17 Jan

I have been trying to make bread for a while. Because just making bread from a package seemed too simple, I wanted to try to make bread that look like the baker’s bread but from scratch, which is just mixing stuff together. Numerous attempts have failed miserably, like when I made yeast my self and being so disappointed from the whole result that I baked it all in block and reinvented how to make bricks.

Anyway, here are the ingredients, quantities and procedure to get 500 g of bread. All the procedure will take you 10 minutes (even if it seems it takes an hour to describe) plus 20-25 minutes baking. There are also 1 or 2 hours of rising time in between. OK. I mix together 200g of white wheat flour, 200g of whole wheat flour, 60g of spelt flour, 40g of kamut flour. Mix the flours together, so that they are even distributed among each other. Then add 1 teaspoon of (dry) yeast (I use dry because in Groningen I can find fresh yeast only on packages of 42g, which is a bit too much for 500g of bread). One teaspoon of baking soda. I find that backing soda does not help the rising much, but I think it helps the yeast in keeping a bit the structure of the bread. I see it in this way, the yeast gives the rising power, the backing soda provides a bit of scaffolding, so that the rose structure does not collapse. Then 1/2 teaspoon of salt (this you can leave out, then your bread will be insipid but maybe you don’t mind). 1/2 teaspoon of (brown) sugar (I use sugar because I read it on the package of the yeast that sugar should be added. Sugar activates the rise of the yeast, but I am not sure whether it is not dependent on the type of yeast and whether different types of sugar make a difference for the activation. I use brown sugar because it seems more ‘naturalistic’ than white or other sugars, and I did not try without it because that would add another variable to the equation which I was not in the mood yet to control). At this point I mix everything again, to be sure the powders are well incorporated with the flours, otherwise you get all your ‘rising power’ unevenly distributed, which makes your bread acquire curious shapes. Then I add 2-3 tablespoons of yoghurt, this is also to boost the rising process of the bread, I read yoghurt helps backing soda to kick in, which I thought I observed after I started adding yoghurt to the dough, but it might be a placebo effect. Then I mix everything again.

At this point I add 300 ml of lukewarm water and mix again. When everything seem incorporated I put it in a loaf pan and let it rise for a couple of hours. Rising is actually an interesting procedure as well, what works best for me is to place the loaf pan on a radiator with a wet cloth on top (wet because it prevents the bread from sticking to the cloth and become too dry).  Be ware that if the radiator is too hot and while transporting the bread to the oven the change in temperature is too high, your bread will collapse while you transport it to the oven. Because I have a gas oven I cannot set the temperature to less than 120 Celsius degrees and at that temperature the bread would cook. Also, I try to be a bit aware of the environment and letting the oven go for 2 hours to rise bread seems a bit too inconsiderate of the environment to me. If you want to be the most environmentally aware and your house does not need a radiator to get warm, then you can leave the bread to rise in the switched off oven, but the result will be a bit less good.

And for the backing, I do 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius, I never bother pre-heating the oven, also this to save the planet from global warming, and most of the time the bread is cooks well as well… Also with the backing procedure I’ve experimented with different settings. Always to limit wasting resources (this is also why I’m using a gas oven and trying to avoid an electric one) I try to bake multiple things at once (e.g. with the bread might go a cake, muffins, both, or other bakery products). Usually if there are not products which require a very careful backing process it works all well. For example, if I’m backing muffins and they should go for 40 min at 150 and the bread should go 20 minutes at 220, I might do 30 min at 180 and everything seems to be fine. The crust of the bread might be a bit more soft though, so what I do sometimes is to do 10 minutes at 200, then add the muffins and lower the temperature to 165-170 for 25 minutes… you need to work out what works for you and with your oven.

Also, from my experience the best results are obtained with leaving the backed products in the oven after being cooked (ever had those awesome carrot cake collapse immediately after being extracted from the oven). So be patient and let them rest a little.

Oh, and ambulance driving by woke up Fay, I need to go back to my father duties… to the next one.


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