I think I may be becoming a little obsessed with bread and yeast cookery generally. I am really enjoying the challenge of getting a better loaf each time. It doesn’t always happen, I have to admit. It is only relatively recently that I have had success with bread as you will see from one of my early posts on this site about white bread. I now make bread at least two or three times a week and I have made lots of other yeast based cakey type things recently. It may not be good for the waistline but it is very good for the soul.
The bread in this picture is a slight variation on my earlier white loaf post. In this one I use half milk/ half water and a bit of butter to make a lovely soft crumb that is really tasty. I love my spelt loaf but sometimes all you want is a soft loaf of white bread (with a good crust, of course) and this is for these moments.
I was reading A Wee Bit of Cooking‘s blog the other day, in which she cooks a loaf based on Dan Lepard’s recipe and he has a very interesting way of making bread; he mixes the dough, lets it rest, kneads very briefly, rests and repeats. Visit A Wee Bit of Cooking for the link, it’s worth a look. Anyway, I was inspired to try at least some of this method, so I now mix my dough and then leave it to rest for at least ten minutes before I go back to knead it (or at least switch on the mixer and let it do the hard work!). I can’t quite get my head around not needing to knead. This resting seems to work well and does improve the crumb.
500g strong (or very strong) plain flour
7g sachet easy bake yeast
1½ tsp fine salt
1 oz butter, diced
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Heat the milk and water to hand hot in a small saucepan and add the diced butter. Pour the liquid into the flour and, using your hands, combine well to a smooth dough (on the slightly sticky side rather than the dry side). Leave to rest for about ten minutes in the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a wooden surface and knead well for about ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Clean the bowl and grease with butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a bin liner or cling film. Leave the bowl in a draught-free place until the dough has almost doubled in size.
Deflate the dough by using your fingertips and lift out of the bowl. Now you could reshape it into a ball and leave it to rise again, which if you have the time is well worth doing as it does improve the texture of the bread . Otherwise, shape the dough into a round by stretching it under itself or shape into a baton by flattening the dough into a square, then roll the dough much like you would a swiss roll and then using your fingers seal the join very well. Stretch the dough lengthwise until twice as long. Fold over one-third to the middle and then fold the remaining third on to the top. Flatten again into a square with your fingers and roll up again as before, sealing well and then rolling gently into an evenly shaped baton loaf (thanks again to Daniel Steven’s Bread book for his tips on making bread).
Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go and place a baking tray or stone in to heat up.
Place the shaped loaf onto a well-floured tray and sprinkle the top well with flour. Cover again with the bin liner and leave to prove for about 20 minutes or until nicely risen, not quite doubled in size. Don’t allow it to rise too much as you want the yeast to have some energy left.
Slash the tops and gently pick up the loaf and place directly onto the tray or stone in the oven. Check after twenty minutes as you may need to turn the heat down for the last ten minutes of cooking. It should take about 30 minutes for the loaf to cook, depending on how well cooked you like your crust. The loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the base when it’s cooked. Leave to cool on a wire rack.