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General (Unyeasted Bread) Recipe
Bread started out in ancient times as a kind of cake, made of water, meal or flour--mostly from barley and millet--honey, oil, sweet wine, cooked grains, and fruits. The Hebrews, Chinese, and Eqytpians introduced flat cakes made from a flour and water dough. They used wheat flour and discovered that kneading worked up gluten and held the bread together. And, aside from a digression into yeasted bread-making, here we are now. Unyeasted bread is still with us. And it's still liquids and solids--mostly flour; it has some surprises thrown in; then it's mixed together, kneaded, and baked.
GENERAL (UNYEASTED BREAD) RECIPE
1. Pour liquids into your bread bowl. They can be any liquids you want to use, potato or other vegetable water, yoghurt that failed to yoge, mashed ripe bananas. You can also start with good old milk or water. About 3 cups of liquid makes a good amount of dough to knead--2 loaves' worth.
2. Add ¼ cup unrefined oil. Try different kinds--sesame, peanut, corn germ oil. All are rich and softening.
3. Add ¼ cup honey. You might also try molasses or maple syrup for different tastes.
4. Add 1 tablespoon (= 3 teaspoons = 3 palmfuls) of sea salt.
5. I often add the same nutrition fortifier block I use for yeasted breads.
½ cup non-fat dry milk powder
½ cup soy flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons food yeast
6. Mix in solids, any shape or flavor, your leftovers, your treasures. Chewy cooked grains--brown rice, millet, rye berries, wheat berries--are sources of B vitamins, protein, and minerals. Dried fruits are almost a must in unyeasted breads, providing a deep moist sweetness. They're also good sources of iron, and are very important in our diets. Use raisins, currents, dates, prunes, figs. Dried apricots are the best vegetable iron source and are a tangy addition. Mix in nuts: walnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds. Mix in seeds: sunflower seeds, poppy seeds. Your bread will be solid, compact, loaded with good food, and deliciously chewable.
Add herbs and spices: cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, caraway seeds, anise. If you sniff your dough, often you can tell what would taste good in it.
7. Mix in at least 5 cups of whole wheat flour. Then mix in new flours, any kind at all. Since unyeasted bread doesn't have to rise, gluten isn't such a critical factor as it is in yeasted bread. Rye flour, millet flour, soy flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour are all good. Roasted barley flour is especially nutty and sweet in unyeasted bread. So are sesame meal, peanut meal, cornmeal, you name it.
8. Keep mixing in flour with your spoon, then with your hand. The amount of flour you add is the most variable quantity in unyeasted bread. The quantity depends on how coarse-ground the flour is, and on what grain it comes from. Even different whole wheat flours vary in their ability to take up water. The amount of flour you add depends on what other solids you have mixed into your dough, on how liquid your liquid was, etc. Never feel bound to use the exact amount of flour recommended in a recipe. Recipes are only approximations. Use your common sense.
9. When the dough holds together but is still slightly moist, lift it onto a floured counter, and knead to bind everything together. Keep spreading flour on the counter so the dough won't stick. Kneading is an intimate process between you and your bread. It is a spirit--calm and happy. And it cannot be rushed.
Unyeasted bread is moist and caky if you knead only a little flour into it. If you want a more bready bread, you have to add more flour and knead more. 300 kneads is a good number to aim for. You can feel when your dough stays together and is ready to be shaped.
10. Shape the dough into loaves which appeal to you. I like round balls--2 of them for 3 cups of liquid. I carve slashes or crosses on the top so air can get out and the crusts don't split during baking. Loaves should be baked on baking sheets lightly oiled or sprinkled with cornmeal or poppy seeds. For a really crunchy crust, cover a rack in your oven with unglazed ceramic tiles, slide your loaves in and bake them right on the tiles.
Occasionally you might shape your dough into lots of little balls, free-standing loaf-shaped loaves, or flat pancakes scored for easy breaking when hiking.
11. Your loaves can be baked right away. Or they can be left overnight, during which time some rising due to the yeast naturally present in the flour may occur. People talk about this rising reverently, but I never had unyeasted breads rise during the night. One thing is true--flavors blend overnight. Overnight unyeasted bread is richer-tasting, has more body.
Bake the bread about 1¼ to 1½ hours in a preheated 350 degrees F oven. Or start the bread from a cold oven and bake it for about 1½ to 1¾ hours at 350 degrees F. Unyeasted bread is done when it's firm-crusted and a deep brown color. If you're in any doubt about a loaf's being done, leave it in the oven longer. Unyeasted breads are almost never overbaked, but it's very common to underbake them so the center is uncooked.
Unyeasted bread can be sliced easily if you have a good knife and a strong arm. It gets better every day. Don't wrap it--the crust will shelter the inside of a loaf while the flavors spread and mellow. The balls of sweetness around each raisin will grow larger every day; the nuttiness of walnuts will permeate the whole loaf; spicy flavors will work into every grain of flour.
Reprinted with permission of the author from Wings of Life by Julie Jordan, The Crossing Press, Trumansburg, NY, 1976.