I made this bread yesterday, after seeing a recipe on Facebook for the rather boastfully named Life-changing Loaf of Bread. If it hadn't looked just like my old favourite North's bread, and caused a flood of happy toast memories (and saliva), I would have scrolled on by. But I ended up baking bread instead.
This is no ordinary bread. There's no kneading or proofing and rising. It's actually more like making breakfast cereal than bread. It just happens to be gluten free, dairy free, and sugar-free and it's full of healthy healthy ingredients like coconut oil, nuts, seeds, loads of fibre -- not that you'd know. In spite of these healthy credentials, it's moreish. But best of all, it makes incredible toast.
Memories of toast are perhaps my most abundant food memories. Some of them are happy, and some are not so flash. In the happy toast file, I count after-school white bread toast dripping with butter and golden syrup, eaten doubled up because the the bread was so thin; slender toast soldiers, thick with butter and dunked in the yolk of a soft boiled egg; the toast nana used to make on the end of a fork over the coal fire, vaguely smokey, slathered with butter and tart blackcurrant jam, so much crunchier than anything that came out of the electric toaster at home.
In the unhappy toast file, there's the toast that got burned black, then scraped angrily with a knife to "unburn" it, charcoal staining the butter and just plain nasty; thick white "toast bread" that never did anything in the toaster but get hot and gloopy, and ripped apart when you tried to butter it; and the worst ever, cold vegemite toast "sandwiches", wrapped in Gladwrap, flaccid and embarrassing in the lunchbox at school.
Toast experiences, like all food experiences in my childhood, were random and uncontrollable. We ate what we were given, and that was that. Sometimes it was delicious, and sometimes it was disgusting. I suppose we just dealt with it.
But when I left home at the ripe old age of 21, the thing I most wanted to sort out in my life was the food. I immediately taught myself to cook food that was totally different to my white bread, meat and potato, stewed fruit and instant pudding upbringing. I discovered vegetarian food, Italian food, Middle Eastern food. And I discovered North's bread, a dense, dark, nutty, seedy, grainy, heavy loaf that even came in an unsliced version! It made terrible sandwiches (too dense and heavy) but incredible toast -- crunchy and chewy, indestructible, even when spread with cold butter. And it had a sour exotic smell that set it apart from any bread I'd ever eaten. It was the kind of bread my family would have hated. It was exactly the culinary statement I wanted to make.
North's bread looked a bit like this.
My New Roots was the inspiration, and looks every bit as good, but here's my version.
North of 50 Toast Bread
In a large bowl, mix up:
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup whole flax seeds
- 1/2 cup almonds. I used skinned, slithered almonds, because I had them in the cupboard. I think any kind will do, but I'd chop them up a wee bit.
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 4 tablespoons psyllium husks
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tsp salt
In another bowl, mix together:
- 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of whey (or not, read on)
And don't sweat about using whey. It is my current kitchen fad, so I'm looking for any opportunity to use it. The original recipe just uses 1 1/2 cups water, no whey. I've been reading about the health benefits of soaking grains in whey before cooking with them, so I wanted to try it out with this bread. I have nothing to compare with, but I was very pleased with the slighly sourdough flavour of my loaf, and I'm pretty sure it came by way of the whey. In case you are interested, there are how to make whey instructions at the bottom of this page.
Cover with a cloth or Gladwrap, and let it sit at room temperature overnight or for a few hours so the liquid can get firmly gummed up with all that fibre. A silicon baking dish is ideal, because you can easily see when the loaf is stiff and able to hold its own shape... but I think you could also tell by giving it a good poke, so don't be put off if you've only got regular baking tins.
(What are those dark things in the photo above? Raisins and cranberries. I'm trying a fruit flavoured batch. Not sure how it's going to work but I'll let you know. I had a dodgy memory card in my camera, and lost a load of photos for the original batch of bread, so this is a substitute shot.)
- Set your oven to 175 C.
- Bake the loaf in its baking tin for 20 minutes, on the middle rack.
- When the 20 minutes is up, tip the loaf out of the baking dish, sit it naked on the oven rack, and bake for another 30 or 40 minutes. Now you know why the mixture needs time to stiffen up before you bake it...
- Like all bread, it's ready when it sounds hollow when you knock on it. Just give it a rap and listen. If it doesn't sound hollow, give it another 10 mins and try again.
A North of 50 experiment
We used to buy and devour Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps when we lived in Vancouver. We always look forward to eating them when we're back in Canada. But alas, they don't make it to New Zealand shops. My North of 50 loaf reminded me of those crisps. Which got me thinking...
Looks and texture wise, they are very close. Flavour wise, they're not there yet.
But the real reason for this experiment was to show off my new nifty manual meat slicer, a gift from my good friend and op shopping champion Jo. Isn't it a gem? And boy, does it cut thin toast.
And finally, if you're interested in using whey in this recipe, here's how to make it, and get a lovely batch of cream cheese at the same time.
- Get a fine sieve, and drape a clean piece of cheesecloth or cotton over it.
- Pour boiling water over the sieve and cloth -- I don't know if that's necessary, but I feel good doing it, so I do it.
- Set the sieve and cloth over a large bowl or jug.
- Pour a tub or bottle of natural full fat yogurt or buttermilk into the sieve.
- Watch the whey drip into the bowl.
- After a few hours, or overnight (you can stop watching whenever you like), there will be a lovely ball of cream cheese in the sieve, and whey in the bowl.
- Use the whey for making this bread, and you know what to do with the cream cheese...
If you've got a toast memory, I'd love to read it. Comment away about toast.