At last! Finally there are no more “new”s (new home, new dog, new job…) and that means that I have found time to bake and blog. Whoop! There is however one “new” that is inspiring my blogging, and that is our new camera. It’s nice to be able to post ‘proper’ pictures.
Don’t you just love the Great British Bake Off? Amongst other reasons, I’m glad for Scotland’s “No” vote simply for not upsetting one of my favourite TV programs mid-series. The Great England, Wales and Ireland Bake-Off doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Since ‘bread week’ I have been dying to get back to bread and see if I can improve on my previous attempts. (See Experimenting with Bread )
And….guess what? SUCCESS!
I started out with Mr Hollywood’s simple white tin loaf as usual, succumbing this time to the instant yeast in the recipe for fear that my attempts with dried yeast were causing over proving.
I mixed my ingredients as usual and then, and this is the crucial part…
KNEAD THAT BAD BOY!
No, seriously. I know I can’t be alone in trying to master bread and wondering why on earth it just doesn’t quite rise how I want. But today I kneaded the dough until my hands hurt. I figured you probably can’t over knead your dough and I was determined to avoid my flabby problem of previous attempts.
I don’t even think technique is that important, but I think I like the way my mum taught me and that seems to work best for me – working the dough with the heels of your hands, folding your hands one over the other and folding the dough over at the same time (It’s a bit like the game we used to play as kids, piling our hands on top of teach other’s, trying to be the one with our hand on top. Just me? Ah, ok.)
I think, if my sketchy knowledge of bread-science is right, that unless those gluten strands really get chance to build up during the kneading process, the bread lacks structure. The yeast creates air inside the dough like it’s supposed to, but the dough itself isn’t strong enough to hold itself up and you don’t get the proper rise. Hence this ‘flabby’ quality to my dough rather than a nice firm consistency.
It needs a bit of a work out.
As do I.
10 minutes is not enough in my opinion, go by consistency not time – the dough should be elastic and stretchy. If you take a smallish piece, you should be able to stretch it out thin so that you can see light through it. Apparently this is called the windowpane test.
(Thank you Bake Off.)
Look at the difference here compared to my previous attempts:
Usually my dough expands outwards, filling the bowl. This time it about tripled in size but stayed in a firm ball shape.
Much better already, I thought.
Putting it into the tin, the same happened. Rather than spilling over the edge of my tin, it went upwards.
Lovely. Exactly what I was hoping for.
Now for the good bit. A sprinkling of flour, a slice down the middle and into a hot oven with a pan of water underneath.
Thirty minutes later, this is what I found:
Bread. Of. Heaven.
I can almost hear the Hovis music playing in the background…
It was so completely different from my last attempt:
Inside the bread is so much softer and fluffier with a really nice spring-back consistency. I swear you could have bought it from a shop (Jon said nicer than shop-bought, he’s lovely isn’t he?) We had toast and egg for tea. No pictures of that I’m afraid, it wasn’t around long enough…
Well, there you have it. I don’t know what Paul and Mary would make of it, besides it being too simple. But then can you really beat the humble loaf?
The secret it seems, and it’s no surprise, is in the need for kneading. No shortcuts here. I’m so chuffed I’ve cracked it. Bread making I think is one of those things that you can only learn by doing, and, kneading accomplished, I finally feel ready to embark on a real bread adventure…