JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ballymaloe Brown Bread

Following my post last week about our daily soda bread with yoghurt, I had a very useful note from John Curtin, Spade Work: From Plot to Plate, about his breadmaking: Soda bread is delicious but it doesn't keep....that's if there is any left over. We regularly bake a quick no-knead yeast bread Ballymaloe Brown Bread aka Doris Grant Loaf. Only eat shop bought in an emergency!

Years ago, I used to make the Doris Grant Loaf - somewhere I've got a copy of her wonderful book Your Daily Bread. I'd never heard of Myrtle Allen, or her Ballymaloe Brown Bread, which is a variation of the DGL. Both are good tasty loaves, full of flavour - the molasses gives a complex depth which is particularly good in toast. Both versions are little trouble to the cook - just what's needed for a daily or near-daily chore.

So I got to work. Easy. But the finished loaf sunk in the middle. Well, I was using my old tins, AND I didn't have any wholemeal flour, so I was using spelt. Perhaps that was it. New pan, followed the recipe to the letter. It rose too fast, flowed over the edges - and sunk in the middle, a depression where there should have been a dome.

Meanwhile, I'd ordered Myrtle Allen's Ballymaloe Cookbook (from Abe, it cost less than the postage), hoping that I would find more detail than on the internet. No such luck - although it's full of lovely dishes, so not a waste of the few pennies it cost.

I'm giving the recipe here ... but I'd be really glad if someone who is familiar with this method could give me a few pointers. Just so's you know, I'm using dried yeast (not instant); I haven't been putting a tea towel over the dough as it rises, because I'm always afraid it will stick, and I didn't want to flour it (I'll try that next); and the kitchen is about low 60s F). Any ideas?

Ballymaloe Brown Bread

3 1/2 tsp dried yeast
400 ml water
1 tsp molasses or black treacle
500g wholewheat flour
2 tsp salt

Grease a large loaf pan and warm it in the oven at 120C for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast into 150ml of water; allow to dissolve before adding the molasses. Leave until frothy (about 10 minutes), add the rest of the water (250ml), stir.

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to a well in the middle, and stir into a thick batter. Keep stirring until it forms a soft and very sticky dough, but leaves the sides of the bowl. Put this into the prepared tin. Cover with a dish cloth and leave until it rises to the top of the pan, which should take no more than half an hour.

Bake at 220C for 30 minutes, then at 200C for a further 15 minutes. (I always take the loaf out of the tin for the final five minutes, whatever I'm baking, to get an all-over crisp result; this may reflect on my poor-quality tins.) Use the tapping-test to check that it's done.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I just came across a recipe for the Doris Grant Loaf. The looks of the crumb on your slice seems like the loaf over rose. You might try putting it in the oven sooner. But there maybe other factors at play also.

Joanna said...

You're absolutely right, Tanna - it flowed straight over the top. I think next time - which I hope will be this afternoon - I will not warm the pan, put in less yeast, and watch it like a hawk ... 20 minutes may well be enough for this one. It's worth perservering with, because it is absolutely delicious.

Flour quality, too ... I don't know anything about Irish wholemeal flour ... can anyone help?


Anonymous said...

Joanna, let me tell you that each loaf I make turns out slightly differently - warmth, coarseness of the flour, amount of rising, amount of water etc all variables.

My recipe has been adapted over time but I use 2tsp of dried yeast (started off for a few mins in a glass with some warm water, stirred and wait until if foams), a pint (or so) of luke warm water (I tend to bake this loaf slightly drier than the books suggest as I don't like it so sticky on hands, the bowl etc), a pinch of salt and sugar (this is the major difference - I don't use molasses any more). Mix put into pans then leave it to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan. Then I bake it for 45-50mins at 200C.

Maybe if you reduce the yeast and leave out the molasses you'lll get a less active loaf!

As to flour - I use wholemeal flour ground at the Down and Weald Open Air Museum, Lurgashall Mill £4.10 for 5kg. The museum near Petworth is worth going to anyway! I get the flour at my local farmshop - each batch is always a little different, part of its appeal.

Now a question : the spelt and rolled oat loaf was delicious but do I expect it to rise - mine didn't that much!

Anonymous said...

OOps! Should have said that I use two pounds of flour, then divide the dough into 1lb tins.

Joanna said...

Thanks John. I'm just about to make another loaf, so I'll try some of these modifications .. I'm interested that it still works even if you make a stiffer mixture. And of course different flours will work in different ways (I used spelt the first time, because it was all I had).

I had another look on the internet, and a forum for peoplel having just the same problems. Someone from Ballymaloe said that they always use fresh yeast. I have tried everywhere I can think of, without success (journalists are always saying that you can get it from the bakery of a supermarket, but in my experience they look at you blankly, as if they had no idea yeast was an ingredient of bread).

My spelt and oat loaf doesn't rise much, although I don't mind. Perhaps a little more yeast??

Anonymous said...

Would a home brewing supplier carry fresh yeast?

Gavin said...

I'm sure you've got this to work by now ... but just in case.

The recipe is basically correct but way too much yeast: 25g fresh or 1 sachet dried. Irish whole wheat flour is pretty coarsely ground, so sometimes 50g is substituted with white flour. The most recent recipe has half the salt.

I like to vary the sugar supply and generally use more than the recipe specifies. You can try honey, molasses, black treacle but my favourite is pomegranate molasses (1 tbsp) which gives the bread a slightly sour tang. You can also replace some or all of the water with stout to get a really delicous loaf.

Joanna said...

Gavin, thank you for this. Very interesting to read about your variations. I've cracked most of the breadmaking problems since I wrote this post, and haven't bought a loaf of bread for years ... but I don't make this bread. As you say, too much yeast - I now know that most of the old recipes specify too much yeast. I often make sourdough, I generally use quick yeast (not keen on the instant), very occasionally use fresh yeast but don't go out of my way to get it. And all that fretting about room temperature - seems like another me ;)

Thanks for taking the trouble to give me your hints ... I'm going to do this again this week, as you've inspired me