Tag Archives: bread

Hot oven? Cold oven?

Most mornings I preheat my oven to put the day’s bread in. My oven has a handy timer which means I can come down, the oven is up to temperature (I put the baking tray in the night before) and then I can bake the bread. That’s the usual advice isn’t it? Bread goes into a hot oven.

But one day I hadn’t pre-heated the oven and I only had a certain amount of time to put the bread in so I just put the bread onto a cold baking tray, dusted with polenta, into a cold oven, with my regulation one ice cube on a tray underneath. Then I put the oven on to 250C fan and cooked it for 40 mins (as that’s all the time I had available).

The bread needs a bit longer cooking time – probably 50 mins for a decent crust. But guess what? Absolutely no difference. Here’s the loaf I made today which went into a totally cold oven..

 

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Back to retarded proving with sourdough

Like so much of my sourdough bread making, this reminder of how delicious a long prove can be, came about by accident. I’d started that day’s bread and had to go out for the day so I had to stick it in the fridge and pick up where I’d left off the day after.

Although the resulting bread was over-proved (see pic) the taste was sensational. You can tell when the bread is over proved because it has that ‘false ceiling’ look (I don’t know if that’s an accurate description but it is what I call it..), where the bread has risen up and can’t sustain its own, early, promise.

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Super delicious but over proved sourdough

I’ve been baking sourdough for over a decade now and, as Dan Lepard so brilliantly put to me one day, sometimes we let success hinder progress. I know my shaping could do with (more) work, but I’ve grown lazy. And because I can make bread, now, I haven’t experimented much. And whilst my sourdough tastes good, a longer prove really improves the flavour.

I don’t do it very scientifically. Sometimes I start the bread with starter/water/flour/salt and leave it, unmixed, for a few hours. Sometimes I’ll take it to the first one hour rise phase and then put it in the fridge overnight and carry on the next day. Sometimes I start it, mix it up roughly and leave it til the next morning (in the fridge) – but if you rest if for a long time and the dough isn’t totally smooth, make sure it’s well covered, otherwise, as per point 2 below, you can get hard bits.

There are no hard and fast rules, but a few things to remember:

  1. You need a good starter to do prolonged proving, so one that’s been refreshed in the last twelve hours.
  2. Don’t leave it at the first (unmixed) stage for too long as hard lumps will form that will be hard to eliminate. Ask me how I know.

But other than that, just experiment. What can go wrong? Put it in and out of the fridge over a couple of days, see what happens. When I’ve finally shaped it, I leave it at room temperature for a few hours before putting it (back) in the fridge for its final rest. I tend to try to always cook it from fridge cold as it’s easier to handle and slash.

The mixture I’ve used recently has been 425g white bread flour with 75g rye. I had previously shied away from prolonged proving with white flour but it seems to be okay. If you need more information about sourdough do a search for sourdough in the search bar or select it in the drop down category menu on the right hand side of this page. If you’re new to it here is a step by step guide I did some years ago.

And if you’re totally new to it and fancy a try, do what I did many years ago: buy Dan Lepard’s excellent The Handmade Loaf. In terms of bread-making it changed my life.

Olive oil flatbreads

These are so useful to make in a batch and then freeze. To defrost simply leave at room temperature for a bit or microwave for 10 seconds and eat immediately.

I love the meditative nature of making these. I make them on a large, flat skillet pan, prepping the ones still to cook by first rolling them into balls, then squashing into discs and finally rolling them out. I do this in stages – a mini production line – so the gluten has time to relax in between. I can’t get these super thin, but then I don’t really want to. They are really soft and tasty.

I keep them warm in my warming drawer whilst making the whole batch, but a very low oven serves exactly the same purpose.

I make eight out of this recipe, you could make more if you made them smaller as individual (as opposed to ‘tearing’) dipping breads.

 

7g of dried (fast action) yeast

600g strong white bread flour

100ml of extra virgin olive oil (doesn’t have to be super expensive)

350ml of water

half a teaspoon to half a tablespoon of sea salt

(depending on taste. If you’re going to serve these with super-salted food then you don’t have to put too much salt in. The first time make them with the lower amount and see how you go.)

