Nothing smells better or is more tantalizing than baking bread. The aroma wafts through the house, forging an inviting ambiance of warm anticipation. When I got my first whiff of this plant-based bread, my spirits soared. I smiled with satisfaction. It was delivered as promised, perfectly rising bread, 5 healthy ingredients and no kneading required.
As I rushed to the oven to spy through the glass, I wondered if it could get better. Of course. That happened when I discovered how amazing it tasted. All this without effort, another slice without guilt. Those are big kitchen wins by any standard.
Bread and the plant-based diet
I’ve wasted far too much of my life avoiding bread. Convinced that bread possessed the evil powers and intent to detail my weight loss goals, I rushed by bakeries without looking in, cursed the supermarket muttering that it should be illegal to bake during opening hours and pretended that all bread tasted like cardboard.
Ultimately, I failed in the attempts.
In the end, I didn’t give up bread. And what’s more, I rationalized somehow that store-bought wraps and tortillas were healthier. And when I finally claimed back reality and started reading labels, it became clear to me that most of what I could find (and afford) in the stores were way off my plant-based aspirations. Along with the additives designed to extend shelf-life, nearly all of them – even the corn tortillas, contained oil.
If you are following or aspire to follow a whole-food, plant-based diet, the guiding principles are simply contained in the name.
Whole food – natural foods that aren’t heavily processed. Whole, unrefined or minimally refined ingredients. No rationalizing or tradeoff required – our knead not plant-based bread is made with whole wheat. Criteria fulfilled.
Plant-based – foods not derived from animals. 'If it has a mother, choose another'. if you are using a sweetener (as I did), make sure you avoid honey. I opted for maple syrup, but you could also use agave syrup or date paste.
There is on-going debate and frustration about bread in plant-based circles. Some of it is entirely justified. One of the reasons I spent years engaged in the bread wars was that I’d get home with what I thought was a healthy option, only to discover that although there was whole wheat in there, maybe even 100%, that bread was not just made from wheat and yeast. Sugar, oils, ingredients I couldn’t pronounce.
But, I’m not one to be defeated so I looked for another escape hatch to jettison me from the bakery aisle with my self-control left intact. Rather than doing the walk with a fresh baguette shamefully tucked under my arm, I decided it was time to make my own.
Because there’s always an option.
Bring the bakery home
It wasn’t a revelation to make my own bread. I’d done that a time or two for sure. But my old standard recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook I acquired eons ago, as good as it was, was not adaptable to whole food plant-based eating.
Back to basics
When you get down to it, there are three essential ingredients in bread – flour, yeast, and water. And yes, you can stop there and make great bread. I ended up adding just a bit of salt (½ teaspoon) and 2 teaspoons of maple syrup. For our tastes, this is the right balance of salt and sweet so the bread can stand-alone, ready to be dipped into your favorite soup.
No need to knead
Like the sign says, this is no-knead bread. This is the recipe for anyone who wants fresh bread, but who doesn’t want to put in the time or effort for kneading. I admit, when I first tried this, I was less than convinced, but it’s come out perfect every time I’ve made it.
Letting it rise
Unlike my old school recipe, you also don't need hours to let it rise. About 20 minutes will do the trick. My only caution is that you want to find somewhere that is relatively warm and draft-free. When it's been particularly cold in our house, I use a trick of turning the oven on at the lowest temperature for a few minutes and sticking the loaf pan in there. After I've cut the heat, I'll let the bread rise in the oven. It’s a great hack as long as the oven is just slightly warm.
When you make bread you never want the water you use or the pan you put it in to be too hot. This may cause the yeast to activate less and fallen, heavy bread is no fun. Too cold can have the same effect, so keep everything warm.
Weird side notes and tips
When I first made pita bread, I merrily went on my way, having not made bread in years and I did like always, covering the dough with a damp cloth. I didn’t get the result I’d planned for. Unlike years ‘before’ I wasn’t giving the dough a healthy coating of oil. When I picked up the cloth, not only did I discover half the dough stuck to the cloth, I was never able to use said cloth again. It’s permanently infused with dough.
That only happened one time when I first tested my pita bread recipe. After that, I started asking why. Why do we cover dough? The idea behind covering it is to keep it from drying out, but with only 20 minutes of rising time for our whole wheat bread loaf, you need only to cover it lightly with parchment paper. Even a big bowl or box over the top that doesn't touch the dough would work. Just try to avoid having to clean dough off a cloth. Not fun. Not fun at all.
Keep it clean
Also, I have a fairly new bread pan, but if you have any inkling that your bread may stick to the bottom of the pan, you can line it with parchment paper. If you do, just be aware that the bottom of your loaf will not be quite as brown and because the parchment paper will hold a bit of moisture, something your whole wheat flour has quite a lot of, you may want to add a bit more baking time. If the bread is getting too brown on the top, you can cover it with that parchment paper you hopefully didn’t throw out.
Cooldown (just a minute)
I have a funny memory of my mom balancing a loaf pan, turned upside down and set on strategically placed cans. In retrospect, that isn’t the most practical way to get the bread out of the pan. For one thing, it may break in the middle which is a shame after making such a beautiful loaf.
I know, the smell, the anticipation, the taunting can be overwhelming, making even the most disciplined cook go rogue. But patience pays here. You want to let the bread cool and contract slightly before you take it out of the pan. When it starts to cool, run a knife around the edges of the pan to assist it in separating. This only works for the edges though. You'll need to grant your bread about 10 minutes before you rescue it from the pan and slice it up. Then, all bets are off. Amazingly delicious, healthy plant-based bread – is meant to be eaten.
I can completely relate to Oprah Winfrey’s famous "I looooooove bread. I love bread!" legendary meme. Me too Oprah, me too. Fortunately, you can have your bread and you can eat, plant-based slice by plant-based slice. Peace.Print