Sunday, July 21, 2013
Brilliant Bread At Last!
People, a revelation! I have been cooking bread for over twelve years. I am not a bad bread baker. I make fantastic pizza bases, yummy hot cross buns, but everything else has always been a bit... stodgy. Scrolls, rolls and loaves, a bit steamy and cakey on the inside. I have always used organic plain flour, sometimes with a third or so wholemeal. I make beautiful dough, I love to knead, it rises beautifully, but then it doesn't cook so well. I've tried all sorts of techniques, spraying with water, cooking on terracotta tiles, varying the temperature...then..
last week, I bought... bread flour. Not organic, probably bleached, all the things I generally avoid. But the bread is WONDERFUL! Light, puffy, dry, everything you could want in a loaf of bread. After all these years. I can buy it at the local flour mill in giant paper bags. It's super cheap. Maybe I'll keep the organic flour for cakes.
Up above is tonight's pull apart herby scroll loaf. I can now offer you my bread recipe, which now makes perfect bread every time. Of course, most of you reading this will already be fab bread bakers, but maybe someone hasn't tried it yet...
Jo's Basic Bread
4 cups flour (I sometimes use 2 cups plain, 2 cups wholemeal. This makes the whole recipe incredibly easy to remember. Two of everything. If you use wholemeal, you will need to add an extra couple of Tbsps water)
2 tsp dry yeast
Stir these ingredients in a large bowl.
Make a well and add:
Glug of olive oil (2 Tbsp if you want to measure)
2 cups of warm water
Stir with a metal spoon. When it starts to cling together in a shaggy mass, start kneading it together in the bowl. I always do this with one hand to keep the other one clean. Sprinkle flour on the kitchen bench with your clean hand, then pop the whole lot onto the bench and knead for about ten minutes. Add a few sprinkles of flour when needed. The dough should become satiny smooth, and not stick to the bench. When it is ready it will have a sheen to it, and you will be able to take a small piece and pull it out into a square that is so thin you can see through it, without the dough breaking. This is called the baker's window.
Wash out the mixing bowl with warm water (I find fingernails most effective for getting dough off the bowl. Hate dough on my dishcloth). Pour another glug of oil in the bowl, pop the dough in then turn it over to oil it all over. This prevents a crust forming on the dough and helps it rise evenly. Tea towel over the top, let it rise for an hour and a half. It doesn't need to be particularly warm. Even in winter it just sits on the kitchen bench.
Next, take the dough out (I always punch it down because it is fun, but not really necessary). Knead again for a couple of minutes. You shouldn't need any more flour. Now, shape your rolls, scrolls or loaf. My pull-apart loaf is scrolls laid on top of each other which helps them to pull apart really easily. These scrolls have melted butter brushed on, herbs sprinkled (dried oregano today), cheese sprinkled on top. Whatever shape you choose, let them rise for another half hour while you finish dinner.
Today it is cauliflower cheese. Cauliflower lightly steamed, some left over pasta, a bechamel sauce with cheese and smoked paprika, topped with bread crumbs, more cheese and paprika. We will have greens tomorrow.
Heat oven to 200C, pop in bread and dinner. 15 mins for rolls and scrolls, half an hour or so for a loaf. Bread should sound hollow when tapped, top and bottom. Tip it onto a cake cooler immediately. No soggy bottoms!