As you can probably imagine, once I saw a recipe called ‘monastery bread’ it was only ever going to be a matter of time before I made it.
The River Cottage bread book is my favourite dough-related cookbook. It’s compact and simple yet has a great combination of techniques, tips and ideas.
Monastery bread is a heavy brown loaf beefed up in texture by handfuls of rolled oats and in taste by adding a piece of old dough to the mix. Sadly I forgot the latter, and since I made the bread while on holiday I didn’t have pure rolled oats for the former. Instead I used handfuls of a ready mixed porridge and seed combo, so that my bread had a bit more diversity in the “pips” department than the River Cottage puritans suggested. I also spiced it up by using the fat left from boiling a big ham and making meatloaf a couple of days earlier.
The dough for this was an unforgiving knead. Oats and brown flour are a lot less malleable than white flour, and although I’d added fat, there was never much elasticity in the mix. However it proved well, into a smooth oval shape, and baked evenly too.
They say (and they’re right) that hot bread doesn’t slice well, but I can never resist. With a warm loaf, some home-baked ham, poacher’s pickle, Westcombe cheddar and a nice glass of red, it was a very nice evening in front of the fire. Not very monastic though!
Ingredients (my version)
- 500 g strong wholemeal flour
- 7 g dried yeast
- 300 ml warm water
- 3 handfuls rolled oats and random pips (sesame, flax, sunflower & goodness knows what else)
- 1 tbspn honey
- 1 tbspn melted retained fat from home-made meatloaf and ham
- 5 g crushed sea salt
- 1 handful rye flour
Method: Mix dry goods together (except rye flour). Dissolve the honey into the water. Add the melted fat to the dry mix. Add water until a good kneading consistency is obtained. Knead. Prove x2. Shape for baking, coat in rye flour and prove again. Bake in a hot, moist oven at 250 degrees for the first 10 mins and then reduce the heat to around 200 degrees for a further 20-25 mins. Makes one large loaf.