I can’t take credit for the recipe that I’m about to give you for the bread pictured above, however I can refer you to Dan Lepard’s book; The Art of Handmade Bread, Contemporary European Recipes for the Homebaker. This is a fantastic find, at a staggering $20.00 CAD! (Go buy it, seriously.) Lepard has a skill for sharing the stories of local, Northern and Eastern European bakers through his short profiles and photography. How their cultural and family histories have affected their bread baking skills and traditions over generations, as well as their reasoning behind the uses of certain ingredients. Much emphasis on the concept of ‘zero waste’. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why a ‘zero waste’ policy has been adopted over past centuries, however; I find that in North America we tend to forget the past so easily, and have such a knack for ignoring the harsh realities we face in the 21st century. There’s not a soul on the planet who shouldn’t be worried about food and energy waste, yet here we are; wasting nearly a whopping 50% of our food products worldwide, as was pointed out to me recently, by a friend.
After a less-than-favorable day on the job, and normal summer temperatures with low-humidity (jumps up and down, just a little bit)… this one’s been the perfect evening for my favorite things: outdoor running, and plunking my tush down on the floor with some leftovers for dinner! Some from-scratch Indian curry and homemade lentil bread rolls from Dan Lepard’s book (yesterday’s day-off-project), to be specific! I’m sickened by the amount of food waste I witness in my line of work, and it’s the least I can do to work in the opposite direction in my own home. Bread at home is many things to me. First of all it’s a mindset. The fact that four ingredients looking like ‘nothing much’, can be mixed in such a way that produces such a beautiful, utterly transformed product, is in itself; amazing. Secondly, the mixing, kneading, and baking of the bread, is soothing and relaxing. Like a late-night run on a cool evening like this one… all cares and worries can, for even a fleeting moment, disappear. (Or at the very least, fade a little!) Therapeutic. That’s the word I’m looking for. And of course thirdly, KNOW WHAT YOU EAT! That’s huge. Ever heard of the One Hundred Mile Diet? Yet another great read, I highly recommend it.
So what did we learn about baking bread at home? A) It’s awe-inducing. B) It’s therapeutic. C) You need to KNOW WHAT YOU’RE PUTTING IN YOUR MOUTH!
If you spend a little extra time in the grocery store (I know, not that you have extra hours in your day, I get it) you’ll start to realize how full of processed shit and chemicals, the food you put in your mouth really is. A quick google search of these scary, and hard to pronounce ingredients- and you’ll be running for your cupboards to purge them of said poisons. I promise you. I’ve done it, over and over again. What better reason to bake and cook at home? I can’t think of any. Peace of mind and physical health. The two main ingredients for a long and happy life.
Your goal in the kitchen? A) Try not to waste food while a large portion of the world’s population eats only one meal a day OR LESS, and, B) Stop unintentionally poisoning yourself with processed shit.
Are you finished being lectured by someone you’ve never even met? Most likely. Here’s the recipe for Dan’s delicious lentil rolls that I used to sop up what’s left of the curry at the bottom of my bowl tonight. I’ve included a few photos of the dough at different stages of the process, so you can compare yours and make sure you’re lookin’ good! For a great curry recipe look into Vikram Vij’s work. A very well known chef living and running a restaurant, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Tonight’s dinner was a chicken masala I made from one of his cookbooks. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for several years, as sad as that is to admit. But I’ve finally put it to good use, stained pages and all! And I’m sure glad I did.
2.5 cups cooked, drained, Puy lentils
6 tbsp warm water, 68 degrees F is preferred
1 tsp fresh yeast (I use dried, and cut the measurement in half)
1.5 tbsp honey
1.5 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
3/4 tsp salt
Stir together the warm water and yeast until yeast is dissolved and will start to froth. The suggested temperature above will make the perfect breeding ground for the ‘frothing’ of the yeast. This is activating it/bringing it back to life, and is very important. Keep your yeast in the fridge for a longer shelf life. Stir in your drained lentils (room temperature is best), and set aside.
Stir together all remaining ingredients, and then in a large mixing bowl; add your liquid ingredients and knead until a dough ball forms. Let this dough rest for 10 mins at room temperature, and then knead again with a small amount of oil on your countertop, in order to stop the dough from sticking all over you and your kitchen! Knead for no longer than 5 mins, and then cover in the bowl with a damp towel, and rest 45 mins to one hour, or until the dough has nearly doubled in size. This dough is very dense and moist, and will take quite a bit of time to rise properly.
Remove dough from the bowl, roll out to 3/4 of an inch thick, slice into squares (this recipe will make just over a dozen at the very least), place onto a floured baking sheet with a little extra flour dusted on top, and cover once again with a slightly damp cloth. Allow to rise again for another 45 mins, or until nearly doubled in size.
Bake at 425 degrees F for at least 30 mins, or until golden brown on top and sides. Remove from oven, and rest aside for 15-20 mins.
These rolls are dense, chewy, and hearty. The perfect accompaniment to one-pot dinners on a cold rainy day. The use of rye flour gives the bread that bit of a sour edge which I love. And of course, the flour on the tops and bottoms of the rolls makes for a lovely mess of white dust all over the table, and most likely your lap. What’s better? Nothing. The true measure of a good home cooked meal, is when you’re basking in the glory of food-mess all over and around you!
So that’s all folks. That’s all for today. Until next time…
HAPPY MESS-MAKING! and hopefully… HAPPY SMART-GROCERY-SHOPPING!