Yesterday I had friends for lunch and prepared what has now become my go-to homemade bread. It’s a recipe I’ve been working on for over a year now, adding and subtracting ingredients, and working with different flours and grains.
I’ve started grinding my own flours and it really does make a difference. My favorite is farro, a 7,000 year old grain which is abundant in central Italy, particularly Umbria. If I only use farro, along with different seeds and nuts, the bread is sometimes too heavy and dry for my liking.
My chef friend Salvatore Denaro suggested I add some white flour to lighten up the bread which made sense.
I’m always perusing bread recipes to help me perfect my own and recently stumbled across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for her Norwegian Mountain Loaf. Nigella in turn gives credit to her half-Norwegian friend Trine Bell for her recipe. That’s what makes the best recipes: sharing and exchanging.
The beauty of the Norwegian Mountain Loaf is that it doesn’t require any dough rising time. The ingredients are stirred together until they reach a thick porridge consistency, then poured into the loaf pan. I like that part the best; it makes last minute bread baking something you can do on an impromptu basis with any meal.
So, although I’ve strayed pretty far afield with my bread ingredients I’ve kept Nigella’s super simple procedure intact.
- I grind the grains myself in a small home-use mill. A powerful food processor will also work. I use 400 grams of flour: half farro, a quarter whole wheat and a quarter white. I also add 100 grams of oats and a half cup of seeds: sesame, poppyseed, sunflower and any others that appeal to you. I also use a healthy portion of raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit.
- Match the weight of your dry ingredients with an equivalent of liquid: if you use 500 grams of flour, then use 500 milliliters of liquid. I like water and skim milk to keep it light.
- Dissolve a cube of fresh cake yeast into tepid liquid (milk, water), stir in your dry ingredients and pour into a large loaf pan lined with oven paper. Place in a cold oven and bake for thirty minutes at 250°F, then one hour at 350°F. Use a cake tester to test for done-ness.
What you’ll end up with is a hearty, chewy, beautiful crumb bread reminiscent of some of the wonderful Northern European breads that we’ve all tasted at one time or another and love. It’s a great breakfast bread drizzled with honey to accompany your morning coffee, and it’s wonderful with any lunch or dinner meal you serve.