These couldn’t be easier. You mix the 7g of yeast with the 600g strong white bread flour, and mix in the 100ml of olive oil and 350ml of water and, finally, the salt.  Mix to a rough dough just using a fork, and then rest in the bowl for ten minutes whilst you wash your hands and put everything away.

When the ten minutes is up, turn the dough out onto an oiled surface and give it gentle knead for ten seconds, then cover it with a bowl and rest again for ten minutes. Repeat twice more. By this stage you should have a smooth dough, with no bits.

If you plan to make these the same day, oil a bowl, place the dough in it, cover and leave until doubled in size. How long this will take depends on your kitchen. I tend to use a bowl that the original, unproved, dough comes up half way on, that way, I know that when it’s at the surface it’s doubled in size. If you plan to make these later put in a cold place in the fridge (by that I mean, as close to the bottom as possible) for the final prove, you could leave it overnight but I wouldn’t leave it for more than about 12 hours.

When ready to go, take the dough out, lightly knead and divide into eight/how ever many pieces you want to make. Roll into a ball by placing the dough on the flat palm of one hand and cupping the other hand over the top and making circular movements, or whatever works for you.

Then flatten each ball into a disc. Put a dry, large frying pan on a high heat and when you are ready to go roll out as best you can to about 18-20cm – if you’ve divided the dough into eight, obviously smaller if you’re making more than that.

As I said in the intro, you can get into a production line with them, prepping each before it goes on. I get it so that as I put one on to cook, I roll the other one out in preparation so it has time to relax a bit. If you can get them perfectly circular great – I never can.

When ready to cook you slap them into the pan and cook for about 5 mins – if you’re like me you’ll turn them often as I’m a bit of a flipper. You can see they’re done as they brown and go ‘dry’ – no more moist bits. If you need to turn the heat down for the second side do so, but turn up again for the new flat bread going on as it’s the dough hitting the hot skillet heat which causes the bubbles to form, which then blister and blacken.

 

Enriched bread dough with nuts and dried fruit (bread machine)

After I made enriched dough chocolate chip rolls, I thought I’d try making something similar, but stuffed with nuts and dried fruit instead. My mum especially, likes bread like this. She gets something from M&S that is stuffed with nuts and fruit.

I doubled the recipe used before and added 160g of mixed dried fruits and nuts of your choice. The bread was lovely, really soft, tasty and would be lovely with cheese or just eaten with a thick spread of butter. I made two loaves this morning and one is almost already all gone (the other, on its way to my Mamma).

Without adding any bits, these make a fantastic burger/hot dog bun and are now what I use for burger buns. You can also make, bake and then freeze for future use.

This is what I did:

One teaspoon of dried yeast (I use Dove’s Farm)

500g strong white bread flour (you could make this a teeny bit more healthy by using 400g strong white/100g of strong wholemeal, but I never do)

Two teaspoons of caster sugar

50g butter, chopped and added in

Two tablespoons of milk

One teaspoon of salt

Two eggs

175ml water

for later: 160g of ‘stuff’ if you are adding bits: dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips or a mixture. My every day is chocolate chips and flaked almonds. I’ve now found a great source of very good quality chocolate chips which I can buy in bulk, as it was costing me a fortune. I like the 55% cocoa ones, as they are a good half way house, but you can go higher or lower.

Put everything, bar the fruit and nuts, into the bread machine and set to a dough cycle (mine lasts 2hrs 20mins). You can also easily make this by hand by mixing everything together, leaving for 15 mins, kneading lightly, leaving for 15 mins etc: repeat about four times until dough is really smooth and soft.

When done, take out and put in a bowl and mix in the fruit and nuts. Leave for ten minutes.

On an oiled surface, tip out and knead lightly to make sure everything is incorporated. Leave for ten minutes. Then cut in half and shape: either into a baton shape, a round or buns. I get eight good sized buns out of this but you can of course make them slightly smaller and get more. Place both on a baking parchment lined tray and prove overnight in the fridge (cover with a clean dishcloth).

