Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wholemeal loaf

I've recently been overcome with the desire to make my own bread.

This is due in no small part to Paul Hollywood's book 'How To Bake' and to the Channel 4's 'The Fabulous Baker Brothers'.

This isn't the first time, mind you. I think anyone who's serious about food and interested in living sustainably/cheaply will have attempted to make their own bread, with varying degrees of success.

I'll admit that my first few attempts gave me some good old 'brick' loafs, most likely the result of a lack of technique coupled with a lack of experience. The more practice you get, the more you get a feel for when a dough has been kneaded sufficiently and when it has proved enough, and more likely you will end up with something palatable.

There are also some invaluable tips which will speed you on your way to making brilliant bread:

- If using dried yeast, such as the Doves Farm Quick Yeast, you don't need to reconstitute it with warm water. Adding warm water decreases the proving time, which, although making the whole process quicker, detracts from the flavour of your final loaf and can cause the dough to over-prove. Use cold/tepid water and knead the dough enough to warm and then let rise until doubled in size.
 - Add a little oil or butter to your dough and it will retain a moister crumb. I'd go for rapeseed oil and unsalted butter in regular bread and olive oil for the richer ciabattas and focaccias. Also oiling your work surface instead of flouring it actually makes it easier to knead the dough.
- When you turn on your oven to preheat it, add a baking tray with a little water to create a steamy environment in your oven. It makes for a lighter crust.
- In general, the wetter the dough, the more moist your final loaf will be. So if the dough is dry don't be afraid to add a little more water. It will be harder to work with but persevere! I've had some very wet doughs that will come together with a good bout of kneading. By all means use a stand-mixer if the dough is unmanageably wet.

 The recipes here are Paul Hollywood's and I've added any observations as I see fit. The recipes call for slightly more dried yeast than other recipes I've seen - and the bread is markedly better for it. If you use the ratio 500g flour/ 10g salt/ 10g dried yeast/ 20-40g butter or oil/ and enough water to make a sloppy dough, I don't think you can go far wrong. I've added photos to help you gauge what your dough etc. should look like.

I've been using Dove's Farm flours and their dried active yeast. The amount of water you need to add to the dough will vary depending on the flour you're using.

A quick tip from Mary Berry for softening butter is to put it in body-temperature water (35-40 degrees). This will make it much easier to incorporate into the dough.

Wholemeal Loaf


400g strong wholemeal bread flour
100g strong white bread flour
10g salt
10g instant yeast
40g unsalted butter
Roughly 320ml tepid water

- Put the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, adding the yeast and salt to separate sides
- Add the butter and most of the water and mix with one hand (keeping one hand dough-free will make the whole process less messy - you can grab a jug of water, oil, some more flour without coating them in sticky dough)
- Keep mixing until you form a rough dough, using the mixture to clean the insides of the bowl

- Tip the dough out onto an oiled work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough forms a smooth soft skin.

- Roll into a ball and place in a lightly oiled large bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, or at least one hour.

-When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface, then fold it in on itself and punch it to knock the air out. At this point you can roll the dough into a sausage shape (see below) or make it into any shape you desire, divide it to make rolls or place in a proving basket. I rolled mine then tied it into a knot.

- Place on a tray line with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Cover with a large clean plastic bag and allow to prove for about an hour or til the dough springs back quickly if you prod it with your finger.
- In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and place a baking tray filled with a little water in it
- Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, then check if it's cooked by tapping the base. It should sound hollow.

The loaf worked beautifully with mackerel pate made with smoked mackerel from the Lancaster Smokehouse.

I'll be back soon with posts on how to make brioche and some great crusty dinner rolls.