A spelt loaf and a stone-ground whole wheat loaf. These are two wholemeal loaves that I serve on a regular basis if I am going the healthier whole grain route. I like white bread. I actually like it a bit too much so when I feel like my body needs a health boost, I take out my whole grain flours and bake these. To get the fluffy texture of white bread, I add vital wheat gluten to any wholemeal loaf that I bake. It comes from the endosperm of the wheat berry and helps trap steam released from baking so the bread builds more volume. I am not a big fan of 100% wholemeal loaves as they are a bit too dense for my taste.

This recipe is the last, yes the last, in my series on Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bites. That post was inspired by a meze party that I threw. The Oxford dictionary defines meze as ‘a selection of hot and cold dishes typically served as hors d’oeuvres’ in Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines. Throwing a meze party is a great way to entertain as a lot of the dishes can be prepared in advanced and served at the same time or as and when the next dish is ready. It is casual yet chic entertaining at one of its best. If hosting a meze party is not your cup of tea, then browse through the 10 recipes that I have posted. You may not choose to use them as appetisers at your next party but it could spark off some creative ideas of your own which would be especially useful for those upcoming year-end parties. Scroll down to see the spread at my meze party and links to individual recipes.

Moroccan Inspired Wholemeal Round Bread Loaves

Prep: 20 minutes 
Cook: 20 – 30 minutes
Inactive: Approximately 3 and 1/2 hours rising time 
Level: Easy
Makes: One 7″ to 9″ round loaf
Oven Temperature: 400 F (200 C)
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Bread dough can be made ahead. After the second rise, transfer the dough into a container that is 3X the volume of the dough. Cover and refrigerate.

Ingredients

1 cup spelt flour OR stone-ground whole wheat flour*
1 and 1/2 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon vital wheat gluten**
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon lukewarm water
1 and 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (I use SAF-instant)
* Spelt flour is wheat flour as it was thousands of years ago. Modern day flours are hybrids of spelt. It is high in protein content and good for bread baking. I prefer the taste of bread made with spelt as opposed to whole wheat flour. Bread baked with spelt taste more mellow than earthy wholemeal bread. If you do not care for the earthy taste of wholemeal bread but still like that nutty wholesome taste, try spelt flour instead. Stone-ground whole wheat flour is from whole wheat that has been ground the old fashion way between two grinding stones. Stone grinding is done slowly bit by bit unlike industrial milling. This process minimises nutritive losses. Both flours can be purchased at better stocked supermarkets. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand of flours.
** Vital wheat gluten is derived from the endosperm of the wheat berry and is added to help bake a loaf with more volume. Unlike spelt and bread flours, wholemeal flours have a lower protein count. Flours with a higher percentage of protein will bake soft bread with a higher rise. As wholemeal flour is lower in protein content, I add a little vital wheat gluten. Wholemeal breads bake naturally into a denser loaf. Purchased at better stocked supermarket. I use Bob’s Red Mill. This does come in a 1 lb 6 oz (623 g) bag and if you do not intend to bake often it might be ridiculous to buy it. Scroll down to ‘Tips’ for alternatives.  I also use it in my sweet loaves.

Spelt flour option
Stone-ground wholewheat flour option

Method

Using a mixer
1. Combine all ingredients into mixer bowl and attach dough hook to beater shaft. Start mixer at low speed to prevent the flour from flying out of bowl and all over the kitchen counter. Work up to medium speed gradually.
2. If the mixture does not seem to be coming together to form a dough, with the machine running, add 1 Tablespoon of water and let the machine go at it for 1 minute. Work in more water the same way if required. Err on the side of a more moist dough. If there is dough stuck to the sides of the bowl. Scrape down.
3. If the dough is too wet, add 1 Tablespoon of flour and let the machine work it in for 1 minute. Add more flour the same way if required. Again, err on the side of a more moist dough.
4. Keep in mind that unlike all-purpose/plain or bread flours, wholemeal flours being courser grained flours, will take slightly longer to absorb liquids so try and hold off adding flour until you are sure the dough is way too wet. This dough will be slightly sticky.
5. Most of the time it takes 7 to 10 minutes of machine kneading before I am happy to shape the dough into a ball. At this point, the sides of my bowl would be relatively though not entirely cleaned of dough and the dough would have gathered up on the hook. It would look pliable, smooth and a little tacky. You are working towards being able to gather up the dough to form a relatively smooth looking ball. So oil/butter your hands. The dough should feel slightly sticky to touch. Do not be tempted to over flour the dough. It might take you more or less kneading time before your dough reaches this stage.

This spelt base dough has gathered around the hook. It looks smooth and should feel elastic. Time to let it rise.
This stone-ground whole wheat flour based dough has gathered around the hook and it should feel elastic at this stage. Time to let it rise.

6. Pick the dough up and form into a round ball. Tuck loose ends under the dough. Before returning dough to mixer bowl, oil/butter the bowl. Return dough to mixer bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and let it rise in a warm place until almost double in size. It might take anywhere between one to two hours, depending on how warm it is.

