[Isla Contadora, Islas Las Perlas, Panamá; 08°37.51N / 079°01.76W]
This simple recipe has evolved from much trial and error over the years of cruising and yields a hearty soft bread with a pleasing crust. A pre-ferment step would likely improve its quality further if you have the time and inclination to experiment. Serve fresh with olive oil/balsamic vinegar or fine butter. It makes excellent sandwiches and soul-satisfying peanut butter toast.
1.5 - 2 cups fresh water at room temp
1 Tbsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. dried bread yeast (okay if cold, 2 tsp if the yeast is "old")
≤ 1/2 tsp. honey
2 heaping Tbs. whole wheat flour
2 Tbs. rye flour
~ 1 ¼ lb all purpose flour
1 Tbs. light vegetable oil or equivalent in margarine
~ 1 Tb. coarse ground corn (e.g. polenta)
Method (revised Oct. 2012)
Add fresh water to a large covered bowl; sprinkle in salt and yeast. Squirt in a dollop of honey. With a fork, beat as if beating an egg, aerating mixture, ~ 1 minute. Ensure honey is dissolved.. Add whole wheat and rye flours and beat again with fork until foamy, there are no lumps and flours are wetted, ~ 1 minute.
Begin by adding ~ 1 cup all purpose flour, beating again with fork until this is dissolved. Continue adding flour in small batches like this, stirring vigorously with a fork until the mixture is just thicker than pancake batter and has no lumps. You are almost done. Add flour in smaller increments and stir in until the dough just begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, "round up" and look dull (not shiny). With a rubber spatula, scrape any dough or flour from the sides of the bowl and tuck under ball of dough.
Cover and let rise, 2 or more hours until the dome of dough is just beginning to flatten. If the dough is completely shiny and flat you've let it rise too long.
Prepare a 9 x 5” bread pan by spreading a thin layer of margarine or light vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower) to the surface. Add coarse ground corn (polenta) and pat and turn the pan until the bottom and a portion of the pan walls are coated with a thin layer of corn.
Pour a large quantity (2 cups or more) of flour onto a pastry cloth or board. With a rubber spatula slooowwwwly move the dough—in a single piece—onto the floured surface, gently scraping along the edges of the dough as you pour to keep it from ripping. Take a good handful of flour and liberally cover the dough surface. Gently lift the left side of the dough and fold the dough in half, completely covering the flour; apply another liberal coating of fresh flour. (A pastry cloth works well for this because you can just take hold of the cloth and use this to fold dough.)
Next take the top of the folded dough and fold again in half, this time towards you and then knead once or twice only with good force with the base of your thumbs and palms. Turn dough 90 ̊, sprinkle once again with flour and knead once only. Repeat the 90 ̊turn, sprinkle, fold and single knead two or three more times but JUST UNTIL the dough begins to feel rounded and springy and begins to resist your pushing on it. Roll any seams under and lift the dough with two hands and gently place in the bread pan to proof (the second rising), seam side down.
Let rise (proof) until the dough is rounded and just begins to NOT spring back completely when touched very lightly with your finger. Proofing time will vary depending on the ambient temperature. When you think bread is approaching readiness, heat oven to 400 ̊F. Bake bread at 400 ̊ for 30 minutes. Turn bread pan 180 degrees (this is not necessary if the heat in your oven is uniform) and lower temperature to 350 ̊F. Continue baking for one half hour more (60minutes total). Open the oven and look at the color of the crust. If bread isn't a golden brown, close the oven and continue to bake for 5-10 minutes more. Alternatively, you can turn off oven at one hour and WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR, allow bread to remain in oven for 10-15 more minutes.
Run a clean, dry butter knife along the bread's edge and then immediately tilt pan to remove bread onto a rack or plate that will allow for air circulation under the bottom of bread during cooling. Wrap immediately in a clean dry tea towel (while hot) and allow bread to cool.
Note: Recipe yields one very substantial loaf. If making a second loaf, use a separate large covered bowl and make breads in parallel.