Dan Lepard’s bread recipes are wonderful. Period. If you’re into baking and want to learn how to make delicious bread then check out his books or his regular column in The Guardian. Making bread is something everyone should try. At least once. Its meaning, its flavour, its cultural significance and above all its smell. Nothing can beat the smell of baking bread wafting through the house and once you learn the fundamentals it becomes an endless riff on four simple ingredients; flour, salt, yeast and water. Like a jazz player you can create an almost endless variation on a loaf, pregnant with meaning, with history. A story.
I make bread all the time, I have sourdough starters sleeping in my fridge, feeding in the airing cupboard, I tinker and experiment, am obsessed with oven spring, crumb and crust. Bread has become more than something to eat, it has been elevated to a metaphorical object, a symbol of liberation, of individuality, a political stand against the machine made sliced pan of global banality. So in that frame of mind I give you this carrot and sesame bread. It has a deep rich flavour, a soft crumb and a heartiness that makes you want more.
The reason we’re using oranges in this bread is the presence of Vitamin C in the juice. Vitamin C contains ascorbic acid which will strengthen the gluten (actually, reduce the weakening of the gluten) in the dough and help your loaf to hold the gas better, giving a taller, lighter loaf. Basically orange juice is a natural replacement for ascorbic acid, an additive present in all factory made breads.
One other thing. There is no need to over knead. The function of kneading is to help the gluten develop into strands that will eventually create a network strong enough to trap all the gas which you need in your dough for the bread to rise. And for gluten to develop you need to bring water and flour together. It’s this dance, between elasticity and strength of the gluten that will determine the quality of your bread. In short be present when kneading, be mindful when stretching and folding. Here’s what Dan Lepard has to say about it:
When dough is mixed relatively slowly by hand on a worktop, even by the most accomplished bakers, the changes that occur will be mostly due to the length of time since the water was first added, and the characteristics of and interactions between the ingredients. So you can knead the dough fast, slow, or even not at all, and end up with similar results.
He favours dough kneaded “briefly and intermittently” after a 10 minute pause to allow the flour to absorb the water: three 10 second kneads at 10 minute intervals, followed by 15 minutes rest. I knead using a stretch and fold technique. Check out this video. It’s easy to do.
150ml warm water
100ml orange juice, at room temperature
7g sachet fast-action yeast
25ml olive oil, plus more for kneading
450g strong white flour
50g wholemeal or spelt flour
2 tsp salt
50g black or white sesame seeds, plus extra to finish
Peel and grate your carrots and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the warm water and orange juice.
Stir in the yeast, leave 5 minutes till dissolved, then add the oil, flours, salt and seeds and mix well to a firm-ish dough. You can add slightly more flour or water according to your preference, but use the amounts here as a starting point. Leave the dough covered for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil your worktop. Gently knead the dough for 10 seconds or so, then return to the bowl and leave covered for about an hour, or until risen by half. I do my stretch and fld in the bowl but feel free to do whats best for you.
Take a large loaf tin and line the base and sides with nonstick baking paper. Wipe the worktop clean of oil, dust with a little flour, then pat the dough into an oblong. Roll the dough tightly like a scroll, squeeze the ends together as you pick it up and lower it, seam-side down, into the tin. Cover and leave for about an hour.
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas mark 6. With a pastry brush, lightly wet the top of the dough, then sprinkle it thickly with sesame seeds. Cut a deep slash down the middle and bake for about 50 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
It’s one of the best sandwich breads I’ve ever eaten.