Thursday, 25 April 2013

A study in bread

As I write, there are two granary loaves having their second prove and due to go in the oven just after 8am. It would be true to say that I am developing the body clock of a baker and in order to bake bread seem to be waking up earlier and earlier without any alarm clock. Lucky I do not have to leave the house early for work today but I am still off out just after nine with one of the loaves as a gift. Well, actually, more like showing off. This will be the first time I have truly made a double batch of bread so that I can bake one to use and one to give away.

In order of play....

This was my very first loaf of bread. Made just two weeks ago to the day using a simple Paul Hollywood recipe.

Inside the same loaf. I do not yet fully understand the terminology such as what is a good crumb, all I know is I was amazed and impressed and it tasted good.

Due to work commitments I had to wait until Saturday morning before I could bake again and I started off with this variation on the same recipe using half and half white and wholemeal flour. It is dusted with oatmeal we had in the cupboard. Another tasty loaf.

That same morning (yes, it is still Saturday morning) I decide to go stupidly ambitious and try for Paul Hollywood's 8 plait loaf. That plaiting was hard and not executed right on account of something going amiss with me and the recipe and the dough was far too wet. The fact any shape remained was really quite something it was that wet. Next time I'd go for just a 3 or 4 plait bread. The other thing was the recipe I picked up from the BBC website only said one sachet of yeast and all other recipes said two sachets. Since then, I have only gone for recipes that weigh out yeast and since I am making quite a bit of bread now buy yeast in more economical tins.

With the egg wash, the 8 plait is looking like chollah bread and tastes a bit like it and has that weight and texture so this loaf was still a great success. Needs more work!

Next up on Saturday, deciding I wanted more of a tin shaped loaf, I made a wholemeal tin. Rather nice and nothing to complain about this loaf. I am still amazed that all my bread so far is not tasting yeasty and is quite delicious. The bread is stacking up.

The Saturday baking marathon rolls on with Chelsea Buns. Made with leftover dried fruits I had which happened to be luxurious dried cranberries and blueberries, with cinnamon, butter and sugar. By now I am getting blase and I forgot to take a picture of all of them - a tray of 12 plus a few extra. I also forgot to put a little sugar glaze on them. They did dry out very quickly and in the recipe they say they should be eaten the same day. So what is a girl to do ..... the other half plus the breads were popped into a basket and I walked them round to my sister to share the bounty.

That same day I managed to pop out to the supermarket to buy different flours and some yeast to experiment. Sunday was yet to come and I wasn't really intending to bake bread again. Honest!

First up was my "granary" loaf using malted grain flour. How curious that the word "granary" is a trademark of Hovis or so I read on a number of websites! Anyway, this was my most delicious loaf so far. Yum yum. I topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds but they just fell off when the bread was cut.

I just checked my two loaves and they are nearly ready to go in the oven so the oven is on heating up. This would then make three loaves of bread from one bag of specialist flour which admittedly was a bit pricey compared to an 80p bag of white bread flour but I know which I prefer to eat on a regular basis.

Whilst I was waiting for the granary to rise, or maybe I started these first as they took hours to do their thing - normally an overnight but as I started early on the Sunday they were ready to continue by Sunday afternoon - I whipped up a batch of ....

Bagels! They look a bit wrinkly and indeed they were. My working with the dough has a way to go. There is something to be said for confidence with the dough. Oh yes, the other thing is that most people use those big professional mixers to mix this heavy dough but we do not have one. So it was a hand job - a whole half hour using my bingo-winged arms as dough hooks in a bowl on the floor. After their rising they were boiled briefly and then into the oven to cook at which point they fluffed up and tidied up to this state. They tasted OK too. Not too bready, very dense and chewy. Not quite the standard of Bagels from Radlett and nowhere near the delights of Brick Lane but not bad.

Clearly I am becoming blase with taking pictures as we do not have pictures more closeup or inside the bagels. Nor do I have any pictures of the burger buns I made the same day which we ate for dinner as burgers. Nor do we have pictures of the crumpets I attempted the following week. That Paul Hollywood and his Monday night programme (series now ended) has a lot to answer for. The crumpets were interesting and had promise though not right. Probably because I did not have regular plain flour and I made such a tiny quantity. And then everyone kept phoning me up and needing me that morning that the batter did not have my full attention. Another one to work one.

I did however, take a photo of the next thing I made last Thursday...

Four French sticks! I still can not believe I am making these breads. Inside they seemed pretty authentic with their fluffiness. The outside sounded crunchy. Oh yes. Heaven. I have more to work on with these as I want the crusts to be crunchier still. The amount of youtubes I have watched and websites I have read about bread making have been obscene. I'm feeling like a sponge having discovered a new toy soaking up as much as I can. Life and work really does get in the way a bit!

This brings me to the sourdough. I started the starter on that first Sunday and then baked my first loaf of bread with it eight days later. The starter was only just developing a foam of bubbles and whilst  making that loaf I discovered that people's sourdough starter actually quadruple in size. Oh dear. And yet, that first loaf rose really well over four hours on the first proving. Meanwhile, I fed my sourdough starter again...

... and had the overflowing beast. I've also discovered that people feed their starter twice a day instead of the once a day I was doing. It is fed flour and water and the natural yeast already present in flour is utilised and becomes the rising agent. So now I have made my first sourdough loaf I am still not sure why I am bothering with all this discarding half and feeding twice a day.

Here it is since having grown and burst forth and then gone back down again. Now I have reduced the sourdough back down to where it should be to allow for rising. I find myself washing out the jar each time, having decanted what I am keeping into a mixing bowl, and it is such a kerfuffle. Now that I have kept feeding and it continually grows my little monster will be going into the refrigerator as I shall be away and that it is the safest place to keep it and then I only need feed it once a week. Anyway, my first sourdough loaf....

During its last rise it stuck to my home made banneton which was a floured tea towel in a bowl. It was also a very wet dough and it just spread and spread. I should have baked it that same night but I was home late from work and thought it would be OK to sit overnight and perhaps it lost all its oomph.

The bread had a wet look about it though it did not feel particularly wet. It actually tasted alright and was eaten. The taste was OK though not worth the effort involved so far. I am still not sure what is to rave about with sourdough.

With all my sourdough starter there was a point in which I thought I do not want to discard. Wrong move though with a nice consequence. Clearly I could not afford to keep feeding this beasty. So for the first time I went into free form and used a lot of starter with a decent wadge of flour and a booster sprinkle of yeast and salt and some oil and less than the usual kneading and made this in a very short period of time as I do work and have umpteen other things I need to do too.

My sourdough and yeast, slightly wholemeal loaf was quite OK. Baked Tuesday night it made good chip buttys last night as we were helping out at another event in the town and we did not have time and we're northerners now you know! I'm not sure I want to risk throwing stuff together too often but this worked out.

Currently the two granary loaves are baking in the oven and filling the place with a lovely smell.


Anji Knutsen said...

Are you eating all of that bread? It does look good and your French sticks would put some of our local boulangeries to shame!

Doris said...

That is very sweet of you Anji - if I could get bread that is anywhere near genuine French bread that would be amazing. Darling Mr Doris yesterday, tucking into his pate on fresh granary was telling me that there is no way he would have thought the bread was made at home and not in a good bakery. I think we need to re-write the quality of homemade. If that makes sense.

And yes, we have managed to eat all but a number of end crusts. There are two men in the house plus visitors and we haven't bought any bread in a couple of weeks which is quite something. I've had a fair number of tasters myself and haven't felt any detrimental effects from eating so much more than my usual amount of bread. If anything my energy levels have been amazing but that could be partly due to my new supplements. xxx