I am loving making bread again. I had forgotten how satisfying it is to have a freshly baked loaf sitting on top of its tin cooling down.
I have also been searching for several years for a loaf that Bob would enjoy, and I have found it. Hurray!!
It makes brilliant Poppy Seed rolls as well:
The White Milk Loaf, almost as per Dan Lepard’s Milk Bread recipe in The Handmade Loaf. I use skimmed milk powder, as I don’t always have fresh milk enough in the fridge, more butter than he does, and the liquid is hotter. But I do use his brilliant method. And I have tried this out as well with a mix of flours to get a light soft brown loaf.
I really recommend getting Dan’s book, there are some amazing recipes.
And whilst you are waiting for your copy to arrive from Amazon, here are my top tips for making brilliant bread.
Tip one, make sure the flour and yeast is thoroughly soaked in the liquid before you start to knead. You will do this by roughly mixing it together into a shaggy mass. The easiest thing by far for this is a Danish dough whisk, which you can get at Bakery Bits . Get the smaller one for household quantities, it is easier to use.
Tip two, if you don’t already use it discover Quick yeast — Dove Farm is my favourite, easily available in the supermarket and in a little tetrapack box not a sachet, so easier to use how much you need. I keep my opened pack in an airtight plastic box. You add it to the flour, not the liquid and it is foolproof. (Well, I add rapidly, I have never had a failure with it, in years of breadmaking.) If you have time, use less yeast and more rising time, if you are short of time, add more yeast but expect the bread to stale a bit quicker.
Tip three, don’t be scared of salt. Sea salt is the optimum you will read, but I find the crystals hard to dissolve, and I don’t want shards of salt in my bread. So I just use ordinary table salt (the cheapest kind, which has no additives). Make sure you use enough. Bread with no salt is disgusting. ( Don’t ask the Italians about this though, as they love their saltless bread, but then they eat it with salty salami and proscuitto)
Tip four, forget about heavy kneading. Kneading is designed to strengthen the gluten and it does, but time is what really helps the gluten. So you are only kneading for 10 seconds (or to a fastish count of 20, which is what I do.) Then you will rest for about 20 minutes, and 10 second knead again. Do this another time, and then let the bread rest and prove for about half an hour. Then shape it and let it rise again for about an hour (if it is warm) or an hour and a half (if the weather is a bit chillier).
Tip five, shape properly. For a tin loaf, you want a good tight skin on the outside of the bread, and the inside to be full of evenly distributed small bubbles. For a looser bread like focaccia or ciabatta you are aiming at lots of large light bubbles. You will find lots of good information on shaping bread on the internet, I love The Fresh Loaf forum, and Dan’s own forum for really good links to resources and amazingly knowledgeable people happy to share their knowledge with us.
Tip six, wash all your stuff in cold water. Honestly, you will thank me for this tip more than any other. Hot water cooks the flour. And use your dough scraper in the cold water to clean your bowl. The curve of your dough scraper ( you do have a dough scraper, yes? I cut mine out of icecream cartons btw..) fits the curve of the bowl to quickly remove all the doughy bits. You can then tip the water away with all the sticky bits in it and either wash the bowl in hot water as usual or stick it in the dishwasher.
I’d be delighted to hear your tips to add to mine, please comment and let me know what you think makes the best bread?
- FOR WHITE BREAD:
- 350g Strong Bread Flour
- 150g tipo 00 Italian Flour , or any soft plain wheat flour.
- 100 ml boiling water
- 200 ml room temperature water
- FOR BROWN BREAD:
- 200g Strong White Bread Flour
- 150g Strong Wholemeal Flour
- 100g tipo 00 Italian Flour, or any soft plain wheat flour
- 50g Potato flour (not essential but makes a lovely soft loaf, if you don’t have it add another 50g Wholemeal flour)
- 120 ml boiling water
- 230 ml room temperature water
- FOR EITHER BREADS:
- 1tsp fine salt
- 1.25 tsp instant yeast
- 4 tablespoons milk powder (I use skimmed milk powder, but any will do)
- 50g unsalted butter, chopped
- Put the flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl. In a jug mix the two waters, and check the temperature. You want it warm blood temperature, or roughly 35 degrees Centigrade.
- Add the milk powder and the butter to the water and whisk in. Add the liquid to the flours and mix until a shaggy dough is formed.
- Rest for 10-20 mins.
- Knead lightly 10 secs/20 times. Return to a clean, lightly oiled bowl , turn over so the top is oily, and cover with a plastic bag. Repeat short kneads 3 times.
- Rest for 30 mins.
- Shape firmly as required and put into a greased 2lb loaftin, or make rolls (I made 12 from this mix)and put onto a baking tray about an inch apart so that they will kiss when baked.
- Rise covered in oiled plastic (the one from the rises will be oily enough) for an hour to an hour and a half depending on the temperature in the room, until the bread is nearly as high as you want it to be but not soft and floppy.
- Glaze with milk or egg, scatter with flour or poppy seeds, and bake in a hot oven Gas Mark 7 for 15 mins, then reduce the heat to Gas Mark 4 and continue to bake for 25 mins for bread or 10 mins for rolls.
- Check that the bread comes away from the tin easily, and is good and brown and crusty on the underside, and cool thoroughly on a rack before cutting and eating.