Monday, November 26, 2007

Making Bread

Sun 25 Nov 2007

My mother is a very good baker and she is always making bread. When I was a little girl I used to help and make up my own variations (one particularly heavy, seeded number was called Viking Bread), but for some reason I've done very little bread baking since moving to England.

That's despite complaining rather a lot about the quality of most bread you can buy.

On Friday a copy of The Big Book of Bread arrived (I won it from the nice people at Allinson and their website Baking Mad) and since I was having a lazy weekend I decided that making some bread was far more important than things like cleaning the bathroom.

The book contains 365 recipes - both for breadmakers and by hand (and many of the by hand recipes have the alterations necessary for a breadmaker) - and I wanted to start as close to the front as possible.

Recipe 001 is basic white bread so I skipped on to recipe 002 and made the basic wholemeal bread. As the recipe was for two 2lb loaves I halved it. I just don't have big enough bowls for that kind of mass production.

So, I put 1 teaspoon of dried yeast into approximately 225 mL of warm water with a half teaspoon of sugar and let it do its magic.

In my bowl, I put 4 oz of plain white flour and 8 oz of wholemeal (stone ground) flour, a good grinding of salt and about 15g of unsalted butter. I rubbed the butter into the flour mix and then added the water and yeast mix to form a dough. A good knead, a slick of oil, and into a bowl near a radiator for as long as it took to double.

Bread dough won't rise if you look at it every 30 seconds - you really need to find something else to do. Go down the shop (or even the pub, at a push).

Dough risen, I knocked it back and made one small loaf and four rolls (a little less than I expected, to be honest). I left these to rise before putting the loaf in a fan oven preheated to 200C. After 10 minutes or so I added the rolls to the bottom shelf. After another 10 or so minutes the loaf came out and the rolls went up a shelf to finish off.

The result was near perfect (yes, there's a roll missing because I'd already eaten it!).

The exercise did take the whole afternoon - but most of this was the sitting around between rises, when you can finish off all those chores. And the reward is getting to eat warm bread that has texture, flavour and body.
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