to warm. Add spinach and saute till cooked, stirring continuously so spinach doesn't brown. Saute for about 2 minutes, then place spinach on paper towels. Use your hands to press down on spinach to squeeze out any liquid and set aside.
Combine "night before" mixture with lukewarm water. Mix with a wooden spoon. Add rye and whole-wheat flours and mix till smooth. Add salt and instant yeast and stir till well blended. Let mixture sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Add bread flour, about 125 ml (1/2 cup) at a time, until mixture becomes too hard to mix. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead in remaining flour. Use just enough flour to make dough slightly sticky. Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes.
Let dough rest for about 5 minutes. Flatten dough a little and knead in cooked spinach and feta cheese until incorporated. (Don't worry if spinach is clumped together; it will break up during kneading.)
Put a little oil in a clean large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn over till lightly coated on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 hours or till double in bulk.
Turn dough out onto a flat surface and cut in half. Shape into 2 round loaves and place on a cornmeal-covered piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle top of dough with a little whole-wheat flour. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
About 45 minutes before baking, place a baking stone in oven and a cast-iron skillet on the floor of the oven or on lowest rack. (If you are using a baking sheet rather than a baking stone, do not place baking sheet into oven beforehand.) Heat oven to 220 C (425 F).
Score tops of loaves and place in oven. Pour about 250 ml (1 cup) boiling water into hot cast-iron skillet and close oven door.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or till loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Makes 2 loaves.
This dessert bread is filled with the smells and tangy tastes of lemon, lime and orange and can be topped with lemon-flavoured cream cheese icing, if desired. You don't even have to slice it as it peels apart.
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
175 ml (3/4 cup) water
50 ml (1/4 cup) soft butter
50 ml (1/4 cup) sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
875 ml to 1 l (3 1/2 to 4 cups) bread flour
11 ml (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
6 ml (1 1/4 tsp) salt
15 ml (1 tbsp) mixed citrus zest
50 ml (1/4 cup) mixed citrus zest
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) melted butter
90 g (3 oz) cream cheese
125 ml (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) milk
15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
In a saucepan, combine milk and water and heat to scalding. Pour scalded liquid into a clean large bowl. Add butter and stir till butter is melted. Add sugar and egg. Stir until sugar is melted and mixture cools to lukewarm.
Add 500 ml (2 cups) of the flour and mix till smooth. Add instant yeast and continue to mix till yeast is well blended. Add salt and mixed citrus zest. Mix till well blended.
Sprinkle a little flour onto a work table and turn dough onto flour. Sprinkle more flour on top and knead dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed. (You want the dough to be a little on the sticky side. If the dough sticks to the surface, use a scraper to release it. The more you knead, the less it will stick.) Once dough becomes smooth and elastic, add a little oil to a clean large bowl and place dough in bowl. Turn over a few times to coat all sides of dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about an hour or till double in bulk.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine grated citrus zest and sugar for filling. Set aside.
Cut dough in half and roll out each half to a piece 40 by 30 cm (16 by 12 inches). If it's hard to roll, let dough sit for 5 minutes to relax, then continue.
Brush half the melted butter onto rolled-out dough. Sprinkle with half the sugar-zest mixture. Spread with your fingertips.
With a sharp knife, cut dough into 3 equal pieces. Stack pieces on top of each other. Cut dough with a sharp knife into 5-cm (2-inch) pieces. Place slices into a lightly greased 12-by-20-cm (4 1/2-by-8-inch) small loaf pan. Spread pieces out so they go the length of the pan.
Repeat with other piece of dough and make a second loaf. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rest until dough has doubled in size.
Heat oven to 190 C (375 F) and bake loaves for about 25 minutes. A thermometer should read 82 C (180 F) when placed into the centre of loaves. Leave baked loaves sitting in pans for about 1 minute before turning them over and removing from pans. Let cool on a wire rack.
Topping (optional): In a bowl, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk and lemon juice till smooth. Spread over cooled loaves.
Makes 2 loaves.
Easy Honey White Bread
Most beginners should start with white bread "because it's easier to do," says Mike Matthews, owner of Arva Flour Mills in Arva, Ont. This recipe has the extra treat of a little sweetness.
1.75 to 2 l (7 to 8 cups) all-purpose flour
250 ml (1 cup) dry powdered milk
3 pkgs active dry yeast
15 ml (1 tbsp) salt
750 ml (3 cups) warm water (40 to 43 C/105 to 110 F)
75 ml (1/3 cup) light honey
75 ml (1/3 cup) melted butter
In a large mixing bowl, place 500 ml (2 cups) of the flour, milk powder, yeast and salt. Add warm water and mix with an electric mixer for 1 minute.
Add honey and butter. Continue to mix with electric mixer for another minute.
Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured flat surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes using your hands. Place in a clean greased bowl. Lightly butter top of dough. Cover and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes to remove air. Cut dough into 3 equal parts and shape into round loaves. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover and let rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a 180 C (350 F) oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
Makes 3 loaves.
Gluten-Free Banana Bread
This tasty sweet bread will appeal to all members of the family.
150 ml (2/3 cup) bean flour (light or dark)
150 ml (2/3 cup) cornstarch
125 ml (1/2 cup) tapioca flour
2 ml (1/2 tsp) xanthan gum
3 ml (3/4 tsp) baking soda
6 ml (1 1/4 tsp) cream of tartar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) cinnamon
75 ml (1/3 cup) soft butter
150 ml (2/3 cup) brown sugar
150 ml (2/3 cup) egg substitute
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
250 ml (1 cup) mashed ripe banana
Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Lightly spray or grease a 23-by-12-cm (9-by-5-inch) loaf pan.
In a bowl, combine bean flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and cinnamon. Mix together with a wire whisk.
In a separate large bowl, combine butter and brown sugar; slowly add egg substitute and beat till fluffy. Add vanilla and mashed banana. Mix well.
Add flour mixture and stir till smooth. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and let cool on a wire rack.
Makes 1 loaf.