Please, Can I Have Some More?

DSC_0498With all the cooking that we do, we do not normally eat a lot of bread. A 500g loaf sees us through a week, and a few remaining slices may even end up adorning the (commercially processed) compost. I am happy to report that the bread quality in our house has risen quite a bit recently, at least on our own opinion (and, face it, who else matters with regards to our own bread?). The increased consumption certainly speaks for itself.

While I entertain secret visions of becoming a destination for bread-loving pilgrims from all over the world, I think it is easier if I may just post a few key points:

First, maintain a mother dough: take away 15% of the dough you made, place it in a little dish, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until you make the next bread. In my experience, this lasts well over a week with ease – it’s sour anyway – and is well worth it.

Second, give it time: I prepare the dough in the afternoon or evening, to rise over night, and bake in the morning – or even later! 12 hours and more is fine.

Third, steam it: when the bread goes into the oven, I pour a cup of water into the oven to generate a cloud of steam. This helps the bread rise, crack open, and become just perfect.

Many other recommendations that I read here or there, such as a stern warning not to kneed the dough by machine, I find pretentious nonsense. The tiny bubbles turn smaller and more regular when using a kneading machine, hands produce a more rustic appearance but more sticky mess – you choose. Anyway, here is my preferred method for a 450g loaf of can-I-have-some-more bread:

300g long white wheat flour (the “bread making” variety, gluten-rich)
50g white spelt flour
50g wholemeal (stone ground) spelt flour
50g rye flour
20g fresh yeast (alternatively, use 15g dried yeast)
10g salt

For every 100g of this flour mix, you need 70 ml liquid. I compose this from a splash of olive oil, possibly a rather runny sourdough top-up, and filtered water. I don’t like the sourdough mess myself, so I use commercial sourdough. Nice, cheap and easy (if you can get it), and I add some every second or third time I make bread. Because the commercial sourdough is quite liquid, it counts with the liquids.

Finally, add the mother dough. Don’t worry if it smells a little “ripe” – as long as it looks all right, it’ll be fine.

I use a Bosch kitchen machine, but any similar device or your own hands will do. Put the mix into the bowl, bowl into the machine, then start on the low gear, slowly progressing to a more aggressive speed. Give it a good few minutes; you do want a good thorough mix. Turn the machine off and give it a rest for 10..20 minutes. The wholemeal flour and rye flour components need this time; do not skip this step. Then, give it another good kneading.

At the end, your dough should look and feel a little too moist. It comes off the bowl only just, and only with a spatula’s help: keep it so. You want it on the moist side.

Transfer into a large bowl. Cover with Clingfilm and store in a warm place. (Don’t worry about light levels – more pretentious nonsense.) Have a nice meal, enjoy a movie, sleep.

In the morning…

Set approximately 15% of the dough aside. Put into a small dish, Clingfilm it, and store in the fridge. The remainder goes onto your baking tray. When using a flat tray, I often use a spring form’s ring to stop it spreading out too far, but normally, I use a silicone tray for simplicity. Be gentle and do not knead the dough again. Store in a warm location near to the oven so that it can rise again. Give it 2..3 hours.

Finally:

Heat the oven to 220C. When hot, use a mister to moisten the surface of the bread, sprinkle some salt and flour on top, then place the bread inside (Be gentle! Don’t let it collapse again!). Pour a cup of water into the oven’s base and quickly close the door. Set the timer to 31 minutes 17 seconds, and remember where you put the timer.

Remove from tray, let cool down, then enjoy.

I realize this article is almost 2km long, and it looks as if making this bread was incredible complicated – it is not. Just try it once or twice. You’ll get the hang of it, and it’s actually less effort than trying to find similar quality bread somewhere in the shops. Good luck & let us know how it goes.

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Bread Season

focaccia Fresh bread gives me a terrible heartburn, but since it is so very nice (the fresh bread, I mean), I am right in the middle of a bread making and baking frenzy. I keep both milk and Rennies in stock for the heartburn. I wanted to tell you about the bread, though.


Normally, I use a Panasonic SD-255 bread maker. It makes super bread and dough, and does it all for me. I throw yeast, flour, salt and water in the trough, select the program, set the timer, go to bed and awake to the most wonderful freshly baked bread. It’s quick, clean, simple, and delicious.


But.


I love little more than playing with my new oven, and I have recently discovered Richard Bertinet’s Dough (which is also available in German). He makes a couple of good points about the whole process, and has a lot of really nice recipes.


I made the most wonderful Focaccia, served Tomato Soup in eatable freshly baked bread bowls, made a variety of breads, tried (and failed) making the puff balls (green leaf salad inside a hollow bread ball). Roast tomato, garlic and olive bread, more Focaccia, more puffball experiments, more fresh and crispy bread are all coming up soon. 


So. Richard Bertinet. Highly recommended.




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My Prayers

DSCF0512 Someone must have heard my prayers.

Waitrose now stocks Sharpham Park’s Organic Spelt Flour, stoneground and refined.

Yeah!

Given that I use only 30% spelt (the rest is 5% buckwheat, and the remainder from wheat), I can even swallow the exorbitant price.  Only just, so the search for a reasonably priced refined spelt flour continues. At least I’ve got an interim solution now.

 

 

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The Mysterious Ingredient

pains I have a sourcing problem: For my favourite bread, I need white spelt flour. White spelt flour, unfortunately, is terribly difficult to source here in West London. Ecotopia delivered twice, but only with difficulties, delays and excuses, and after chasing them up. After we had a bit of an argument with the last order, I can’t go back to them now and order a third batch, can I?

I knew you’d understand my little problem here.

Waitrose and others have come a very long way over the years, though. What used to be a choice of white, malted, or self-rising wheat flour, is now a choice among more than a dozen of flour types even in a B-class supermarket. Still, no white spelt flour. Some sell a healthy-looking Stoneground Spelt, which makes the bread dreadfully dry. It’s like eating straw.

While I continue searching for the real thing, I think I might have cracked it now. It doesn’t need a little more water. It needs an insane amount of water. The following works wonderfully in my bread maker, using the French setting:

200g white wheat flour (use ‘bread flour’, or ‘long flour’ as we call it at home)
150g stoneground spelt flour
50g buckwheat flour
50g butter
Yeast, pinch of sugar, two pinches of salt
350ml water – this is 70ml more than with the pure wheat flour dough. Insane, I told you.

Done. Nice and fluffy. Too fluffy, as it happens, but at least it is no longer straw-like. Still looking for a source for white spelt flour though.

 

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Fresh Bread

Selbstgemacht Reporting the latest addition to the household: a new Panasonic SD255 bread maker. Our old no-name model was worn out from too much seeded dough over several years, and was no longer able to provide a good mix. With the Teflon coating severely scratched, it also got increasingly hard to get the loaf out once finished.

So, I got myself a new one.

Very nice. First, it makes almost no noise (you could hear the old one through the house when it was kneading). Second, it is much better insolated (good for the electricity bill). It has timer operation (great for fresh bread for breakfast), automatic seed dispenser (no more hanging around and waiting for the seed alarm 40 to 60 minutes into the program) and takes much more time for making the dough.

Stop by and sample. It’s great!

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