This post is kind of an ode to the sandwich. I’m sure all of you who have travelled will have encountered food items that you can’t get in your home country. For me this food item is not an exotic one nor an elaborate dish. It’s a sandwich.
Here in Germany a sandwich will differ greatly from the ones in the UK or the US. If we eat a cold supper we’re likely to have open sandwiches. Bread, butter, slice of cheese, cold cuts, maybe served with something pickled. Of course we’ll also put a slice on top sometimes, but it’s not what Brits or Americans would call a sandwich, I guess.
The main difference is that we don’t have the type of bread used in other countries, and although we do have hundreds of different breads I haven’t yet found one that would be suitable for a proper sandwich, apart from white toast. Even that tastes different if untoasted, the consistency just isn’t right.
I’ve been having sandwich cravings all last week, and so decided to buy rustic bread and dry-fry it in a pan on the stove. I got to really like this version, it’s my new favourite alternative to sandwich bread. Load it with Black Forest ham, pear slices, French cheese and avocado, and I’ll forget everything else for a moment or two.
We do have two sandwich shops in the city center, they do English style sandwiches that I think can be compared to the ones at Pret A Manger, the British sandwich chain; if you’ve been to Pret, though, they can’t really compare.
So why am I rambling on about this? Because I’ll be travelling to the UK soon, and I’m already looking forward to the sandwiches there. Pret A Manger and Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall are my favourite places to buy lunch, but if you know of any other places I should try, let me know! I’ll be in London for a few days, and hopefully Brighton and Reading.
Until then, though, I decided I would make my own sandwiches at home, and with the lack of what I consider appropriate sandwich bread in our bakeries, I decided to make the soft spelt bread I learned to make at the UK puddings & pastries course I attended a couple of years ago. It was not what I had expected at all, because when you make or buy spelt bread here, it’s not the soft sandwich variety, it turns out firm and moist inside, with a harder crust.
Have I mentioned before that here in Germany we use mostly fresh yeast for bread making? I was surprised a the course to learn that fresh yeast is not sold in little 42 g cubes at the supermarket as it is here. Also, in this recipe we used 15 g of yeast for 400 g of flour, whereas I’m used to bake with a 42 g cube for 500 g of flour. Could this be the reason why our bread is denser instead of this fluffy sandwich loaf? So when we made this bread in the course, I naturally expected the result to feel the same as my usual spelt bread. I was really astonished to find it very soft and chewy inside.
I was also astonished to find my homemade version of this spelt bread did not turn out that well at all. For one thing, in the course we baked a round loaf on a baking sheet whereas I used a loaf tin. Despite the instructions in the recipe to oil and flour the tin it stuck to the tin after baking and was extremely difficult to get out. I would only oil the tin without using flour in future.
The other thing is that it turned out crumbly and dry-ish inside instead of fluffy. I couldn’t even cut it without ending up with a handful of crumbs so I tried cutting the halved loaf sideways and that worked better. My guess is this is dependent on the type of flour used. Mine was organic wholegrain spelt flour, but over here we have at least 3 different types of spelt flour, and I know there are even more types of rye and white flour.
It’s not that it doesn’t taste good, though! On the contrary I can tell you with an easy conscience to go make this bread. Baking is a science, after all, and I think we all know that if an ingredient varies in the slightest from the one a recipe uses things can go wrong. This worked fine with our UK ingredients and the consistency was perfect. After toasting my version in a pan it actually tasted really good!
400 g spelt flour
1½ tsp salt
1 tbsp clear honey
pinch of sugar
15 g fresh yeast
2 tbsp oil (olive, rapeseed, corn, or sunflower)
300 – 350 ml warm water
Place spelt flour in bowl. Crush the salt grains in your hand with your fingers, then add to the flour.
Dissolve the yeast with a pinch of sugar and the honey in the warm water. Stir after a couple of minutes to make sure the yeast has completely dissolved.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the olive oil. Next add all but a few tablespoons of the yeast-water-mixture.
Bring flour into the centre to form a soft slightly sticky dough. If large flakes of dough are formed and some dry floury patches are present, add the remaining warm water.
Knead well for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elasticated.
Form the dough into a round loaf shape and place onto a baking sheet, or place the dough into a greased and floured loaf tin. Leave to prove in a warm area until double in size. [In the course the oven was set to 32°C and the loaf left to prove in there. My oven temp starts at 50°C, so I left the loaf in the oven at that temperature, then after 10 minutes switched it off and left the loaf in the oven to rise for about 30-40 minutes.]
Brush to with egg wash [I didn’t, so this might be a reason for top flaking off…]
Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. [As I had proved the loaf in the warm oven, I did not preheat it further. In the course we upped the oven temperature to 230°C but that really depends on your oven. 200°C on fan setting was enough for my loaf.]