Onion and Bay Leaf Bread from “The Handmade Loaf” – and a few thoughts on Real Bread
Onions and bay leaves and full-fat milk are magical when combined with flour. Like heavenly scented Béchamel sauce, or the foundation of a rich gravy, or the first step in traditionally made bread dough before mechanisation took over the industry … the list is endless – (cough) –although I can’t think of anymore to add at this particular moment.
I was excited to make this loaf of bread because it was so different from the usual loaves that I make. I’m a huge fan of Dan Lepard, and his unique approach to making traditional bread, whether sourdough, yeasted or hybrid combinations of both. It was from his cookery book, “The Handmade Loaf”, that I created my bouncing boy – my sourdough starter named Sedrick. He can spring and bounce and blow the top off any lidded container in which he’s contained. My Sedrick is the kicker in all of my bread recipes, whether yeasted or not. Sedrick is my trump card. And I have Dan Lepard to thank for his creation because the method of ‘growing’ a sourdough starter is not entirely scientific. There’s a bit of luck involved, too. In Dan’s book, he walks you through it step-by-step, day-by-day.
Beyond creating a starter, Dan Lepard also approaches kneading in a way that few other modern bakers do. Dan stretches and folds and rests dough, whereas other bakers prefer to slap and mutilate their dough into submission. The gentle approach is the way I prefer to make bread. Taking the time to feel the gluten threads develop and change. If you slap and throw and whip dough about the room like a lasso, you’ll never feel the dough and know when enough is truly enough.
This is nothing short of a revolution in bread making. It’s a diversion from the mass-produced loaves of quickly baked bread, leaving gluten undeveloped during the kneading, minimal fermentation and proving. This means the gluten is difficult for most people to digest, and it’s been suggested that this is the cause in the rapid increase of IBS and gluten-intolerance; mass-produced bread at lightening speed with minimal or no pre-fermentation.
I have two of Dan Lepard’s books: “The Handmade Loaf” and his most recent release “Short and Sweet”. There’s an online baking challenge called Short and Tweet, organised on Twitter. Search #shortandtweet for info. It’s hugely fun with a great group of people. Newcomers are very welcome as the February baking schedule swings into action soon. It’s helpful to have the books, but many of the recipes are also published on The Guardian newspaper’s website if you search for Dan Lepard’s How to Bake series.
Here are some useful links:
Amazon UK: Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf
Amazon UK: Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet
The Short and Tweet February Baking Challenge Schedule
And here’s the baked and sliced Onion and Bay Leaf Bread.
And it makes one very wicked cheese on toast, too!