Saturday, June 5, 2010

Baking Low Sodium Bread - Favorite Bread Recipes - Part 6

I’m almost done with this epic tome on low sodium bread making. In this post, I’ll share some of my favorite bread recipes. They’re all low sodium because I make them that way. I’ve mentioned before several times that I prefer to use regular bread recipes and reduce the salt content myself rather than follow recipes found in low sodium cookbooks or websites. There are a couple of reasons why I prefer doing this: one reason is that I like the variety of flavors and techniques offered by recipes from bread cookbooks, websites (such as King Arthur Flour), and other sources that focus on yeast breads. They’ve got the bread expertise because that’s what they concentrate on. I think their information is sound. Another reason is that I simply don’t trust some of the lower sodium bread recipes I’ve seen. The yeast quantity seems too high for salt free breads, and often times, the role of salt in yeast breads is completely misrepresented.

In this post I will reference several favorite recipes. I will post them as written (or link to them) and indicate my adjustments in parentheses or notes. I’ve made all these recipes at least twice and some several times. I think they’re fine, but you may not be as impressed as I am.

Rustic, Artisan, or Hearth Breads:

Let me be perfectly honest here. These are the hardest breads to successfully make with lowered salt content. The reason is simple: These breads are way too plain – just flour, salt, yeast, and water. That’s it. No flavor components other than salt, and as a result, these breads are usually made with more salt than other breads. So when you take away all or even just part of the salt, you end up with bread that is flat and tasteless.

That’s why I heartily recommend using recipes that utilize an overnight starter – a polish, biga, sponge, pre-ferment – whatever you want to call it. That overnight fermentation period adds a lot of flavor to what could otherwise be pretty bland bread.

Making these breads can be a daunting affair. Getting that crispy, crackly, blistered crust with some interior holes takes time, patience and some skill. But it’s not as complicated as it sounds. You just mix up the pre-ferment, let it sit overnight, and then add it to the rest of the dough ingredients the next day. If you can let the dough have a long, slow, cool rise another night too, then the flavor is even better. Not really a lot of work involved. However, you’ll be working with a fairly wet dough and that might involve a bit of a learning curve.

I do not make completely salt-free artisan bread; I only reduce the salt content by half. Otherwise, I think the flavor suffers too much. I know traditional Tuscan Bread is made without salt. But that’s because it’s meant to be eaten with salty foods like salami, cheese, etc. That’s great if you’re not on a low sodium diet. But offsetting the bland taste of salt free bread by piling on a bunch of salty cheeses and meats is not acceptable on a low sodium regimen.

Artisan breads, however, really lend themselves to flavor embellishments. That’s something the home baker can easily do to perk up flavor. Take your inspiration from the artisan breads you find at your local grocery store or bakery – roasted garlic cloves, rosemary, crushed black pepper, green onions or chives, sun dried tomatoes, chopped jalapenos, etc. And all kinds of seeds and nuts. Any of these and other flavor additions will spice up a dull loaf. I prefer to sprinkle on chunky additions during the folding phase of shaping these kinds of breads, rather than throw them in during the kneading cycle of my bread machine. That way I end up with lovely ribbons of flavorful “stuff” rippling throughout the finished loaf.

You can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to boost the flavor of these simple loaves. The vinegar adds a tang that helps make up for the missing salt. You could also use ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon of citric acid  to also add some tang. This is the ingredient many commercial sourdough bakers use to boost the sour flavor in their product. Here it is used in a King Arthur Flour sourdough bread recipe.

This recipe from Alton Brown produces a basic artisan-type bread. The recipe discusses techniques that are worthwhile mastering: making a pre-ferment, using the autolyse method, applying the folding technique often used in shaping artisan breads, shaping a dough round, and producing steam in the home oven.

I’ve made this several times, reducing the salt quantity by half. I let either the food processor or bread machine do the kneading. The 20 minute rest (autolyse) after combining the pre-ferment with the other dough ingredients is not always easily accomplished with a bread machine. It’s no problem with my Zojirushi because I can simply turn the machine off after just a few minutes of the slow initial kneading cycle and then start it again, canceling the pre-heat cycle. Other machines may not accommodate skipping cycles as easily.

