Monday, February 11, 2013

A Wholemeal Loaf And Pea Soup

I choose wholemeal bread over white bread when I want less starch in my diet. Wholemeal or wholegrain bread contains the nutrient-rich bran and germ of the wheat berry as well as the endosperm (the starchy component) and is therefore healthier than white bread than only includes the endosperm. Great to know. The problem, as with many healthier options, is that whole wheat bread TASTES healthier. Now I am not one who believes that food that is good for you has to taste bad. But let's be frank: wholewheat bread is almost never tastier than its starchier counterpart. (Those pre-packed industrial breads from the supermarket don't count because chemicals can make anything taste good).

So, imagine my surprise when this wholemeal loaf I baked tasted .. absolutely delicious. Admittedly, I mixed in white flour with wholemeal flour. I do this with all my wholemeal loaves because using 100% wholemeal gives me a loaf that is just too dense and too chewy -- not something I like, really. Having said that, I read an article by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman just three days ago about three reasons why his 100% wholewheat breads are "delicious". First, he says, is because he uses the food processor; Second: he allows his dough an overnight rise, allowing the bread to develop flavours slowly (at least 12 hours); Finally: he uses a sourdough starter.

Since I've only recently begun my sourdough starter (mine is just three days old - I have to wait at least another four days before I can use it in my breads), I will have to wait a little to follow Bittman's theories out.

For now, I settled on making wholemeal bread with my new favourite bread making method. Yes, I used the tangzhong method.  

I wanted to see if the tangzhong method would work with wholemeal loaves as well as it does with white bread. I pretty much followed the original recipe: the roux is the same but I adjusted the measurements for flour (divided it to 50% white flour and 50% whole wheat) and liquid (added 30% more water) for the dough.

As I've posted recipes using the tangzhong method a couple of times already (you can check them out here and here and here -- can you tell I am obsessed?), I've added a second recipe in this post: one for a Pea Soup, which goes perfectly with the bread once it has "aged" (i.e. after a day or two). Yeah, I was feeling a little guilty about repeating the basic recipe so many times and posting just variations of basically the same recipe on this blog!

So first, let me share my modified tangzhong recipe.

Rosemary and Chilli Wholemeal Bread, Tangzhong style
Roux (same as the original)
4 tbsp (30g) bread flour
60g milk
60g water

Combine ingredients until incorporated, with no lumps. Hear over a low fire, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens to resemble that of mayonnaise. Cool to room temperature.

175g whole wheat flour }
175g bread flour             } The original calls for 350g bread flour
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp chopped rosemary (fresh) {optional, not in the original}
1 tsp chilli flakes (depending on the heat of your chillies. Mine are potent)  {optional}
80g milk       }
70g water     } The original recipe requires 120g liquid (milk + water)
1 egg
30g butter, softened

Whisk the flours, sugar and salt together. Add the yeast and mix. Add the roux and the egg and, suing your fingers, mix them into the flour mixture. Add the water gradually until a rough dough forms. Cover and let sit for 10 mins.

Add the butter, rosemary and chilli and using your hand, knead the ingredients into the dough until well distributed, about 3 mins. Cover and let the dough rest for another 10 mins. Repeat the kneading (3 mins) and resting (10 mins) process a further 3 times. After the last knead, cover the dough and let it rise until double its size, about an hour.

After an hour, gently knead the dough a couple of times, shape it, place it in the loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 30 mins.

The bread is gorgeous. So tasty and soft, with  a slight crust. The rosemary and chilli are subtly present but the main flavour is unmistakably the wholemeal. And, it tastes great. I love it. Not just like it because I know it's healthier. No, I really love it.

Next, the Pea Soup. Why Pea Soup? Well, as a self-confessed TV addict, let me admit that I saw this made on TV on the latest season of Top Chef. I'd never thought of making Pea Soup before but when contestant Sheldon Simeon made it, I earmarked it and immediately wanted to make my own version of Pea Soup.

Why haven't I tried this before? It's absolutely lip-smackingly good.

I used frozen peas,  which are the next best thing to fresh peas. Canned peas are great but they lack the inherent sweetness of green peas somewhere along the canning process and are therefore not the best choice for this soup.

I like my soup nice and thick but, if you prefer a thinner consistency, add more water than what I suggest in the recipe. The soup is best eaten cool or cold. With a nice slice of day-old bread bread, toasted and cubed if you like, this soup is a keeper.

Easy Peasy Green Pea Soup
2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 stalks of leek, sliced thin
30g butter
2 cups stock + 1/2 cup water (or 1/4 cup milk)
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste

2 slices old bread, toasted and cubed

Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the leeks and cook till soft. Add the peas and stir to coat them in the butter. Let the peas cook for about 5 mins. Add the stock and water and leave to boil, on low heat. 

When it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and puree the contents with a blender.  

Once pureed, the soup becomes nice and creamy and thick (and a beautiful, vibrant, green) put it back on the heat. Add the rosemary and seasoning and cook till it begins to boil.

Turn off the heat and let the soup cool. 

Serve only when the soup has cooled. Or, chilled(for at least 30 mins once it has cooled). Dunk the pieces of bread in and soak it in the thick soup. Amazing!

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