Or perhaps that should be “On Baking and Waking Up”. Either way the two are directly connected in my case. I do not eat a lot of bread, but I do love the occasional slice in the morning and a fresh home-baked loaf is essential to any Varpholt breakfast.
Anyone seeing the dilemma here? Freshly baked bread for breakfast means waking up really early for one unhappy person of the household. That person happens to be me, and although I’m actually not that unhappy about it – early Varpholt mornings are quite lovely – I also have a tendency to obsess about work-efficiency. So the question became how to get the best bread with the least effort without employing bread machine (nothing against bread machines, we just like it better baked the traditional way). The answer? Cold rise! Here’s the how-to with my favorite recipe for muesli bread:
- 2 tsp yeast
- 1 1/2 cup warm water (give or take)
- 1 1/4 tbsp brown sugar (regular or cane sugar works fine too)
- 2 cups white flour
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup muesli (don’t like muesli? Substitute with your favorite kind of granola, fruit or no fruit)
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp oil (I like virgin olive oil, but any quality oil will give your bread a nice flavor and texture)
Dissolve the sugar In a cup 2/3 full of warm water. Add the yeast, stir gently and let sit for 5-10 min.
In a large wide bowl (it is convenient to be able to both mix and knead the dough in the bowl) mix together flour, whole-wheat flour, muesli and salt. Once the yeast mixture looks all frothy and happy add it to the flour in the bowl. Pour in the oil and start folding the dough together. Slowly add more warm water until your mixture looks ready to be kneaded. Knead your dough very lightly – just long enough to knead in all of the flour mixture and form a dough-ball. It is fine if your ball of dough is a little sticky; the cold-rise method allows for moister dough than traditional knead-and-bake methods.
Now, what to do with the ball of dough, you ask? How fancy is your kitchen stuff, I ask? If you have a really cool looking lidded Tupperware bowl labeled “dough” or something like that, well, guess what, you now have the perfect opportunity to use it. Personally I reach for a clean plastic bag from Tesco, King Supers or Bonus depending on which country I am in, dump in my ball of dough, press out extra air and tie a knot well above the dough so that it has room to rise. Then I stuff my bag of dough into the fridge and go do other stuff, Always plenty to do at Varpholt!
The next day, or the day after or even three days later, get the dough from the fridge, dump it out of the bag onto a clean counter (I’ve found that I don’t need to flour the counter with this method), and knead it for 7-10 minutes. Shape it into a loaf, cut slivers into the top and place it onto a baking sheet or in a baking pan and brush the top with a little water. Leave in a warm place to rise. In about two-hours time your bread should have almost doubled in size which means it’s time to stick it into the oven. Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F) and bake the bread for 30-35 min depending on the shape of the loaf (thicker loaf, longer time).
Want to make things even easier, especially if you have no warm place in your kitchen for your dough to rise? I turn my oven on to warm while I’m kneading, then turn it off and stick my loaf in there to rise. In two-hours time I simply turn the oven onto 200°C (400°F) with the bread still in there and just add 10 minutes to the baking time to a total of 40 minutes.
When your bread is ready, take it out of the over, remove from the sheet or pan and leave to cool upside down for 10 min before slicing.
I love this bread and I love this method. It’s easier on your body, more time efficient, and I find that the bread becomes more flavorful too. What’s not to love!