I miss Arbutus bread. One of the great advantages of working in URRU Mallow was having regular access to good quality bread – I used to eat the sesame seed-encrusted brown crusts for work breakfast (you can’t sell them but I think they’re the nicest piece of the whole loaf), regularly bringing home spelt or rye loaves or, for a particular treat, one of the tomato and basil breads or a couple of croissants, to be heated up for the following morning’s breakfast.
Now, it’s a trek to get my hands on some decent bread. North Cork isn’t exactly known for it’s selection of bakeries and I refuse to buy or eat the chemical-infused never-goes-stale stuff that goes under the name of bread that’s available. If I get to the Thursday farmers’ market at Mahon Point for Arbutus bread or the bi-monthly Killavullen farmers’ market where Tom’s Bakery often has a stall I’m sorted but otherwise it’s back to making my own again.
It’s not a daily activity, by any stretch of the imagination. I normally make two large loaves at a time, cutting one in half for freezing (toast would always be a big favourite in this house), and I have a few different recipes in rotation. Despite being half-abandoned at the bottom of the fridge for the last year, my sourdough starter still has enough kick in it to keep me ticking over with sourdough loaves. Not having a fridge big enough to retard the rising overnight, these are normally most successful during the cold months of the year. Then it’s time to switch over to the No-Knead Loaf or even the quick and easy Artisan Bread recipes that I’ve used with so much success in the past.
I’m playing around with a simple brown yeast loaf that you just mix, allow to rise in the tin (if the house is warm enough!) and then cook but my favourite bread at the moment is this version of a Spelt Loaf which I originally found in the Cornucopia cookbook. It takes minutes to mix up, is fantastic when it comes out of the oven (just try to cool it before cutting!), freezes well and – best of all – tastes amazing when toasted because of all the seeds.
Seedy Spelt Bread
Warm water – 550ml
Blackstrap molasses or treacle – 1 tablespoon
Spelt flour – 475g
Baking powder – 2½ teaspoons
Fine sea salt – 1 heaped teaspoon
Mixed seeds – 150g. Make your own combination of linseeds, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds. I often add spelt flakes as well.
Spelt flakes or sesame seeds for sprinkling
Sunflower oil for the tin
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (both regular and fan oven) and oil a 2lb (900g) loaf tin with sunflower oil.
Mix the water and molasses together, whisking well to ensure the molasses dissolves. Set aside. Sift the spelt flour, baking powder and sea salt into a large bowl. Add the mixed seeds, mix well and make a well in the centre.
Pour in the combined molasses/water mixture into the well. Shaping your hand like a claw – it’s much easier than a spoon – use it to quickly bring the ingredients together. Do not over mix the dough, which should be fairly runny.
Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle with spelt flakes, sesame seeds or both (I have jumbo oats and sesame seeds on the loaf in the picture). Bake for about 60 minutes (regular). If cooking the bread in a fan oven, give it 30 minutes at 180ºC, then turn it down to 160ºC for another 30 minutes. Either way, the loaf may need to be turned out of the tin and cooked upside down for 10-15 minutes extra until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Ccover with a clean tea towel and cool on a wire rack.
Makes 1 x 2lb (900g) loaf.
Adapted from Cornucopia at Home by Eleanor Heffernan.