Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Our Bread Making Routine (With Quick Yeast)

I'm often asked about how we find the time to make bread. Truth is, bread takes time, but not much active time. So with a little planning, it's possible - we make bread twice a week on average, and I sometimes buy a nice loaf on Sundays. I haven't yet cracked sourdough (will try again once the weather warms up - I think our kitchen is too cold to get a starter going right now), so this is the easy stuff - flour, water, quick yeast and salt, sometimes olive oil:

Basic Bread Recipe:

500g of organic, wholegrain flour. My favourites to mix and match are plain old Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour, Rye, Malthouse and Spelt. I also keep Strong White on hand to mix in sometimes, if I feel like a fluffier loaf (especially with rye, which can be a little heavy or gummy, or with something like buckwheat, which doesn't contain gluten), but I never make plain white bread. I've specified organic - the pesticide levels are actually higher in whole grain products because they aren't stripped of the outer husks, so it's really worth springing for. Also, we're saving money by making bread, right? So let's make something nice. 

1 teaspoon quick dried yeast. Make sure it's reasonably fresh - it might not work well if it's been in your cupboard for yonks.

1 teaspoon fine sea salt. 

325 mls warm water. 

About a tablespoon of oil, I use olive or rapeseed. Optional.

The timetable goes roughly like this: mix and knead for 10 minutes, proof for an hour, light knead and shape for 5 minutes, proof for half an hour in the loaf tin, bake at 200C for half an hour. So, as you can see, it takes a bare minimum of two hours, but with only 15 minutes active. Now, let's say it's a Monday. Maybe we are planning to go to a playgroup or something. Before we set off, we'll make our dough. This isn't a chore, it's an activity! It's messy play! We sing about 'Dough a Deer' and enjoy ourselves.

I won't lie, having a stand mixer helps. I let the Kitchenaid do the first knead. So again, I'm not actively working - I'm usually tidying up, actually, and F is usually playing with her small portion of dough. Then, depending on our timetable and the weather, I either set the dough to rise on my heat mat or at room temperature. Our kitchen is really cold, so I keep a heat mat for my Kombucha, and it also comes in handy for bread. A warmer temperature will mean that the dough doubles in size faster. SO, if I know that playgroup is an hour and half, I might leave the dough in a cooler spot to deliberately slow the process down - as long as it's not so cold as to halt the rise completely. Kneading and shaping by hand takes very little time, and again, you leave it alone for a while (you can even refrigerate it at this point to use later on - we often do for pizza dough). We might then start to make and eat our lunch - so we are home anyway - and put the oven on to pre-heat. Then I can bake the bread in between lunch and nap, which will cool down sufficiently to be ready to eat as a post-nap snack!

Alternatively, if we're home in the afternoon, we can have fresh bread in time for dinner just by popping into the kitchen every so often. I might start the dough before her nap, but really there's time after as well. 

*The times are a guideline. Really, you want to knead until the gluten is sufficiently developed (it will be nice and springy), and proof until it doubles. You can manipulate your timetable with the temperature - just don't push it too far. 
*Dough freezes. Yup. I especially like to freeze pizza dough (same recipe as above, just use '00' flour instead of bread flour. I really like a 50% spelt, 50% '00' pizza dough - and I pretend it's authentic because spelt was eaten by the Romans!), which also makes a decent flatbread. Just flatten a smallish ball of dough, brush with oil and throw on the grill pan. Little fresh flatbreads with hummus and vegetables makes a nice dinner if you ask me. 
*If you're vegan, you might already have vital wheat gluten in the house - so if you find that your whole grain bread isn't as chewy or springy as you'd like, you can add a tablespoon. I don't use it anymore, but it's a common bread additive and worth experimenting with. You'll also get a good feel for the gluten content of your bread by manipulating it deliberately.  
*Flour seems to vary not just by grain, but brand as well. I'd rather add more flour than more water. In a stand mixer, the dough should form a big stretchy ball that's slapping the sides of the bowl. By hand, again, you're looking for stretchy - not just sticky. 
*For a crustier crust, you need steam in the oven. A little roasting tin with some hot water works a treat, but make sure to put it in BEFORE the bread. It works it's magic in the first few minutes of baking.  

Eat a slice or two (or five) while it's still warm, if at all possible.

But get in there quick!

1 comment:

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