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Whole Wheat Cumin Loaf
Swiss Braid
Olive Bread

Whole Wheat Cumin Loaf

From Bread Alone (Canada, UK), by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik.

Here is a dense spicy bread, perfect for savory appetizers or to serve with highly seasoned dishes like chili or curry.

Ingredients:

Poolish:
3/4 cup spring water, 75°F (24°C)
1 tsp moist yeast or
1/2 tsp dry yeast
3/4 cup 20% bran wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, preferably coarse ground

Final Dough:

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
2-1/4 cups spring water
1 tsp moist yeast or 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 Tbsp fine sea salt
4-1/4 to 5-1/4 cups whole wheat flour, preferably medium ground
3 Tbsp cumin seeds, freshly crushed in a mortar or spice mill
Cornmeal, for dusting

Instructions:

Make and Ferment the Poolish: (allow 2 to 10 hours)

Combine the water and yeast in a medium bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then stir with a wooden spoon until yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and stir until the consistency of a thick batter. Continue stirring for about 100 strokes or until the strands of gluten come off the spoon when you press the back of the spoon against the bowl. There will be lively bubbles on the surface. Cover with a clean damp towel or plastic wrap, and put in a moderately warm (74°F to 80°F; 24°C to 27°C) draft-free place until it is bubbly and increased in volume.

Prepare the Onions: (20 minutes includes cooling time)

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Mix and Knead the Final Dough: (25 minutes)

Measure the remaining ingredients and calculate the necessary temperatures. Bring the bowl with the poolish to your work space. The poolish should be soupy, bubbly, and puffy and it should have a wheaty aroma. Scrape the poolish into a 6-quart bowl. Add the water and yeast. Break up the poolish with a wooden spoon and stir until it loosens and the mixture foams slightly. Add the salt, cooled onions, cumin, and enough of the flour to make a thick mass that is difficult to stir.

Turn out onto a well-floured surface. Knead, adding more of the remaining flour, until the dough is soft and smooth, 15 to 17 minutes. The dough is ready when a small amount, pulled from the mass springs back quickly.

Ferment the Dough: (2 to 3 hours)

Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest on a lightly floured surface while you scrape, clean, and lightly oil the large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn the dough to coat the top with oil. Take the dough's temperature: the ideal is 78°F (26°C). Cover with a clean damp towel or plastic wrap and put in a moderately warm (74°F-80°F F.) draft-free place until doubled in volume. Note: If the dough temperature is higher than 78°F, put it in a cooler place like the refrigerator until the dough cools to 78°F. If it is lower than 78°F, put it in a warmer place until the dough warms to 78°F. The point is to try to keep the dough at 78°F F. during its fermentation. If you do have to move the dough, be gentle and don't jostle it, or the dough may deflate. The dough has risen enough when a finger poked 1/2 inch into the dough leaves an indentation.

Divide and Shape the Dough into Loaves: (10 minutes)

Deflate the dough by pushing down in the center and pulling up on the sides. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface; knead briefly and cut into 2 equal pieces. Flatten each with the heel of your hand using firm direct strokes. Shape each piece into a tight ball.

Proof the Loaves: (1-1/2 to 2 hours)

Place the loaves on a board that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal. Cover with a clean damp towel or plastic wrap and put in a moderately warm (74°F-80°F) draft-free place until increased in volume about 1 to 1-1/2 times.

Bakes the Loaves: (40 minutes)

Forty-five minutes to 1 hour before baking, preheat the oven and homemade hearth or baking stone on the center rack of the oven to 450°F (235°C). The oven rack must be in the center of the oven. If it is in the lower third of the oven, the bottoms of the breads may burn, and if it is in the upper third, the top crusts may burn. Using a very sharp, serrated knife or a single-edged razor blade, score the loaves by making quick shallow cuts 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep along the surface.

Using a well-floured peel, slip the loaves one at a time onto the hearth and quickly spray the inner walls and floor of the oven with cold water from a spritzer bottle. If there's an electric light bulb in the oven, avoid spraying it directly — it may burst. Spray for several seconds until steam has filled the oven. Quickly close the door to trap the steam and bake 3 minutes. Spray again in the same way, closing the door immediately so that steam doesn't escape, and bake until loaves begin to color, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F (205°C) F. and bake until loaves are a rich caramel color and the crusts are firm, another 15 to 20 minutes.

To test the loaves for doneness, remove and hold the loaves upside down. Strike the bottoms firmly with your finger. If the sound is hollow, the breads are done. if it doesn't sound hollow, bake 5 minutes longer. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: Makes 2 round 10-inch loaves

Swiss Braid

From The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making (Canada, UK), by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.

This braided, attractively tapered loaf is known as Zupfe in Switzerland. Often eaten on weekends, it has a glossy crust and a wonderfully light crumb.

Ingredients:

3 cups white flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 ounce fresh yeast
2 Tbsp lukewarm water
2/3 cup sour cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, softened

For the glaze:

1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp water

Instructions:

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Mix the yeast with the water in a small bowl

Gently warm the sour cream in a small pan until it reaches 98.6°F (37.5°C). Add to the yeast mixture and combine.

Add the yeast mixture and egg to the center of the flour and gradually mix into a dough. Beat in the softened butter.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Cut in half and shape each piece of dough into a long rope about 14 inches in length.

To make the braid, place the two pieces of dough on top of each other to form a cross. Starting with the bottom rope, fold the top end over and place between the two bottom ropes. Fold the remaining top rope over so that all four ropes are pointing downward. Starting from the left, braid the first rope over the second, and the third rope over the fourth.

Continue braiding in this way to form a tapered bread. Tuck the ends underneath and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Mix the egg yolk and water for the glaze, and brush over the loaf. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: Makes 1 loaf

Olive Bread

From The Book of Greek Cooking (Canada, UK), by Lesley Mackley.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
7 cups bread flour
1 envelope active dry yeast (about 1 Tbsp)
2 tsp salt
About 1 cup warm water
1-1/3 cups ripe olives, pitted and chopped

Instructions:

In a skillet, heat oil. Add onion and cook until soft. Let cool. Into a large bowl, sift flour. Stir in yeast and salt. Add 2 Tbsp of the cooking oil and mix in enough water to make a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface.

Knead dough thoroughly 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Knead in 1 Tbsp of the cooking oil, the fried onion, reserving remaining oil, and chopped olives. Cut dough in half and shape into 2 round loaves. Place on lightly oiled baking sheets. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush loaves with a little of the cooking oil. Bake loaves 30 to 40 minutes or until bottom of each sounds hollow when tapped. Brush tops of loaves with remaining oil. Return to the oven 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Yield: Makes 2 loaves

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