Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bread, again

Bread is one of those basic staples everyone should know how to make, it’s easy to learn, and takes a lifetime to master. The most simple and basic of loaves is 1 kg flour, 600ml water, 30 grams yeast, and 20 grams salt, mix, knead, let it double in size, shape, rise again and bake. Simple. But there is so much more to the humble loaf than just that set of ratios and steps, you can increase the hydration, add fats to enrich the dough, let the dough ferment for longer, add vinegar, whip it in a beater, not knead it at all, the ideas are limitless when it comes to bread making.

Hydration is probably my favourite way to experiment with bread making, it significantly changes the texture of the crumb, go high enough and the baked bread has an almost plastic-like interior, and you can achieve some pretty light loaves. I’ve also been interested in the order that the loaf is made, does it have to be mix; knead; rise; punch down; shape; rise; bake; or could I let it rise once, then whip it with a dough hook in the beater?

When adding fat, you have to be careful when in the process it is incorporated, too soon the fat will coat the flour and prevent gluten formation, so you’ll end up with a denser shorter crumb, in saying that though, if the total fat is less than 5%, it shouldn’t matter when you add it. If the fat is greater than 5% it’s best to add it after you have given the dough a good knead, so the gluten has already formed. Adding fat to your dough will give you a softer, finer crumb, usually a softer crust too, not to mention the richness it adds.

I recently made a standard 100/60/3/2 ratio bread (see above), with a bit of butter and a longer ferment, it went down a treat.

The night before in a bowl mix together 200 ml of warm water and add 5 grams of yeast, stir it to dissolve. When the mixture begins to foam, stir in 200 grams of flour. Leave overnight, or 24 hours. Leaving the starter to develop adds a pleasant sourness to the bread.

The next day dissolve 10 grams of yeast in 100 ml of warm water, and then add that and 300 grams flour to the starter. Mix together and knead for a good 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. This is a lot easier with a beater, but you should be able to manage it by hand, mix (or in a beater with a dough hook) in 100 grams of room temperature butter bit by bit. Once it is incorporated let the dough rest for about half an hour, or until it had doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and then shape and let it double in size again.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Before putting the dough in, pour half a cup of water on to the bottom of the oven to create some steam. Put the dough in the oven, and turn the temperature down to 200ºC, cook for about 30 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or until the internal temperature is 90–94ºC.