It’s An Itsy-Bitsy Baby Loaf

White Spelt Loaf

I’m weary of cooking up inspired ideas for stale, leftover heels of bread. The complete list of ingenious uses would bore a hole. There are bread crumbs, plain toasted croûtons, garlic toasted croûtons, arch supports for shoes, parsley and garlic croûtons, bird food, bread pudding with no sugar added, chicken fillet inserts for padded bras, bread salad with tomatoes and French vinaigrette, knee pads when gardening. You get the idea; I’m exhausted by it all. So, I decided to cut my bog-standard bread recipe in half. Just to see what would happen. I hoped that two people could polish off a pint-size loaf. That’s a figurative pint. This was all highly speculative, and I felt a bit out of my depths – I, who followed bread recipes to the letter, fearing the loaf might start growling and barking and nipping at my ankle like a sheep dog corralling wayward lambs. For all I knew, I was baking up a boule de’calamité. I sent off an email to my baking-guru, Zeb at Zeb Bakes hoping that she was online to read my SOS. “If”, I wrote, “I’ve halved the original recipe, do I also cut the total baking time?” She replied within a few minutes, asking how much the dough weighed. I ran for the kitchen, leapt over the dog, who always lies prostrate in a blocking position across the hallway, and weighed my proving (that means that the dough is proving I didn’t forget to put yeast in it) …erm… huh?… oh, yeah… dough. I weighed the shaped and scored dough plus the baking sheet. Then I grabbed an identical sheet from below the oven, and weighed it so I’d know how much to subtract from the total showing on the scale. Dough weight: 425 grams.

Zeb said it needed 20-30 minutes at 220C and a further 15-20 minutes at a reduced temperature of 200C.

I gave the loaf 20-minutes at 220C, and 25-minutes at 200C. Today, I’m reducing the ingredients quantity again to ¼ the original, and I’ll do 20 and 20. Minutes that is. Either way, my loaf’s in for a good thumping at the 40-minute mark to determine if it’s thoroughly baked or not. It needs to echo as if there’s a Swiss yodeller in there.

I gave the loaf last night much more time than I’d usually allow, hoping that it would result in a crispy crust that would stay crispy after the loaf cooled. It did. I was delighted. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that: recipes are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Having said that, the first time that a recipe goes wrong for me I’m apt to reverse that logic with lightening speed.

And today, I’m playing with my calculator again. We’re (that’s the royal We, as I’m feeling quite like the Queen of Kitchen today) … anyway, We are baking a mini-loaf based on ¼ the total recipe. It’s 80% stone-ground wholemeal and 20% strong white bread flour. Not sure how it’ll turn out because the dough does feel a bit tight and tense, not loose and lofty like the dough yesterday. It also required quite a few dribbles of extra water, even though I use oil rather than flour for folding/kneading. This folding method is Dan Lepard’s method of “no-knead” by the way. Dan’s Baking Blog is at Dan Lepard’s How-to-Bake.

The wholemeal loaf baked away happily for a total of 40-minutes, and here’s what it looked like before my husband and I ate the whole darned thing with our dinner.

One slice was kept aside for a bit of Danish cheese just before bed. I don’t do cheese before bed because I swear that it gives me ghastly dreams. It has no such effect on my husband. It just causes him to snore as if there’s some half-starved, carnivorous jungle beast residing in his sinuses. When he snores like that I stay well clear of his nose – I’m just never sure what’s up there.

Actually, I could use some of that leftover bread to stuff up his nose so that the beasty living up there can’t escape and forage around in the middle of the night…..

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanna says:

    I’m so excited to be someone’s bread guru! what a huge compliment 🙂 But I’m more excited that you baked longer and got the crust you were seeking. Once you get a feel for the bread you like to bake, it all starts to get easier. I hadn’t realised you were using spelt in the White loaf. I find it gives a slightly denser crumb and is often thirstier than ordinary wheat flour; wholemeal is thirstier too.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Oh! I meant to fix that link to your site. I’ll do that now, and then I’ll be back later this evening to comment thoroughly. John is here; I’m cooking; P is home soon. xx

    2. MiskMask says:

      I forgot to mention — the flour was actually “white spelt” and it really is white. I was surprised that it’s drier than normal white bread flour. Is it okay to work in more liquid by kneading? Sometimes it’s difficult to know at first mixing that it’s going to be so dry.

  2. Joanna says:

    Love your list of uses for old bread – really made me smile 😀

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      So, hello again. 😀 This loaf was a bit drier than I would want. Which should I adjust first: add more water or bake less time?

      1. Joanna says:

        Spelt is very different from modern wheat and behaves differently at all stages of the process. I have to confess I am not brilliant at using it. It is much more water hungry and I recall that it proves more quickly, and if anything needs less kneading than other flours. I am not so keen on the white spelt, I prefer the wholegrain one, but that’s just me. Send me a copy of your original formula as you are scaling this one up and down so I can’t say, add x g of water if I don’t know the other weights. For the little 250 g loaves it might be worth turning the temperature down a little sooner and shortening the baking time as well. So maybe 2120 – 220 for 12-15 minutes and then another 10 – 15 or so at 200. I’m guessing here…

        1. Misk Cooks says:

          It was the 250g loaf, so I’m going with less time in the oven. I think that will do the trick. I like the white spelt; a really lovely flavour to it. It’s also better for P’s blood glucose levels — the white bread flour is like a shot of sugar on his prick-me-and-bleed meter. Yikes. Next thing on the to-do-list is find a slashing video so I can learn how to do that properly. A samurai I am not…

  3. drfugawe says:

    Were I within a stone’s throw, you could save the heels for me – I find them more desirable than the rest of the loaf. I also never have enough bread crumbs around – probably because I eat the heels!

    None of that was at all helpful, was it!

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      This reminds me of my mother who used to grow courgettes (zucchini), and then give them away to the food bank. She never ate any of them; she didn’t like their flavour. Actually, Doc…. I’m not sure why your comment reminded me of my mother because there was nothing mentioned about courgettes, their flavour or food banks. Ah well, go figure…. ;D

  4. Joanna says:

    Spelt is very different from modern wheat and behaves differently at all stages of the process. I have to confess I am not brilliant at using it. It is much more water hungry and I recall that it proves more quickly, and if anything needs less kneading than other flours. I am not so keen on the white spelt, I prefer the wholegrain one, but that’s just me. Send me a copy of your original formula as you are scaling this one up and down so I can’t say, add x g of water if I don’t know the other weights. For the little 250 g loaves it might be worth turning the temperature down a little sooner and shortening the baking time as well. So maybe 210 – 220 for 12-15 minutes and then another 10 – 15 or so at 200. I’m guessing here…

  5. Joanna says:

    whoops that comment seems to have gone on twice, do delete!

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