Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How I made my first biggish loaf of bread

It's Good Life week here in écovallée and, because it's all about learning new skills, I decided to learn how to make a biggish loaf of bread. (Her Outdoors, historically, has made all our bread. I, meanwhile, have done all the chainsawing. We didn't plan it like that - it just happened.)

For future reference - yours and mine - I took notes. And photographs.

1) Half fill a clean mug with hand-hot water. (Don't get too anal about the exact temperature - there isn't one.)

2) Add 1 heaped teaspoon of sugar. (You could use honey apparently - I didn't.) It's food for the yeast.

3) Add two sachets of bread yeast and stir. (Don't worry if it doesn't all dissolve, and/or stuff sticks to the spoon. I left the spoon in just to be sure.)

4) Leave in a warm place for a few minutes until it's frothing like this:

5) Put about 750 g of flour in a biggish mixing bowl. (We have a bag of semi-wholemeal. You could use bread flour or other strong flour.)

6) Add 2 level teaspoons of salt and stir with ANY spoon. (An insight into the student-teacher relationship, here. Her Outdoors is pretty relaxed about rules but I like to know what they are. I stirred with the same teaspoon I used for the salt, which could easily become habitual. A wooden spoon is not mandatory at this stage - or at any other.)

7) I was offered the chance to add seeds at this point. I chose a handful of sesame seeds, which seemed radical enough for a first loaf.

8) Add the yeast to the flour and stir with a KNIFE. (Don't ask me why. I have forgotten. I vaguely remember it being something to do with stickiness, or clumping.)

9) Add water (in my case, about 300 ml) until it starts to come together like this:

10) Turn out onto a floured surface...

11) ...and knead for several minutes, adding flour to hands and dough when it feels sticky, until the dough is springy to the touch and looks like this: (A few words on kneading before you get the picture. My technique was quite aggressive, leaning into the dough with my whole bodyweight, ripping the ball almost apart before folding in half, turning 90 degrees clockwise and repeating. After several minutes using this method, I couldn't tell if the dough had become springy or not. So I tried kneading more gently and - ta-da - it was ready. I'll be kneading more gently next time.)

12) Turn the dough ball over, hiding those folds, place back in the bowl, slash with an "X"...

...cover with a damp tea towel (I used warm water - it might not matter) and leave in a warm place for about an hour until it's done this kind of thing:

13) Punch the dough gently, remove from the bowl and, using gravity, form a slug a couple of feet long and about a forearm thick, roll up along its length, place on a dusted baking tray and slash it a few times.

14) Place in a cold (freshly lit) oven and leave for 45-50 mins. (Look at a clock at this point, if you have one.)

When mine came out it looked pretty good on one side...

...and unique on the other side...

...but tasted pretty good at breakfast this morning.

Boy even ate all his crusts, which almost never happens.


dND said...

That looks good Alex.
One tip for proving the dough on an iffy sort of day is to put it in the car. The car acts like a greenhouse. All you have to do then is remember that you put it in there! :-)

the devolutionary said...

Excellent idea, Deb. Not sure if we've done that one.

Firehorse Digital said...

Sounds and looks delicious.
This is good too (and in a strange bit of synchronicity was on telly again last night) if you fancy trying something that doesn't require all the hanging around waiting for the dough to prove:


Hope you're all well.

the devolutionary said...

Hi Rup - Her Outdoors has done the soda bread from "The Fabulous Baker Boys" which was really good. Will check out Hugh's to see if it's any better. Thanks - and love to the family...

Arch said...

Hi Alex fab loaf abit of your own ham in there joy !
To all us guys out here aka the world we need to take time out a thing to do before we die go and stay with Alex and enjoy this kind of food

the devolutionary said...

Thanks again Archie. This post has had such positive feedback I might just have to do some more cooking. The giant waffle's getting four thumbs up from the kids...