In the morning bake for approx 12 mins at 220C.

Delicious!

(Apologies if I’ve made any mistakes, I’m typing this whilst also answering 101 questions about Our Generation dolls, posed by my youngest…)

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Pump Street Bakery, Orford

Orford ness is one of our favourite places. We go there at least once a year, for a very long walk, a picnic, and chats. Even my youngest can manage to walk around the red and blue walk (not green though, it’s never been open when we’ve been there, we always time it wrong).

(For those on Fitbit, you can rack up about 15,000 steps, or six miles  walking those routes.)

What we like to do is get up really early and head out without breakfast, fantasising about what we’ll eat from the Pump Street Bakery, when we get there. The fact that such an amazing bakery exists in what is a tiny village in the middle of nowhere astounds and delights me. And makes me very jealous. I wish we had one where I live in Suffolk.

This is a tiny bakery, that is crammed into an old house. There are very few seats. But it is glorious. Please don’t miss it if you venture anywhere near Orford (which is a very pretty village). We’ve sampled the Bear’s Claws, the doughnuts, the brownies, the Eccles cakes and the almond croissants so far. You have to try the Eccles cake to believe that currants can be held in a puff pastry and be a thing of eye-watering beauty.

We have breakfast – cappuccinos (very good) with pastries dipped in them, perched on the benches outside.  I want to try a gibassier next time I’m there. I’m afraid the pastries are so good, I completely forget to photograph them, so the picture above is a photo of my feet on Orford ness beach. Probably my favourite beach in the world.

Not to be missed.

Chollah bread

Where I grew up, in Bayswater London W2, there used to be a bakery called Grodzinski and we would buy our bread there. I’d be fascinated – what child wouldn’t be – by the slicer, that they fed your whole loaves into if you asked for it to be sliced.

Sometimes, we would buy chollah bread. I loved its eggy sweetness and my favourite filling for it would be mortadella. Some years later, when I was telling my partner, he pointed out that perhaps using pork in a traditional Jewish bread wasn’t the BEST thing I could have done. (Sorry.)

Anyway. A few years ago, I attempted to recreate this wonder bread at home and I was amazed at how well it worked. This is an amalgamation of recipes that I found and it works for me, I’m not sure how authentic it is (be interested to know). It makes one good loaf. I don’t attempt to knot it or shape it into anything fancy. A Jewish friend of mine who regularly bakes says that, in her opinion, the dough is either dry enough to shape, but that results in a dry bread, or too wet to shape, but this results in a tastier bread. This was also my experience. So I always go for a higher hydration loaf in a simple boule shape. Be warned: it’s the sort of bread you can’t stop eating. Any that you miraculously have left over and goes stale (you won’t have any) you can make into French toast.

420g white flour – plain gives a better texture but you can also use strong white

7g of dried yeast

60g caster sugar

240ml of water, warm

a teaspoon of salt

1 egg

60ml of olive oil or oil of choice (you could also use melted butter)

You need an extra egg to glaze with, or milk. And poppy/sesame seeds if you like to sprinkle atop.

Mix a heaped teaspoon of the measured out sugar, with the yeast, into the warm water. Mix it up well and leave it to froth up. This takes about 15 or so minutes in my kitchen.

Mix the remaining sugar with the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. When the yeast/water/sugar mixture has become nice and bubbled up, add this to the flour mixture and mix together using a fork until you get a sticky dough. Now add the egg and oil and mix it all together. Leave it for ten minutes.

Now tip it out onto an oiled surface and knead it very gently. Cover with a bowl and leave it for ten minutes. Repeat this twice more. The dough should be fairly smooth by now. When you have kneaded it gently for the third and final time, put it into an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth in for two or so hours.

Heat the oven to 200C, take your dough out knead gently and shape into the form you want it to be (as I said, a boule is really the only thing I can do with it) and place it on the baking tray you’ll want to bake it on. Leave for a final 20-30 minutes to rest.

