Anyone who’s on my facebook knows that I’ve been experimenting with bread making lately, from scratch – no machine for me. It just isn’t that hard, to warrant the expense (and dishes!)
Because I know it works, I started with my foccacia bread recipe and modified that as I went along. I am still experimenting, and learning lots but for now can report that this recipe I’m about to share is awesome!
Some of my failures have been interesting although it irks me that I do not understand why they failed. For example the loaf that tasted delicious but had a cake-like crumbly texture and really was only good for crumbs. What happened, I didn’t do anything different to other times?
Then there is the couple of loaves that had air pockets in the top of the crust. So the loaf is perfectly shaped then the top slowly sags back about 1cm, onto the bread inside. It tastes great and has a beautiful texture otherwise?
One of the things I learned early on was not to hurry the process. Bread making by hand is not fun for the impatient. One does not whip up a loaf of bread for brekkie, an hour before breakfast! But with a few minutes effort, the day before – you can be enjoying beautiful soft wheat-meal (in my case) bread for brunch 😉
I know this impatience thing from experience. I had a loaf proving on the firebox and let it get too hot .. and killed the yeast before it went in the oven. May we all say flat-bread lol
As I get more adventurous (I will keep working on them before posting recipes) I’ve tried a few things out:
Last weekend I used whey from making ricotta cheese in place of warm water to start the bread off .. stiffer dough than I expected but beautifully soft and tasty bread – yay!
I’ve switched from white sugar to brown sugar. No noticeable difference in the bread but I figure brown is better than white 😉
I use less yeast than the recipe originally called for. Only by a tiny amount but why use more if less will do?
I am increasing the wheat flour and decreasing the white flour ratio. Slowly, to be sure I still have a nice bread at the end!
Today’s experiment is the same basic bread dough I always use but I slugged in garlic and rosemary olive oil in place of ordinary olive oil. I plan to scatter olives in the dough before baking it – wish me luck cos it didn’t start out as normal ..
I had two batches going at the same time: One plain, one with the rosemary oil and I had to add extra yeast and sugar after an hour because nothin’ happened! It’s now proving away merrily and looks like it will be fine. More on that later!
Back to the basic bread recipe:
1c tepid water – I would suggest erring on the side of cold would be best
1 scant teaspoon of yeast granules
1 teaspoon of sugar
3T olive oil (I’ve used rice bran too and it is fine)
Pinch of salt
Put the water, salt, oil and sugar in a big bowl. I find glass is best as the cling film sticks to it better when you cover, to let it prove.
I give it a good stir at this stage – no idea if it’s needed lol then I add the yeast granules and stir gently.
Sprinkle in 1c of flour and mix – gently.
Cover and set aside for 30 minutes, ideally somewhere warm. It should be all bubbly and kinda yuck looking .. if it isn’t, don’t use it. Start again .. (Make sure your yeast is not old!)
Now tip 1.5c of flour into the bowl and combine it with a spoon to start with (mess central!) then as it forms a ball, use your hand to bring it all together til there is no flour left in the bowl.
Tip it onto a lightly floured surface and commence a few minutes of hard labour.
I dunno why people moan about bread kneading, it is SO much fun and not at all difficult. You simply use the heel of your hand or your knuckles and push, stretching the dough gently.
You kind of fold it onto itself, give it a wee turn and do it again .. over and over and over again .. I do this for around 5-10 minutes as a rule. I did some initially where I didn’t knead as long and the bread was a bit heavy.
Don’t add too much flour to it as you knead. But rather, dust your hands so they’re floury. I’ve found that a slightly wetter dough makes for nicer bread.
Plop it back in the bowl you originally started with. I drizzle a little oil in the sides and base then cover with cling film and a tea towel then put it aside until it’s at least doubled in size.
This can take all night if you’re able to do it before bed, but as a rule – I find 3-5 hours is about right. I also have found it doesn’t matter if it’s in a warm or cold place, it just takes a little longer if cold..
The pic above doesn’t do it justice, this is a huge bowl – it’s literally more than doubled in size, whilst sitting proving.
Once it has done it’s bulking it, you can then punch it down and form it into a loaf. This isn’t as big a job as the earlier knead. You give it a few punches and then you’re done..
See what I mean about a slightly wet dough? This is just what you want:
Give it a quick knead, I think this is called knocking back. The dough is lovely to touch .. at this point we’re basically shaping the loaf ..
You can see my loaf tin ready for the dough. I sprayed it with rice bran oil and scattered some sesame seeds in the bottom – totally optional the seeds..
This pic is to show you the bottom of the loaf .. it doesn’t always happen that you end up with a crease where you’ve joined the dough to form a ball.. but it did this time .. There’s a pic further down of the base once cooked..
See how small it looks? The next few hours are SOOOOO awesome!
Cover with cling film and wrap in a tea towel then pop it somewhere out of the way and leave it to do its thing. I can’t resist taking a peek now and then .. and am guilty of trying to hurry it by sitting it in the sun .. I think this could be why my crusts are a bit crackly, more on that when I find out for sure!
Slowly starting to get bigger .. (the pic below has my olive experiment loaf showing, proving as well..)
And bigger ..
And bigger! We are ready to go in the oven now ..
Bake in a pre-heated hot oven, 200 degs for 5 mins then turn down to 190. This is where I have no idea what to say about how long to cook it. I basically bake it til it’s brown all over lol
But as I said, this doesn’t happen often.
And this is the finished product: