There’s no such staple in my diet as bread, I couldn’t possibly imagine a life without it. It is one of the oldest prepared foods in the world (thank goodness for the Egyptians!) & has played such an essential role in our diets throughout the world.
What other food could you enjoy & take comfort in during every meal of the day (if I could…). Leavened loaves are at the very heart of food throughout history. As such it has found its way into many phrases & expressions in the English language, such as “bread-and-butter”, meaning something that is essential or basic & “to break bread with someone” meaning to share a meal with someone. We’re a world of bread lovers & I wouldn’t want it any other way.
There’s as much joy in actually baking the bread as there is to eating it. The process may be slow but it requires very little effort or attention & it is such a rewarding experience. Nothing will ever compare to the pride you feel in yourself upon producing your first loaf. The enticing aroma as it bakes away in the oven (if only this could be bottled), witnessing the miracle of yeast doubling your little dough ball into a large crusty, airy loaf, the satisfying crunch of breaking through the crust & the joy in eating a freshly warm piece of your achievement.
These days baking bread is seen as something so complicated & artisanal when in essence it really is simple, four ingredients & a little time is all that’s needed. People were baking bread long before ovens (or let alone hipsters) were even a thing.
Time is the biggest commitment you need make here, which I’ll admit as an avid bread baker can be difficult. But on a lazy afternoon or a rainy Sunday there’s no better activity. There really is nothing quite like getting stuck into some dough, quite literally. You will end up dusted in flour & with dough still stuck between your fingers but I can promise that any stresses will evaporate once you get kneading.
I do have a preference for a wholemeal bread as opposed to its white counterpart, with the exception of a good ciabatta, sourdough or focaccia that is. Much move flavoursome & wholesome than white bread as it is made from flour that is from milled from the whole wheat grains, this also gives brown bread it’s slightly denser texture.
Wholemeal bread lends itself much better to different uses in my opinion… toast, sandwiches, buttered, with cheeses, dipped into soups or olive oils, mopping up meals & even transformed into desert such as a bread & butter pudding (I do eat a lot of bread!). For each of these uses though, there is a preferred type of bread by each of us, such as sourdough for toast or crusty petit pains for dipping into soups.
Why can’t one bread suffice & be suitable for all of my gluttonous needs? In an effort to answer this question I carried out a little experimenting, placing everything I enjoy in a good bread into one comforting loaf. As a result I have a recipe that indulges all of my own preferences & one that I’m sure you will enjoy too…. savoury but also beautifully sweet, satisfyingly dense but with a good light crumb, a crunchy crust & varying texture throughout. I’ve enjoyed this little loaf to mop up sauces & pastas, toasted for breakfast & simply spread with some salted butter, it is the one-size-fits-all of breads. It lasts particularly well for a homemade bread.
DATE & SEED COB LOAF
(makes one 2lb loaf)
- 500g wholemeal flour
- 1tbps light muscovado sugar
- 5g salt
- 7g dried fast-acting yeast
- 300ml water
- 25g pumkpin seeds
- 35g sunflower seeds
- 100g dates, chopped
- 10g pumpkin seeds
- 10g sunflower seeds
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt & sugar
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture & pour in enough of the water to form a dough (you may not need all of the water or may need a little more, start with two-thirds & keep adding more until the dough comes together, adding more if your dough seems a bit dry)
- Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface & knead for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if using a stand mixer with a dough hook) until it is smooth & elastic when stretched
- Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm & leave to rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size
- Once your dough has risen, tip it out onto a floured work surface & knock back the dough(knead out the air pockets)
- Stretch out the dough slightly & tip over the seeds & chopped dates
- Knead these into the dough until evenly distributed
- Place your dough into a well floured banneton or loaf tin. Alternatively, shape the dough into a round & place on a parchment lined baking sheet
- Cover with a tea towel, or (my preference) place inside a large plastic bag & leave to prove for 1 hour, until doubled in size & the dough springs back when gently presses with a finger
If using a banneton, tip the loaf out onto a parchment lined baking tray
Place the loaf into the oven & lightly spray with some water before quickly closing the door
Bake the bread at 220C for 30 minutes until golden brown & the loaf sounds hollow when tapped from underneath
- Remove from the oven & allow to cool slightly before serving as the bread continues to bake slightly & the dates will be very hot at this point