Before it goes into the oven, brush it gently with beaten egg/milk and sprinkle with seeds if you so wish. Bake it for 20-30 minutes and leave to rest until completely cold before cutting it. (Yeah right.)

Industrial sourdough. A guest post by Ben McPherson.

Here’s the thing: I’m lazy, and wanted an easy way to achieve perfect results.

Annalisa sent me sourdough starter two months ago. She also sent me instructions about what to do with it. I fed it and watered it and it grew.

Starter - day one

On the day I made my first bread I followed Annalisa’s instructions to the letter: knead after ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 60 minutes and finally 120 minutes.

Floured board - don't do this

The flour on the board was a rookie mistake: I should have used oil. Annalisa put me right on that, sternly but kindly.

Not beautiful, but delicious

Still, the bread worked. Yes, I undercooked it, and yes, the shape was all wrong, but although it wasn’t beautiful it tasted delicious.

Seven kneads, though? Seven? Far too much work, I decided.

Easy loaf in tin

I tried a friend’s easy sourdough recipe, which calls for no kneading. You take your starter, mix in 700ml water and 500g flour, along with a little salt, and let it stand in a bowl in the fridge over night.

Then you add another 500g flour, mix it all up, and spoon the runny dough into two bread tins. You return the tins to the fridge for a few hours. No kneading. Simple.

Easy loaf in oven

The result wasn’t bad. The bread rose well in the tin and the taste was actually pretty good, but the bubbles were small, and the sides of the tin had prevented the crust from darkening properly.

Poor crust on sides

Worse, though: it just wasn’t sour enough, which was the point as far as I was concerned. I’d have been happy if I’d bought it from a shop, but not if I’d bought it as sourdough bread.

I wanted an artisan bread, but with less work kneading than Annalisa insisted on. I had a kitchen machine. So, could I industrialise the process?

The short answer is: sort of. It took a lot of trial-and-error, but it did work.

K-beater

You put the starter into the bowl in the mixer. You put on the whisk attachment and start the machine running slowly. Then you add the water, and then spoon in the flour very slowly until the whole thing forms a smooth dough. If you’re me, you forget the salt. You switch off the machine and wait ten minutes.

Now you change the attachment to the K-beater. You do your three first kneads on maximum power for ten seconds each time. By now you have something that looks like a proper bread dough. After each knead, you scrape excess dough off the K-beater with a knife.

Then, and only then, do you change to the dough hook. After thirty minutes you run the machine on maximum power for ten seconds, and you do the same for the next three kneads, after an hour, and hour, and two hours. Each time you have to scrape the dough off the hook.

Then you put the dough into your banneton, and from that point on the process is identical to the hand-knead process. It makes a good sourdough, which improves the longer you extend the final prove.

Good industrial bread

There’s only one problem. My industrial method is far harder work than the hand-kneading. It’s messy; it covers everything in a hard sheet of sourdough which is very difficult to clean, and you have to use three attachments. It’s a complete waste of time.

In fact, once you’ve got used to making sourdough by hand it’s easy. You get a sense of how the dough should feel in your hand, and when you need to add a little more water, or a little more flour. You knead for ten seconds a time. That’s it. Suddenly it slots into your life, becomes a pleasure not a chore.

Slices

But laziness has taught me some useful lessons. The best is this: if you mistreat your starter, which I often do, by not feeding it every day, it produces a more acidic taste, which I really like.

And salt – I know they say you need it to get a decent prove, and a decent crust, but you really don’t. After completely forgetting to add salt a couple of times, I can’t detect any difference in texture between unsalted and “properly” salted sourdough. I now add a  fraction of what you’re supposed to use, and the bread is excellent.

I cheat on ice – I just throw a small glass of water into the oven to produce the necessary steam – and I don’t own a proper banetton so I improvise with a cloth, a wire fruit bowl and lots of flour.

But I slash. Always.

Slash

Ben McPherson is a TV producer and writer.