I try not to use too much flour, preferring a rather slack dough. I do not let the dough rise in the machine. I take it out after the kneading has finished, place it in a dough bucket, and let it rise slowly in a cool place. Sometimes I just stick the dough bucket in the fridge and don’t get around to making the bread until a day or two later. The long, slow rise improves flavor. To insure that I don’t add too much flour, I shape the dough on a Silpat and rub my hands with oil. After shaping, I place it on a parchment paper topped wooden pizza peel. I preheat my oven with its baking stone for at least 30 minutes before sliding the bread with the parchment onto the heated stone. I have never used the cornstarch wash Alton describes. I also don’t use the shallow pan with hot water. I slash the shaped dough and spritz with water before placing in a 425 degree oven. Then I quickly open the oven every 3 minutes to spray again; I stop the spritzing after about eight minutes. Then I turn the heat down to Alton’s 400 degrees and continue baking. About halfway through the baking, I open the oven to remove the parchment paper and let the bread finish baking directly on the stone.

Using a Silpat, parchment paper, and spritzing are techniques I’ve developed from studying various recipes, personal experience, and reading about bread making on GardenWeb's Cooking Forum, King Arthur, and other websites. They’re techniques that I’m comfortable with now. Other fabulous bread bakers use different but equally helpful methods. My suggestion is to investigate the “French and Italian” bread recipe section of King Arthur Flour. Read the recipes, study the pictures, follow the links to their “Bakers’ Banter,” and get a feel for making these kinds of breads. Another helpful source is The Fresh Loaf. It’s got lots of recipes techniques and discussion about making artisan breads. You’re sure to pick up some helpful hints.

Another good basic recipe I’ve used several times is this  French-Style Country Bread from King Arthur Flour. It’s another hearth style bread made with a sponge starter. It uses a similar resting technique as outlined above in Alton Brown’s recipe. This autolyse rest period really does help the bread and is easy to accomplish with a food processor, stand mixer, and some bread machines. This recipe sprays the loaves with water before baking to achieve the steam so necessary for artisan loaves.

If you’re interested in a quick artisan-like bread, this  Easy Sourdough French Bread from is not too bad. It approximates the flavor of sourdough bread by using sour cream or yogurt and some vinegar. Because of the dairy addition, it will be much more tender than real artisan bread, but it will have a good flavor. And it doesn’t need any overnight fermenting. I’ve made it a couple of times starting out with just 4 – 4 ¼ cups of flour. Since non-fat yogurt is more sour tasting than sour cream, that’s what I’ve used. I’ve never included the oat bran, ginger, or the glaze. And I bake it directly on a stone rather than in a pan. Sometimes I slash and sometimes I don’t.

Whole Grain Breads:

For all of these breads, I let my bread machine do most of the work – combine the ingredients, knead, and let the dough rise. Most of the time I prefer to shape and bake the loaves in my oven. I try not to let the shaped dough overproof. I aim for getting it into the oven just before it has doubled. Just a reminder, I always halve the amounts of yeast and salt. And I always add at least a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten and granular lecithin.

I’m a sucker for cracked wheat breads, and I’m happy to say I found a real winner at Taste of Home. It uses buttermilk, honey, and whole wheat flour too. I usually oven bake it in a 9” x 5” pan.

I’m also a sucker for oatmeal breads. I’ve made this Old Fashioned Oatmeal Bread from King Arthur Flour. It turns out soft and fluffy with a delicately sweet flavor. Another favorite oatmeal bread recipe is from Annie of GardenWeb's Cooking Forum. Coffee is used as the liquid but there’s no overpowering taste. It’s a nice sweet loaf, perfect for breakfast toast. Just a reminder, as always, I halve the yeast and salt amounts, and I do the kneading in my bread machine.

(Printable Recipe)
Annie1992 from GardenWeb's Cooking Forum

3 – 3 ¼ cups bread flour
1 package dry yeast - 2 ¼ tsp (I use 1 1/8 tsp)
¾ cup prepared coffee
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats (I use old fashioned rolled oats)
½ (scant) cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp salt (I use 1/2 tsp)
1 egg

Combine a cup of flour and the yeast. Heat coffee, oats, syrup, butter and salt until just warm and butter is almost melted. Add to flour mixture along with egg. Beat with electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes kneading). Shape dough into a ball, place in lightly greased bowl, and turn over once to grease surface of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about an hour.

Punch down dough, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile lightly grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Shape dough into a loaf and place into prepared pan, cover and let rise in a warm place until NEARLY double in size (30 to 45 minutes). Bake at 350 F about 30 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf (14 slices)

I have more than one “favorite” whole wheat bread recipe. I use them interchangeably, depending on my mood. They all make lovely, soft and tender loaves. This 100% Whole Wheat Bread from King Arthur is great. It uses orange juice plus milk for liquid. The addition of potato flakes and dried milk makes for a very tender crumb. Below is another similar recipe from one of the Cooking Forum members. It uses honey rather than sugar for sweetening.

