Before I start today, I want to thank you all for such beautiful comments on my 12 year anniversary post. I was surprised and touched that so many would take the time to tell me what they thought of my writing, my blog and me. Thank you. Now, let's get on with the next 12 years.
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Hanno's had trouble with a sore mouth for a while so I've been working on a new softer loaf so he can continue to eat bread. When you make bread you generally add flavour with salt, sugar or liquid, or you allow it to ferment and develop natural flavour. The main change in this bread recipe is the addition of milk and I've changed the amount of salt and sugar to what I think is a good balance. The milk, salt and sugar add taste to the loaf so you can leave out, or reduce, the salt and sugar but it will change the taste of the bread.
This is today's loaf.
The recipe below is what I think is a delicious balanced loaf which stays fresh for at least two or three days, then we use it for toast. It will make two loaves. I bake one loaf and freeze the dough for a second loaf. One of these loaves lasts us for four or five days. I remove the frozen dough from the freezer 24 hours before I want to use it.
This is the flour I use - unbleached white baker's flour.
1. To prove the yeast, add 7 grams yeast to ½ cup warm water and a tablespoon sugar, mix and allow to stand. This should form froth on the top. If, after 5 minutes, there is no froth, the yeast may be dead. Check the use-by date and if it's old yeast, you'll have to buy fresh yeast. The sugar is not essential, though it adds to the flavour. If you're not eating sugar, leave it out.
2. If you're hand kneading, add the following ingredients to your bowl, mix, then knead for at least ten minutes.
If you're using a bread machine add the ingredients in this order:
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups baker's flour/high protein flour. If you decide to use it, add ½ teaspoon *bread improver/gluten flour to each cup of flour - see below.
- 2½ cups whole milk, or **the milk of your choice (see below). Remember, you may need to use more milk but start with the 2 ½ cups and if you need more, add small amounts until you have a moist dough.
- the proved yeast mixture
3. Use the dough setting on the bread machine, turn on the machine and allow the dough to mix.
4. When the dough is mixed, this usually takes about 90 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for one minute to remove the air, then shape the loaf.
5. To shape the loaf, flatten the dough then shape it to form a long rectangle the width of your baking tin. Fold both long ends in on themselves, roll the dough into a loaf shape and place it smooth side up in the baking tin. The baking tin I use is 24cm x 13cm.
6. Allow the dough to sit until it doubles in size.
7. Turn on your oven to 220C.
8. When the dough has risen, gently moisten the top with a brush or your hand, then add your toppings. I usually use seeds, oats or polenta - press them into the dough slightly.
9. When the oven has reached 220C, place the loaf in the oven to bake. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 190C and check it when it's been in the oven 35-40 minutes.
10. When the loaf is golden brown and you can smell that it's cooked, turn it out onto a rack to cool.
11. When the loaf is cold, slice it and place it in a plastic bag or container and store in the fridge.
I hope you try this bread and you and your family enjoy it. It's a plain and simple loaf that you can add a lot of healthy fillings to and it can be used for sandwiches and toast. It has fewer ingredients than your standard supermarket loaf and it will be cheaper to make than buy a plastic-wrapped, supermarket loaf. You know exactly what's in this loaf, and can adjust the salt, sugar and type of liquid to suit your family and dietary requirements.
PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING
The milk can be either dairy milk, oat milk or any of the nut milks. The addition of the milk gives the loaf a tender dough and adds to the keeping qualities. If you use one of the non-dairy milks with little or no fat, add a teaspoon of olive oil.
I use unbleached white flour for this recipe but you could also use wholemeal or whole grain flour. The liquid in my bread is full fat, A2 dairy milk and I use white sugar and either cooking salt or pink salt. You could use honey or raw sugar.
Apart from getting the ingredients right, another important thing in bread making is kneading the dough. I usually use a bread machine to knead, I put it on the dough setting and the bread maker makes the dough, kneads it and allows it to sit for the first rise. When it's risen, I take it out, knead it for about a minute to get most of the air out of the dough, then I shape it and place it in the bread tin for the second and final rise. Just before it's ready to go into the hot oven, I gently wet the top of the bread, sprinkle on my topping (sesame seeds, oats or polenta) and place it in the oven.
