Bread is best baked by a baker. He knows how to do it and has the equipment. Also a private household cannot compete on the economics. Just the water needed to wash your hands kills every calculation! Having said that I bake almost daily because I like the taste.
My wheat bread is made of cheap ingredients – nothing special. But the dough needs a lot of time, several days, and a yeast sponge (?, German “Vorteig”). I need:
For the yeast sponge (the first time)
- 125g wheat flour
- a little dried yeast powder
- lukewarm water
- a small bowl – big enough for the dough to expand without flooding the kitchen – with a lid or a small plate to cover.
For the main dough
- the yeast sponge
- 500g wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- lukewarm water
- a bowl – big enough that the dough can expand without flooding the kitchen – with a lid or a plate to cover.
- baking paper (that is something I did not find in the U.S.)
- wooden sticks (I use willow sticks cut in the garden) that fit on the baking sheet
- a heat-resistant bowl with hot water
- wheat flour for shaping
- a pastry brush
Mix the ingredients. The first sponge is quite soft. Cover and let prove for about an hour, then put in the fridge for about 24 hours. The sponge should about double its volume.
Mix the ingredients in the bowl, for example with a wooden spoon. Then put on the work surface and knead thoroughly for at least 5 minutes without adding more flour. The dough should be quite soft and will stick to your hands. The kneading macerates the flour and reduces the stickyness. But there will be enough dough sticking to your hands.
Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for about 24 hours.
Sprinkle flour on the work surface, and spread the dough gently without kneading. Cut off about one fifth – that can be the rough edges – place in a small bowl and keep for 24 hours – that will be your new yeast sponge!
Place the wooden sticks on the baking sheet and cover with baking paper. The sticks form hollows that will contain the to-be breads and stop them from touching each other.
Cut the dough in pieces and put them on the baking paper – 4, 8, or 12 pieces, whatever you like.
Put the bowl with hot water in the oven and heat to 260°C. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the sheet from the oven and brush the bread with hot water from the bowl – that makes the crust crunchier. Let cool on a grate and eat.
You can use old coffee instead of water for the dough. You will not taste the coffee but the bread will be dark and look like healthy whole-grain bread. Who does not know will find it tastes better.
You can cut grooves into the dough to increase the surface. Or twist to make the bread look like the photo:
You can cut leftover bread into small pieces and soak in hot water – take your time! – and mix into the new main dough. No need to throw away old bread, and it adds taste.