(Printable Recipe)
Momj47 from GardenWeb's Cooking Forum

3-1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour (I use bread flour)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use KA White WW)
2 pkg. active dry yeast - 4½ tsp (I halve the yeast)
2 T vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 tsp salt (I use 3/4 tsp)
1 cup milk
1/3 cup orange juice
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
1 egg

In large bowl, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, yeast, vital wheat gluten and salt and mix well.

In saucepan, heat milk, orange juice, water, honey, and butter until warm. Add to flour mixture with egg and stir. Beat this batter for 3 minutes. Then, gradually stir in rest of whole wheat flour and enough remaining all-purpose (bread) flour for a firm dough. (I prefer a softer dough)

Knead dough, adding more flour if necessary, for 5-8 minutes until smooth. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour, until doubled.

Punch down dough and divide in half. On lightly floured surface, press each piece of dough to a 14x7" rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly. Pinch edges to seal and place dough, seam-side down, into two greased 9x5" bread pans, making sure short ends of bread are snugly fitted against the sides of the pans. Cover and let rise in warm place until the dough fills the corners of the pans and is double in bulk, 30-40 minutes.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, until bread is golden brown. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes two loaves.

The next whole wheat bread recipe is a contribution from another member of the Cooking Forum. It uses a sponge. I just tried it for the first time last week and was really pleased with the texture and taste. I think it would make good hamburger buns or dinner rolls too. It’s less sweet than most whole wheat bread recipes, which I like. Again, I halved both the salt and yeast quantities.

(Printable Recipe)
Grainlady from GardenWeb's Cooking Forum

¾ c. lukewarm buttermilk (I used dried)
¾ c. lukewarm water
2½ c. whole wheat
¼ t. ascorbic acid
2 t. SAF-Instant Yeast (I used 1 tsp. rapid rise/bread machine yeast)

Mix these ingredients in the bread machine pan and set the machine to QUICK DOUGH. As soon as the mixture is well mixed, stop and unplug the machine and allow to sit (with the lid closed) at least 2½ hours on the counter or up to 12 hours in the fridge (I did 12 hours in the refrigerator).

After the sponge has set, mix these ingredients into the sponge:

2 T. melted coconut oil, butter, or vegetable oil
2 T. agave nectar (or honey)
1 egg

Add to the top of the sponge mixture in the pan:

2¼ c. whole wheat flour
(I added 2 tbsp. vital wheat gluten)
2 t. salt (I used 1 tsp)

Set the bread machine on regular DOUGH cycle and process. Check the dough to make sure it's formed into a nice soft ball and adjust the hydration as needed.

Grainlady’s notes: “I process the dough in the bread machine until the dough is mixed and kneaded. I don't let it rise in the machine. I place the dough in a dough rising bucket, place the lid on the top and allow the dough to ALMOST rise to double. Whole wheat dough does NOT have the extensibility that white bread dough does, so try not to let it go more than double.

“After the bread machine finishes the dough cycle (or has doubled in the dough rising bucket), dump the dough onto a Silpat and with oiled/greased hands deflate the dough by pushing it in the middle with your fist then drawing all edges of the outside dough into the middle (turning the dough inside-out, so to speak). Divide the dough into portions (I scale the dough for accuracy.) Round each portion (make it into a smooth ball) so that all the gluten strands are going into the same direction. Cover and allow to rest 10-15 minutes so the gluten relaxes. Form dough (oil your hands when you handle the dough), pan, cover with plastic wrap for the final proofing.

“I make this bread into 3 small loaves (7-1/2 x 3-1/2-inch pans - 350°F for 20-25 minutes), OR one 1# Pullman Loaf and use the other 1# of dough for 6 pecan rolls OR an 8-inch pan of dinner rolls; sometimes I use a portion of the recipe for hamburger or hot dog buns. If making two regular loaves (8½ x 4½), bake in a 375°F oven for 25-minutes. A very versatile dough.”

I made two 8½ x 4½ inch pans, letting the dough rise about 45 minutes until just at the top of the bread pans. I baked them per Grainlady’s instructions at 375 degrees, checked them at 25 minutes, and kept baking until they reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees.

Next Post: Baking Low Sodium Bread - Favorite Buns and Rolls - Part 7

Baking Low Sodium Bread Series:

Part 1 – Introduction  

Part 2 – Beginning Basics

Part 3 – Getting Started

Part 4 – Keeping It Fresh

Part 5 – Without a Bread Machine

Part 6 – Favorite Bread Recipes

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! My husband had a heart attack in April. He's been restricted to a low-sodium diet, and it is quite hard finding substitute recipes for his favorite foods. I look forward to using lots of information and recipes from your site!