Working dough by hand
1. Place dry ingredients on a flat working surface or in a very large bowl. Create a well in the centre of dry ingredients. Pour water into the well and work it in slowly into the dry ingredients.
2. To start kneading, you have to work with pushing the dough out with the palm of your hand and pulling it back with your fingers.
3. At any point, if the dough is too dry or wet to work, you can add 1 Tablespoon of water or flour and work it in completely before adding more water or flour. Err on the side of a moist and not a dry dough. Your kneading surface should be clean with no dough stuck on it. A bench scraper is very useful.
4. Keep in mind that unlike all-purpose/plain or bread flours, wholemeal flours being courser grained flours, will take slightly longer to absorb liquids so try and hold off flouring until you are sure the dough is way too wet. You will know you are doing well when you find yourself working with a smooth elastic ball. Knead another 5 minutes.
5. Pick the dough up, oil/butter your hands if the dough is a little sticky (it should be a little sticky) and shape into a round ball, tuck loose ends under the dough. Do not be tempted to add more flour.
6. Oil/butter your bowl which should be large enough to allow the dough to almost double in size. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or tea towel and let it go through its first rise in a warm place until almost double in size. It might take anywhere between one to two hours, depending on how warm it is.

AFTER the first rise – time to punch down
1. When the dough has risen to almost double its size, stick your finger in flour and poke the dough. It should leave the indentation you made.
2. Punch dough down, shape back into a ball, cover bowl and let it rise a second time. It should take half the time than before to almost double in size.

AFTER the second rise – it’s time to shape the dough
1. Overturn the mixer bowl and with a scraper, remove the dough by scraping the dough from the bottom of the bowl, onto a very lightly floured kitchen counter.
2. Knead gently for about 1 minute to knock out the pockets of air in the dough. Do not over knead and flour as little as possible. Flour your hands instead if it gets too sticky to handle.
3. To shape into a ball. Tuck the loose ends under the dough and set dough on work surface. Cup your palms around the circumference of the dough ball. The sides of your palms will be resting on the work surface. It will appear as if you are cradling the dough ball. Start moving the dough ball clockwise with the help of the sides of the palms that is on the work surface. This method will get the dough ball smooth and round. The sides of your palms should hardly lift off the work surface as you turn the dough. Work towards turning and tucking downwards with the sides of your palms so that any straggly bits on the surface of the dough gets pulled downwards and under the dough ball.
4. When you have achieved a relatively round and smooth surface, use a rolling pin or the palm of your hands to flatten the dough ball into a 7″ to 9″ circle. If it is difficult to stretch it out, cover with a tea towel and let it rest for 10 minutes and then shape.
5. With the dough ball now stretched to a 7″ to 9″ circle, place it on a baking tray lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let it go through the final rise. It should take half the time than before to rise about 1 and 1/2 time its size.
6. Half way through rising, turn on the oven to 400F (200C), adjust oven rack to the lower middle position.

Getting them oven ready
1. When the dough springs back after you gently prod it with the side of a finger, it is ready to go into the oven. You could either bake the loaf as is or use a fork to prick the surface of the loaf 6 times to allow steam to escape so that the tops do not separate from the loaf. You will get a pretty level loaf too.

When is it ready?
1. It should take 20 to 30 minutes to bake until a golden brown. The base of the bread should be slightly brown and when you tap the base, it should sound hollow. Remove to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Tips

You can bake both spelt and whole wheat loaves without using vital wheat gluten with the following results:
(1) With its higher protein content, the spelt loaf will still rise fairly well and bake into a soft and fluffy loaf.
(2) With a lower protein content, the whole wheat loaf will not rise as high and will be noticeably denser. However, as my recipe calls for 1.5 times more bread flour to whole wheat flour, the loaf will have a higher rise compared to a loaf baked with 100% whole wheat flour. The earthy flavour of the wholemeal flour will also be mellowed by the bread flour.

So without vital wheat gluten you can choose the following options:
(1) If you want a softer, lighter bread, without having to add vital wheat gluten, bake the spelt loaf.
(2) If you are happy with a denser bread which can be a bit squat but tastes nutty and earthy, bake the whole wheat loaf.
(3) Bake a 100% bread flour loaf. The taste and texture will be that of regular white bread.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

It is officially that time of the year again! I saw the first Christmas cookie tin on sale in the store today. In fact, not only was it the first Christmas item I spotted, it was the only Christmas item for sale. Then again, today is only 31 October. Once the Halloween items are packed away, I am sure it will only be a matter of a week or two or maybe even days before Christmas goodies are loaded on store shelves. I love Christmas so I am not complaining. With my cute Christmas cookie tins with me, what better way to start off a new series of recipes than with a cookie recipe!


My recent meze party inspired my series on ‘little bites’, Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bitesfor your upcoming year-end parties.


Links to recipes below.

First row:
Zaalouk – Moroccan Roasted Eggplants and Tomatoes;
Kabis – Lebanese Pickled Turnips and Beets;
Moroccan inspired Radish, Bell Peppers and Mint Salad;
Flash Fried Sweet Mini Bell Peppers.
Second row:
Greek inspired Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta;
Hummus with Spiced Angus Beef Slices;
Beef Kafta – Lebanese inspired Meatballs.
Third row:
Labneh – Lebanese Drained Yogurt Drizzled With Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Clover Honey;
Moroccan inspired Roasted Green Bell Peppers and Tomatoes With Olives;
Fresh Figs With Peppered Ricotta

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