One DIY at-home project people have taken to during the COVID-19 crisis is baking — or, more specifically, breadmaking. Perhaps you’ve noticed while following the arrows through your local grocery store aisles that flour and yeast are in short supply or sold out. Manufacturers and retailers have been struggling to meet the recent “rise” in demand.
The history of breadmaking dates back thousands of years, with the main ingredients traditionally being wheat flour, water, and a magic ingredient, yeast or a sourdough starter, which is what gives the dough its rise and soft texture.
Bread bakers originally got their yeast from beer brewers during the late 1800s, which gave a different flavour than the modern baker’s yeast we know today. Several types of yeast are used for artisanal breadmaking and for commercial production, but the two main types home bread makers rely on have been around for less than a century. Fleischmann’s developed an active dry yeast during the Second World War, still available today, and it wasn’t until 1973 that instant yeast was created by Lesaffre. Active dry yeast requires rehydrating before use for best results. In the next issue of the Gleaner (May 20) we’ll cover sourdough bread, but this week we start with yeast bread, as made by an old hand at it (who happens to be the writer’s mother).
Kim Moss, owner and baker at La Petite Boulangerie d’Elgin, has been baking bread for over 30 years using instant yeast. “Whole wheat seed bread, Swedish rye, cheddar cheese and herb, potato, and oatmeal and molasses, are my most popular breads for different reasons,” Moss says. Her breads are made with organic flour, no preservatives, and all natural ingredients. “I’ve always believed there should be no secret or mystery to breadmaking, it just takes a little practice. Breadmaking can be a great experience for everyone.” She also feels that homemade bread is a great go-to snack or meal for growing kids because “you can put everything in it — eggs, oats, ground flax seeds, buttermilk, whole wheat.” And of course, “There is nothing quite like the smell and flavour of fresh made bread,” she adds. “It warms the homes and warms the tummies.” Moss shares her classic potato bread recipe.
(Makes two loaves)
Boil one medium peeled potato in 3 cups of water until fully cooked.
Purée, then add and stir until dissolved:
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
Measure and add water to total 3½ cups; temperature should be slightly warm.
Add ¼ cup sunflower oil.
In a large bowl, mix together:
6½ cups white flour
¾ tablespoon instant yeast
Poor liquid all at once into flour mixture, then stir with wooden spoon until it’s ready to knead, hand-sprinkling with flour just enough to keep dough from sticking to bowl.
Knead on lightly floured surface for approximately seven minutes or until the dough forms an even mass that bounces back when you push down on it.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until dough has doubled in size, approximately 1 to 1½ hours.
Empty out onto floured surface, shape into two loaves and place into bread pans; cover, let rise slightly (approximately 15 minutes), then bake in 400F oven for 45 minutes.
Remove immediately from pans. To test whether the breads are ready, knock on the bottom of each loaf: it should sound hollow. Let cool for 30 to 40 minutes before eating.
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