The Rubberloaf Bake

One of the hazards of breadmaking is that sometimes you make a really crap loaf of bread. Experimentation inevitably results in a certain level of failure, and I recently made an impressive bread blooper.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Dwarven Loaf of Mordor. It may look innoccent enough in the photo above, but do not be fooled. This is the kind of bread that would remain undented if you paved a motorway with it.

I could throw this bread at something – anything – and break that something. I became aware of this fact when I started to actually sweat (it’s not that hot in my flat) whilst trying to wrest a slice from it using my guaranteed World’s Sharpest Knife. I have supplied an audio clip detailing this unfortunate battle of wills between myself and the loaf as I think it captures – much more succinctly than my words can – the extreme textural insufficiency of this particular baked item.

However, in spite of its rubbery, leaden and totally unsatisfying texture, this bread actually has a marvellous flavour. I am attributing the failure of the texture to the incredibly small quantity of wheat flour that went into the bread. It is the gluten in wheat that gives bread its beautiful, holey architecture, which holds in place those bubbles formed in the dough by yeast, and which stretches out into the lovely, airy mass that is a well-risen loaf of bread. It therefore follows that gluten-free flours will produce a less structured mass with smaller bubbles and less airiness, since there isn’t gluten to maintain the shape of the yeast bubbles in the final, baked goodness.

This loaf was made with 100g plain flour, 200g Teff flour and 200g polenta flour. The bread I made reflects the incredible flavour of Teff – malty, rich, and earthy – and the hearty solidity of polenta. So I didn’t want to throw away the tasty loaf, but I did want to find a more agreeable way of eating it, or at least a way of eating it that wouldn’t totally endanger my teeth. Plus, poverty inspired the loaf in the first place since I had no money for bread flour, but I did have a pantry full of odd grains in jars and so – in the spirit of thrift and economising that inspired the bread in the first place – I wanted to do it full justice by eating it. Of course I also wanted to do full justice to my culinary pride by preparing it in a way which would showcase its unusual flavours.

I went for a breadbake.

Carving up the bread into chunks, I put it in my large casserole dish with a chopped onion and 7 or 8 tomatoes I got from the market. I sprinkled all this generously with caraway seeds and thyme and chucked it in the oven (no oil) until the tomatoes were slightly charring on top (still getting the hang of the electric oven.) Meanwhile, I boiled up some green lentils in water with no salt (toughens the pulses to put salt in the water, I find) and cooked them until soft. Once the onions were clear and the air in my house filled with the smell of deep toast, I poured the lentil mix over the rest of everything and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes, so that the bread could absorb some moisture. I sprinkled the whole lot (generously) with chunky seasalt, and served it to myself, very hot, very tasty, very delicious.

I can recommend this highly as a solution for using up leaden rubberloaf. The malty earthiness of the loaf really works with the caraway and the tomatoes, the sauce of tomato and onion juices softens the bread so that it becomes melty and toasty at the same time, soft on the bottom and crispy on top… the burnished flavours in the bread are enhanced by the charred edges of the tomatoes and the lentils balance out all the richness with their soothing lentilness.

So if you ever make really crap bread, bookmark this page so that you won’t have to throw it away!

One Response to The Rubberloaf Bake

  1. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » Brain food

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