Bake bread in 20 minutes

Hot, fresh and easily homemade wheat bread with rye sourdough.

Judith Haeuslers | Getty Images

If there was ever a truly tasty and healthy foodie fad, baking your own bread is it. You might be surprised by the health benefits. Not only because it is free from any chemical enhancers but also because sourdough bread contains the beneficial lactic acid—the same one that makes pickles and sauerkraut, and other fermented foods that are good for your digestive health. This natural probiotic improves the intestinal microflora (after all it is through the intestines that bacteria and viruses attack the organism), destroys mold and other carcinogenic compounds which are often found in flour and facilitates the absorption of beneficial micronutrients.

MORE TO READ: Giving up the supermarket for a healthier life

My family and I are a walking proof of the beneficial effects of homemade sourdough bread: Four years ago I started baking bread at home, and I swear my family has been sick less often ever since we made the switch from store-bought bread. Despite what you might think, baking bread is neither difficult nor time-consuming. Although the dough does need a few hours to mature and about a half hour to bake, the prep itself only takes about 20 minutes—including clean up. And, yes, you can buy a lot of bread-related gadgets, but you don’t really need anything special to bake bread—all I really use is the ingredients and an oven.

So … what kind of bread should you bake?

One of the healthiest breads is sourdough, made from wholemeal rye flour, where the entire kernel has been ground. You can also make wheat bread, which, especially when it’s made from white flour, is milder and does not have that sour aftertaste.

You should know that the lower the number of the flour type the more purified it is, for example: type 2000 is made from grain which was ground only once and has not been sieved; type 400 is the most delicate and most refined, called cake flour. If you need to limit the gluten in your diet, you can reach for spelt flour. You can also go wild with additions—seeds, herbs, dried fruit, other types of flour (buckwheat or rice). But novice bakers should probably start with a simple wheat bread with rye sourdough.

In order to make this combination bread, you’ll need to make a “starter” ball of sourdough, which takes flour, water and a bit of patience. And heat: my grandmother’s generation baked sourdough on coal stoves, but I often use my radiator to help the dough rise, as room temperature is usually not enough. (So the fall or winter are actually the perfect seasons for baking this.)

Okay, are you ready to make our grandmothers proud?

The recipe for wheat bread on rye sourdough

For the sourdough:

In an earthenware or glass dish, mix 2 tablespoons of rye flour (preferably type 2000) with 4 tablespoons of water. Cover with a cloth or a saucer and leave over a warm (not hot) heater, which keeps a similar temperature around the clock.

On the second day, add 1 tablespoon of rye flour and 2 tablespoons water. The same operation should be repeated for the next 3 or 4 days. Sourdough starter is mature when it starts to bubble.

The starter standing in the refrigerator must be used within 5 days. If you want to keep it longer, you must feed it—take it out of the refrigerator, add 2 to 3 tablespoons rye flour and a bit of water and leave at a warm temperature for a few hours.

For combining the sourdough with the wheat bread on rye:

1/2 cup of sourdough starter (more or less)
1 kg (8cups) of wheat flour
a few tablespoons of rye flour
1/3 cup of warm (but not hot) water
4 level teaspoons of salt
Optional: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, fried garlic, herbs, dried fruit, etc.

To bake bread for dinner, you have to start in the morning. Take out the starter from the refrigerator and put one tablespoon into a new jar with a few tablespoons of rye flour (preferably type 2000) and a half cup of warm water. Mix and leave covered for several hours, and when the mixture ferments, store in the refrigerator—that will be for your next sourdough bread.

In a bowl mix the rest of the starter, flour, salt and approximately 2 1/2 cups of water (the more coarsely ground the flour is, the more water it will drink). Bread dough should have a consistency of yeast dough. The easiest way to achieve that is using a mixer with a dough hook, but you can also do this manually. If the dough is a bit thin, it’s not a problem, the crust will simply stick up a bit.

Line a large form with parchment paper and transfer the dough to it. The form should be filled no more than 3/4 of its height. Smooth out the top and gently moisten it with water. Cover the dough with a clean cloth and leave in a warm quiet spot for a few (at least five) hours to rise.

Preheat the oven to F 425. After 20 minutes, lower the temperature to F 350 and bake for one more hour. Cool the bread on a wire rack covered with a cloth.

Joanna Operacz
Living in Poland, Joanna is a full-time mother and wife. She has also written for KAI, “Niedziela” and Aleteia.

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