Nettle Season Once More – Nettle Bread revisited!

Not far away from here is the Nettlebed Folk Club and I can’t help but think about this every time I consider making bread from the new season’s nettles. The folk club is renowned for a long history of showcasing the best folk music in the UK. Unlike its near namesake, nettle bread is far from famous and after Googling for a recipe I found I had to resort to my blog post of a few years ago. First here, and again here! Just search for ‘mpaulm nettles’.

Nettlebread Loaf

 What’s changed since last time? Well, the shape is different. Last time I baked the bread in a loaf tin, this time with a stronger gluten development and the support of activated yeast a round loaf was in order. I use sourdough starter nearly all the time, and I am happy to add active yeast to help a tricky loaf. Last time the nettles were steamed but using a microwave is a more conservative approach, and probably saves more of the flavours and nutrients for the bread.

The levain is a standard start to a light sourdough loaf. The ingredients are mixed together and left for 12 hours at around 22 deg C. Because I’ll be using yeast too, the timing is not so critical; today it was left for more than 18 hours.

strong white flour 145g
rye flour 10g
water 90g
sourdough starter 30g

[The sourdough approach is optional. A fine loaf can be made by adding the flour and water used in the levain to the main recipe and perhaps increasing the amount of yeast by 50%]

For the nettles – handle them with gloves to avoid getting stung. Use tops and leaves, take out the fibrous stems, and rinse in cold water. A couple of minutes in the microwave renders them stingless, then they can be chopped small. They disperse well if mixed with the water in the recipe before combining with flour. 

The main concern when you add vegetative ingredients to bread is to determine the water content.

The dough with nettles ready for a first rise
Two hours later the dough holds it shape well during bench rest

Without the leaves I would include around 550g of water in the recipe below, expecting a moderately stiff dough. The result today was rather wet and sloppy but a long-ish kneeding cycle and folding one time before bench rest and 1 hour in bannetons resulted in a couple of nice loaves.

Nettle Bread
Levain 275g
activated dry yeast 5g
water 440g
strong white flour 805g
rye flour 40g
salt 18g
nettle leaves and tops, microwaved and chopped 300g

I used my normal baking method but added about 10 minutes to take account of the extra water content from the leaves. The yeast supported a nice rise in the oven resulting in an even and moist crumb with a nice green colour.

A fine moist green crumb

What better way to taste the new bread than for tea, with butter and scrambled egg?

Great with scrambled egg!

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