Here is a good look at Julia Child's Sandwich Loaf which is different to my recipe but very much like another of my bread recipes.
Proving the bread correctly is essential. It's easy to over-prove or under-prove bread. After the dough is put into the bread tin for the second rise, it should double in size before going into the oven. If it sits and continues to grow in size (over-proving) your bread will be light with a lot of holes and won't have the structure of good bread. If you put the dough in the oven before it doubles in size (under-proving), your bread will be dense and heavy. Make sure you give yourself the time to bake well. This is not a job that can be rushed. When you're dealing with yeast, it takes its own time and rushing it will ruin your bread.
* BREAD IMPROVER OR GLUTEN FLOUR - if you can eat gluten
When you first start baking, the main problem many people have is the dough failing to rise. This is generally caused by the dough not being kneaded long enough. High protein or baker's flour is used in this recipe and the protein in the flour is gluten. Kneading develops the gluten in flour so if you don't work the dough enough, the bread will be dense and dull. That's why it's a good idea to use a bread machine - it is programmed to knead the dough for the right length of time. If you're kneading by hand, make sure you knead for AT LEAST 10 minutes.
If you've tried making a sandwich loaf before and the bread didn't rise, buy some bread improver or gluten flour from the supermarket, bulk store or health food store and add ½ teaspoon to each cup of flour. When you have more experience and work the dough more, you can stop using this ingredient.
Of course, we all like eating hot bread and there are times when you'll want to slice into the bread when it comes out of the oven. Most of the time though, you should leave it to sit and cool for a couple of hours before you slice it. I use an electric knife or a meat slicer. If you're going to set yourself up to bake your own bread, having an electric knife will give you clean and neat slices for sandwiches which are perfect for school and work lunches. Store the bread in a plastic bag or plastic container in the fridge. I use the same plastic bag for a couple of months, I wash and dry it in the sun every week.
Baking isn’t just about recipes, it’s about technique, knowing your ingredients and doing the right thing. Don't be a passive bystander when you're cooking, become involved in it. Learn about your ingredients and what they do. Know why you're using them and how to fix mistakes.
So here are a few hints:
- If you store your yeast in the fridge, and you should, mix it in warm water to bring up the temperature before you add it to the flour. You can either mix it in with the flour and use it after it's warmed up, or mix it with warm water and wait till it bubbles, so you know the yeast is active. If you’re using water from the hot kettle, pour the water into the cup first, add cold water to bring it to blood temperature, put your finger in to make sure it’s not too hot, then add the yeast. Pouring hot water into yeast will kill it.
- No matter what type of flour you use, it will absorb differing amounts of liquid depending on the weather. If it's a humid day you might find you use less liquid (because there is more water in the air and potentially in the flour); on a dry day, or in a heated home, you might need slightly more liquid. When you go through a recipe, be flexible with the liquid. If a recipe calls for 1¼ cups, add one cup and mix, adding the ¼ cup slowly until the dough looks and feels right. If you don't add all the ¼ cup, or if you add a little more, that is okay.
- Your bread will be better if the dough is slightly moist, so if your dough looks nd feels dry, add a small amount of extra liquid.
- Whether you use your hands or a bread machine, you need to touch the dough. Learn the feel of good dough so you know what to look for. Remember all stages of the dough - it changes a lot through the process. Basically, when all the ingredients are mixed together, you want a dough that isn't too wet (although almost all rye dough will be more sticky than wheat dough) and isn't too dry. Feel it between your fingers and thumb, just like feeling a piece of fabric. Wheat dough will be soft but not too sticky. If you've just started kneading, you can add a little more flour or liquid, according to how the dough feels. Don't add anything at all at the end of the process, you'll ruin the bread.
- Don't use too much flour to knead the dough. A light sprinkling is enough. Adding more flour when kneading adds more flour to the dough and at the end of the process that will give you a tough loaf.
- You need a hot oven to bake bread successfully, and the oven needs to be pre-heated for the best results. Bread has two types of rising - one is from the yeast you use, the other is called "oven lift" - you get this when you put properly proved bread dough into a HOT oven. The heat immediately starts to lift the bread. That is what you want. Adding dough to a warm oven won't give you the same result.