Friday, November 4, 2011

The best homemade bread (and almond butter) ever!

While I am writing this, I am listening to the fabulous new CD of Florence + the machine, one of my favourite bands/singers. The sky is bright blue and it is about 17°C outside while we’re in November! This all makes me a very happy person, but what makes me even happier is this fabulous bread recipe with homemade almond butter.

Last week I bought a great book: Homemade by Yvette van Boven. This Dutch-Irish super creative woman (she did everything for the book herself, except for the pictures which are made by her husband) has made one of the coolest cookbooks I’ve ever seen! She tells you how to make everything from yoghurt and cheese to bread. The first recipe I tried from the books was the pan-baked bread.
I have to say that the measurements for the dough didn’t completely work for me, but with a bit of creativity it did, and worked out fantastic! My dough came out way to moist and sticky and I had to add a lot of extra flour (about 200-300 gram) to get it to the right consistency, but wait with adding extra flour until the dough has risen for the first time.   
The bread is baked in a big heavy based pan, such as a Le Creuset, to keep the moist and steam inside which helps to develop a nice and thick crispy crust.
It is a bit of a fuss with all the long rising times, but completely worth it! Just try!

425 gram flour (I used both spelt and rye flour)
1 tbsp vinegar
¼ tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
100 ml beer
200 ml water

Place all the ingredients in a bowl, whisk together with a wooden spoon until a ball forms. If the dough seems a little too wet, just add some more flour. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for 8 to 18 hours. (I made mine before I went to bed, and left it in the oven at ± 40°C).
Place your dough onto a well floured surface and knead 10 times (if your dough is way too wet, like mine just add enough flour until you are able to form knead-able dough). Shape into a log and place onto a deep dish, which is covered with baking paper. Loosely cover with cling film and leave to rise for another 2 hours.
After 1½ turn the oven on at 200°C and place your (large) heavy-based pan (with the lid on top) into the oven.
When the dough is ready to be baked, you have to carefully make a few cuts on top, to help it rise. Now it is time to place it into the pan; lift the dough (including the baking paper) carefully into the pan and quickly place the lid back on top. You have to keep as much heat in the pan as possible.
Lower the temperature to 170°C and place the pan back into the oven. After 30 minutes you have to remove the lid and continue to bake it for another 20 minutes.
Now it is time to test your bread by knocking on its bottom; when it sounds hollow, it is done and you have to move it to a wire rack to leave it to cool.

I always thought it was impossible to bake your own artisan bread, but this recipe shows you it isn’t.
It makes your house smell gorgeous and instantly brings you into a good mood.
The bread can be eaten with everything, but I love mine with some homemade almond-maple butter.

2 cups raw almonds
4 tbsp maple syrup
A pinch of coarse sea salt
(Almond oil or another complimentary oil to taste)  

Preheat your oven to 150°C.
In the meantime you can combine the almonds, maple syrup and salt and spread it onto a baking sheet, covered with a baking mat or some baking paper. Roast the nuts 15 to 20 minutes, until they have just caramelised and are slightly crispy. Be careful to not over-roast them, or your paste becomes a little bitter.
Leave your almonds to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Pour them into a food processor and blitz until the nuts have broken down into powder. Take the lid off and scrape down the sides. Blitz again and continue this process until you end up with a thick butter. To thin it a little and make it more spreadable, just add some almond or other complimentary oil while blitzing.
Pour into a jar and store in the fridge.

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