I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: hot, buttered toast is surely the ultimate comfort food. Especially when topped with homemade raspberry jam, or perhaps a freshly scrambled egg for tea. And when it’s cold, dark and the depths of January, it doesn’t feel like a great time to give up on such home comforts. Be kind to yourself!
However, even the simple slice of toast can concede something to the healthy vibes of a New Year. I’ve been wanting to put together a bread recipe using alternative grains for a while now, ever since I welcomed a lovely couple all the way from sunny California onto a class last year. As we chatted, they mentioned that they sometimes used quinoa in their bread, and the seed of an idea was planted in my head.
Quinoa is a versatile grain that originates from Peru, with uses ranging from a base for salads to being baked into cakes and biscuits. It’s high in protein, plus contains B vitamins and calcium alongside other nutrients – perfect for a January boost. You can find out more about quinoa here.
In this recipe, I’m pairing quinoa with the nutty flavour of spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat that contains gluten and can be used as wheat flour is to bake breads. Lastly, soaked seeds give this bread some crunch and are a source of fatty acids too. It’s almost getting a bit too virtuous to be a comfort food!
The recipe starts off with soaking the seeds for 6 – 8 hours in the fridge. Don’t be put off! That’s an overnight soak. Just set yourself a reminder for the night before you want to bake and weigh out the seeds and water into a bowl. Cover and place in the fridge and let them soak while you sleep. Alternatively, you could do this at breakfast time and use the seeds later in the day.
100g mixed seeds, soaked in water in the fridge, well covered, for 6 – 8 hours or overnight
350g spelt flour
90g white bread flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
5g (about 1 teaspoon) active dried yeast
10g (about 2 teaspoons) salt
1 tablespoon light muscavado sugar
200 – 250g water
1. Rinse the quinoa under the tap and drain. Place the rinsed quinoa in a pan, cover with water and cook as per packet instructions – usually to boil for 10 – 12 minutes until soft and fluffy. Set aside to cool.
2. Mix together the spelt and white bread flours, sugar, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl, avoiding direct contact between the salt and yeast when you add them into the bowl. Add in the cooked, cooled quinoa and oil.
3. Drain any remaining water from the soaked seeds and add 90g of them to the bowl. Reserve the rest.
4. Add in the water – start with 200g and add more if the dough is dry. I’ve estimated the amount of water you’ll need as this will depend on how wet your cooked quinoa and soaked seeds are. If the dough seems dry and doesn’t stretch well, add a little more water as you mix. If the dough seems very wet and slack, add in flour 10g at a time but do not make it too firm.
5. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, un-floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. The dough will be quite sticky to start with but keep going!
6. Shape the dough into a rough ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise for 1 – 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
7. Turn the dough out of the bowl and gently deflate it by kneading it for a minute or two. Turn the oven on at 230oC and grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin, or two 450g/1lb tins.
8. Shape your loaf. Flatten the dough slightly into a rectangle, then roll this up, tucking the ends in and under and ensuring the roll is the length of your tin. Place the shaped dough seam side down into the greased tin and cover. Leave to rise again for 1 hour, or until at least doubled in size. Spelt flour doughs usually rise more quickly than wheat flour doughs, so do bear this in mind.
9. Spoon the reserved soaked seeds onto the tops of your risen loaves to make a crunchy topping. Bake your loaf in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes if 1lb loaves, or 35 – 40 minutes for a 2lb loaf tin, until well risen and a deep golden brown. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped on its base. Cool the loaf before slicing and enjoying. Happy January!