Our Daily Bread

BreadIf the number of people posting 'Wanted' requests on Freecycle is anything to go by, there's a lot of interest in bread making at the moment. I'd like to think it's all about quality, but guess that it's more realistically linked to rising prices! Anyway, for those who don't find a kind benefactor on Freecycle, here's how I do it.

I use a Kenwood Chef mixer to make this bread but you could make it by hand (see below).

First, the ingredients:
1kg Strong Bread Flour
650ml Luke warm Water
15g Salt (approx 2½tsp)
3 tblspns Cooking Oil
14g Instant yeast (2 sachets)

The loaf pictured is made with a batch of this dough using 600gm of flour, 385 water, 1½tsp salt, 1½ oil and 7g yeast.

A word about the temperature of the water: It should feel neither hot nor cold to the touch. If you have a thermometer that's about 37°C (about 100°F). We want to end up with a dough at about 26°C (about 80°F).

Next, the dough:
Put the flour in the bowl, chuck the salt in and mix with a spoon, then the yeast and mix again. Add the oil and water and mix with the spoon until the ingredients are mixed roughly together. This is for no reason other than to stop the flour splattering everywhere when you put the bowl on to the Kenwood Mixer!

Mix with the Kenwood on a low setting using the dough hook for five minutes. I then give it a rest for a couple of minutes to let it cool down and then mix again for another 5 mins. Tip/scrape the dough onto a floured board and bring it together into a ball adding as little flour as possible. Into the now empty Kenwood bowl put about 1 teaspoon of oil, put the dough back in and rub it with the oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic bag and forget about it for an hour or so.

The dough

A word about the dough: This dough has a ratio of over 66% water to flour which is higher than the 63% used in many 'traditional' recipes. It makes a lighter textured bread which most people nowadays prefer. You could, of course make it by hand if you want but be warned, this mix is very sticky! If you do make it by hand persevere when you knead it and try not to add too much extra flour, just accept that your hands will be a sticky mess, and get on with it. Knead for a good 10 minutes until it is a nice 'silky' texture. Don't try and cheat at this stage or it won't be any good at all.

Rising the Dough: Recipes generally tell you to leave the dough in a warm place, an airing cupboard or something similar, until doubled in size. It may take an hour. It may take longer. Go by size, not time. Ideally the temperature should be about 26°C but I generally put it on one side in the kitchen. As long as it's above 4°C the yeast will be active; mind you, at that temperature you'd be starving by the time the bread rose and was baked!

So what is doubled in size? This picture shows my dough now it has risen.

The risen dough

Shaping and proving the dough
Now for my favourite bit; just shove your fist sharply into the middle of the dough. Yes, I mean it; just thump it in the middle. It'll all collapse making you wonder why you bothered leaving it to rise in the first place. It's necessary, so just enjoy it!

Tip the whole lot onto a floured surface and work it around for 30 seconds or so then shape it into a 'roll'. I flatten it out and 'sort of' fold the sides underneath. You could even roll it up to achieve this if you want.

I then sieve a bit of flour over the top. You could also brush it with water and put sesame seeds, poppy seeds or something similar on top.

Finally, for this stage, I make 3 or 4 ¼-½ inch slashes across the top. Use a large sharp knife or a razor blade and make positive cuts, otherwise the blade will 'drag' the dough and look messy - don't worry if it does, it doesn't affect the taste!

The dough before proving

We now leave the dough to rise again. When it's about half risen put your oven on 200°C to warm up. Many old recipes give a time for the dough to rise - say 20 minutes - what nonsense! Sometimes it's fairly quick, other times it may be an hour or so. What we want is for it to double in size. But what do we mean? Double in volume? Double from 3 inches (or so) wide to 6 inches? Well as far as I'm concerned the bigger the better, as long as it doesn't collapse! Certainly, the slashes we cut into the top of the dough should no longer be indented but should have opened right out like here:

The proven dough

Cooking the bread
For the next bit I use one of those atomiser sprays that you mist plants with - I've got a metal one that I also use for spraying sausage skins to keep them supple whilst filling them. With it I spray the inside of the hot oven a few times to create a steamy environment. Pop the bread in and spray again. Wait 1 minute and do it again and then once more after another minute. If you want you can do a similar thing by putting a roasting tin on to the bottom shelf of the oven as it warms up. When you put the bread in, tip about ¼ pint of water onto the tray - only do this the once - you want the steam just for the first 10 minutes or so of the cooking. After 20 minutes I turn the bread around - my oven cooks unevenly - and turn the oven to 180°C. I then cook it for another 20 minutes when I tap the bottom of the loaf - if it sounds hollow it's cooked, if not, cook it for a few more minutes and try again, different ovens may take longer/shorter times. A brown colour is good, black isn't! The cooked loaf is then put on a rack to cool.

The completed loaf

Purists will, no doubt scoff, at my methods and suggest using fresh yeast or a sourdough starter. Both are great but this is a method that I can do easily and fits the way we live. I keep meaning to make a sourdough starter but never seem to get around to it - last time I did it I must have got something wrong 'cos the bread was so sour we couldn't eat it!


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There are eight comments

sandcrab

Thankyou so much for sharing the above info.
So many tips and techniques in this article.
Am new to breadmaking and this has made me more determined to keep trying.

sandcrab, (Email ) - 16-11-’10 00:41
Phil

Glad to be of help.

Phil, (Email ) (URL) - 16-11-’10 16:01
benflodda

your bread is fab!!!! do you have recipe for brown bread?
thankyou.

benflodda, - 27-03-’12 20:20
Phil

Thanks Ben
The wholemeal version is here:

http://www.localfoodheroes.co.uk/?e=391

I hope you like it

Phil

Phil, - 28-03-’12 15:28
funksteruk2

Well trying this now, first mix is done, but I think I may not have mixed it enough…… I,ll come back and say :)

it turned out great, Ive failed many times with bread so Thank you Phil

funksteruk2, - 02-10-’13 17:13
Phil

Glad to have been of help.

Phil, (URL) - 02-10-’13 20:04
Joe

Hi Phil, tried your bread a couple of times. Good fun and it turned out pretty good. I’m curious why no sugar in this recipe. It certainly doesn’t seem necessary but I came across my mothers recipe from Newfoundland this week and it called for some sugar. Joe

Joe, - 03-11-’14 21:49
Phil

Hi Joe,

The main reason is because I don’t like the sweetness! However, there’s sufficient sugars in the flour to feed the yeast – let alone the additikves in the instant yeast!

I notice that breads from ‘across the pond’ seem to be sweeter than those the side.

Phil, - 04-11-’14 17:13

I'm somewhat incapacitated at present so replies may take some time. Please post urgent enquiries at the www.sausagemaking.org forum.

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