Friday, March 29, 2013

Defrosted Rustic Loaf

Way back when I last blogged I froze half a  batch of dough for use on a rainy day. It's not exactly rainy at the moment but with a long weekend just starting and the cold weather never-ending the timing sounded good enough to me!

I pulled the batch out of the freezer two days ago and left it on the drainer to defrost. At some point between then and this morning I realised that the bag had expanded and the dough was obviously rising again in my absence. I gently deflated and popped the defrosted dough in the fridge for a bit over a day. It rose a little again in the meantime before I rather neatly dropped it out of the bag, ready to roll.

I rolled it out as previously:

"Shape ... into a rough square and roll into a cylinder, then roll from one end into another cylinder before resting for 5 minutes.

Gently roll into a log, tapering at the ends, place on a floured baking tray, cover with cling wrap or a tea-towel and leave to double in size again."

It didn't rise as well as I'd hoped, but I'll assumed that was because of the way I defrosted it.

Nevertheless, the neat little loaf went into the oven which had been heated to 260 and then dropped to 220. As before, I had a steaming tray of water on the shelf below, which I think really made the difference this time. I turned the oven down to 170 after 15 minutes and then cooked for another 20 minutes before pulling out to cool.

At this point I was so absorbed with my spring cleaning that I didn't check the base of the loaf and when I went back to check a while later there wasn't quite the hollow sound that I'd been hoping for. Even so, the loaf wasn't a complete loss - though not as dense as I would have hoped. Still, incredibly tasty, especially served warm with lashings of salty butter - oh yes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back to bread basics

I'm going to get to grips with this bread baking, but at the moment I'm just enjoying getting the hang of how all the ingredients and processes work ... I think baking is the only time I manage to find science interesting ...

When I prepped the (considerably fresher) yeast this time around I realised what might have gone wrong last time ...

And I also tried to (unsuccessfully) mix it up with sesame seeds this time, and I've got my heart set on a lovely salted rosemary loaf in the near future ...

Rustic White-ish loaf again

Once again, based on this recipe and I should also note that my cup and spoon measurements are US sized ... don't ask!

150ml + 350ml warm water
1 tspn sugar
1 tbspn dried active yeast
1 3/4 cups strong bread flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 1/2 cups plain flour
Additional plain flour for kneading and dusting

Dissolve sugar in 150ml of water and whisk in yeast. Leave to rest in a warm place for about 10 minutes until the surface is covered with bubbles. Lots of bubbles. Top up with the remaining water and pour into a large bowl. Add all the flour and stir until mixture comes together then tip out onto floured surface.

Knead for 8-10 minutes - or longer if you feel that way inclined - until the dough is elastic. Try not to add too much extra flour. Even if you end up with dough all over your hands and your sleeves seem to be continuously falling down while you knead. Flour is not the answer. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warmish place until it has doubled in size ... I think this time I left it about an hour, which was probably longer than necessary.

Tip the dough back onto a floured surface and gently press all the air out of it before splitting in half. At this point I put one half in the freezer to use at a later date. Apparently this is the time in the process to interrupt ... we'll see how that one goes! Shape the remaining half into a rough square and roll into a cylinder, then roll from one end into another cylinder before resting for 5 minutes.

Gently roll into a log, tapering at the ends, place on a floured baking tray, cover with cling wrap or a tea-towel and leave to double in size again. This time I sprinkled with sesame seeds (though I'm sure there are some rules about the best way to do this ... probably ways which mean the seeds stay put!) before slashing the top three times.

Somewhere in here was when things went wrong. Not wrong wrong, just not perfect. I think the loaf had developed a bit of a skin, which made all the efforts I made next to allow it to keep rising, a little redundant.

Pre-heat the oven to 260 degrees celsius and lower to 220 when you put the bread in. Place a tray with water on the lower shelf to create some steam which apparently allows the loaf to rise fully before the crust begins to form. After 20 minutes remove the water tray and turn the oven down to 180 for another 20-30 minutes. If it's anything like mine it should be more like 20 ... 

Put the loaf straight onto a cooling rack and wait as long as possible before slathering with butter. Then sit back, enjoy and feel wonderfully smug.