Saturday, 6 October 2012

A loaf for Heather (or bread basics 101)



There is nothing like a good white loaf, thickly sliced with butter oozing all over it! And there is nothing better than the smell of a loaf cooking in your own oven. This post will show you how to do just that. You don't need to spend a lot of money and the end result is incredibly rewarding.

This post is dedicated to Heather. If you don't know who Heather is then your world is too small! Heather is an amazing designer who worked with us to create our visual identity, set up the design of our blog and our newsletters. Please check out her incredible work by visiting her blog

Heather recently asked me how to make a loaf. A simple enough question, but she asked the question almost a month ago, so this has been a long time coming! We thought a post on the topic would be a nice idea and a way to acknowledge all the help Heather has given us. It uses lots of the photos we take a various stages of bread making - so forgive us if the light changes in the pics, or if the dough looks different - it's really the technique that's important here! (The important thing about this technique is the shaping of the dough into a round, which is why the pics focus on that area).

The recipe below is designed for people who've never made a loaf before. It makes the assumption that you don't have specific baking tools or kit and uses a roasting tray for the dough to be baked on. It proves (pardon the pun) that you don't need loads of specialist stuff for bread baking, what you do need is a little bit of patience.

This post is adapted from a guest post on Modern Mummy


A white loaf 

(Makes one medium-sized round loaf - enough for two people to share for a couple of days)

Ingredients

Strong white bread flour - 400g (plus more for dusting)
Yeast (Instant or Easy Bake) - 7g or one of the pre-packed yeast sachets
Salt - 8g (approx 1 and a half teaspoons)
Water - 200ml (tepid - too hot it will kill the yeast, too cold it won't make it work)

Utensils

Measuring jug
Large mixing bowl
Clingfilm
Wooden spoon
Scales (digital is best for baking but whatever you have)
Roasting tray
Chopping board (to knead and prove on)
Wire rack
Sharp knife
Tea   towel


Time
3 hours (approx)

Place all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Using the wooden spoon, mix together, then gradually add the water, stirring. This will get easier as the mixture turns to dough. There is no set amount of water, so you may not need all of it. Add the water until the dough is sticky but not sloppy. (Note: if you have added too much water, add more bread flour a handful at a time). Stir it until you have a soft dough and form into a round.

Turn out onto a lightly floured chopping board. Don't use too much flour or you'll be sweeping up for the remainder of your day - it can also make the finished bread dry. Knead for ten minutes. No skimping now. It needs it! You can’t do this for less, as the gluten in the flour needs to develop and stretch. Use whatever kneading technique you know. As long as you keep stretching the dough, using one hand or two, then you'll feel the change in the dough after several minutes. If it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour, some to your hands and some to the board. 

After the knead, prod the dough with your fingers until almost flat.



Now stretch the dough into a ball, as follows. While holding the dough with one hand, grab the tip of the dough with your other hand and gently stretch it, try not to break it, then fold it back into the centre of the dough.

Repeat this in a clockwise fashion, each time folding the dough into itself until it looks like this ...  (it won't look exactly like this as the example is a Hippy loaf)



Flip the dough over and, using the upturned palms of your hands, shape the dough into a ball, carefully spinning the dough and sealing it underneath. You now have a bottom and a top to your loaf – the top is facing you and should be smooth and the base will look like origami!


Wipe the mixing bowl clean, sprinkle with a little flour and place the dough inside it, bottom side down, sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough then cover the bowl in clingfilm and leave for 45mins-1 hour. It doesn’t have to be in a warm place, the clingfilm will create its own warmth for the dough to prove.

After the first prove the dough should have doubled in size. (If it hasn’t, leave for an extra 30 minutes). Remove from the bowl onto a floured work surface, flip it over and knock it back. Don’t ever punch it or anything macho. Use your fingertips as described above, prod it all over, turn it the right side up, shape into a ball again and leave on the chopping board, covered in a teatowel for 15 minutes to rest.

After this resting time, flour the chopping board and flip the dough over. Prod it all over again, and, once again, using the upturned palms of your hands, shape the dough into a ball, carefully spinning the dough and sealing it underneath. 

Place the dough inside a lightly floured roasting tray, cover with a teatowel and leave for 45 mins to 1 hour. (it should have have doubled in size). At this point switch your oven on to 200c, it needs to be nice and hot.

When the loaf has doubled in size, carefully slash a cross in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife (this will help the dough to rise in the oven, helps the hot air escape so the loaf doesn't explode and looks very flash!). Don't cut too deep!

Sprinkle the dough with cold water (using a water spray or your fingers) and place the roasting tray into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 200c, then reduce the temp to 180c for another 15-20 mins. (Tip: turn the loaf around at 10 minute intervals to stop any potential burning).

After 25-30 mins, turn the loaf over and bake the base for at least five minutes, until it makes a nice echoing thump when tapped on the base!

Place on a wire rack and let it cool completely before getting stuck in! Please don't slice it while it's hot, or even warm, you risk losing a lovely loaf! 







Off you go, Heather!



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