Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to Make Bread for a Crowd

10 lovely, local, loaves of bread fresh out of the oven
NOTE: This article includes a recipe for making two loaves, for a more detailed description of making bread for a "crowd" look here.

So apparently the secret to making bread for a crowd is... knead it with your feet. Something I recently learned about bread making is that it is the gluten that allows it to rise. Wheat gluten looks kind of like long viscous strands (appetizing right?). Anyway, these strands form kind of a net and trap the air bubbles that the yeast give off as they eat sugar and poop gas (again, super appetizing).

The gluten also provides structure as the bread rises. Whole wheat flower has less gluten than white flower so that's why 100% whole wheat loves are often really dense. When I first learned this I started adding vital wheat gluten, which is what's used to make seitan. This works pretty well. I even more recently learned that kneading bread is what helps the gluten develop, so instead of adding extra gluten, you can also knead for longer. If you are making 10 loaves at a time, which is the way we roll at Kings Valley Gardens, kneading takes a toll on your wrists and hands. Kneading with your feet helps you avoid this trouble, and is novel enough that it remains fun for the full 15 minutes required to develop the gluten. Shaun was selected for the actual kneading as he had by far the biggest feet (size 13) and don't worry he washed them very well!
10 lovely, local, loaves, in the oven

Living in Minnesota we have no problem accessing wheat and whole wheat flour that was grown within a couple of hours of the Twin Cities. Usually our flour comes from Whole Grain Milling. It is not so easy on the Willamette Valley (where we are WWOOFing for the summer). In the past a great deal of grain was grown here, but more recently farmers have switched to grass seed. Thanks in part to work done by the Bean and Grain Project there has been some return to grain cops in the area. The flour we used for this bread was grown down the road near Corvallis.

The recipe that Andrea uses at Kings Valley is Adapted from May All be Fed, Diet for a New World by Tom Robbins. I am using his recipe (and slightly adapting it myself) since I figure not everyone wants to make 10 loaves at a time? And because Andrea is working on a cook book and I don't want to give away any of her secrets. You can just multiply the recipe by 4 if you are trying to bake for a crowd.

Ocean's Bobs of Love Bread
(Makes Two Loaves)
Shaun using his big feet to knead
1 cup like warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons or 1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
2 tsp salt
6 to 7 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup millet
Oil for brushing the loaves

Mix water, yeast and honey and let stand about 5 minutes (the yeast should be dissolved and kind of foamy). Add two cups of the flouer and all other ingredients. Continue adding the flour until you have a fairly stiff dough. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and knead the bread for 15 minutes or until the texture is similar to an air lobe (as someone once told me). 

Shaping the dough into loaves
If you are going to knead with your feet it is helpful to have someone help you by folding the dough over before you stomp it down. If you are kneading with your hands start with a ball and press it down with the heel of your han, fold it over and press it down again. Repeat as necessary. 

After you are done kneading place the dough in a bowl and cover it lightly with a towel. Place the bowl in a somewhat warm area where it will not be disturbed. I usually put it a turned off oven. Wait for about an hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size. Knead it again for 10 to 15 minutes and then shape into loaves. Let the loaves rise for another hour or so and bake them at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. 

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