No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Monday, 24 October 2011

White rolls using the undercover (cloche) method

My wife has never been a great fan of my bread, but after making a variety of bread rolls for a birthday party, she agreed to let me have another go at making some for her.

I used the 'several short kneads over a period' technique, coupled with the undercover method.

600g strong white flour
1 teaspoon salt
375g lukewarm water
8g fresh yeast (or 5g dried yeast)
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place the dry ingredients into a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and add to the bowl along with the olive oil. Mix into a sticky dough - if it's not sticky add another 10-15g or more of water to make it so - and knead for 10-20 seconds.

2. Scrape off  as much dough as you can off your fingers, then dip your hands in a little flour and rub off as much of the dough sticking to your hands as you can before you wash them. Invert the bowl over your dough and leave for 10-20 minutes.

3. Knead it again for a short period and leave it as before.

4. Knead for a third time - and this time you should notice that the dough is less and less sticky. Once again leave it for a bit.

5. When you're happy with the dough, leave it - covered - for at least an hour if you can.

6. When you're ready to proceed, divide the dough into 8 pieces (if you want to finish with 100g rolls) or 10 pieces (if you'd prefer 80g rolls) and shape them into rolls.

7. Give yourself plenty of room then take one of the pieces in each hand and flatten them down with the palms of your (flat) hand. Keeping them pressed down, gently move them round in a circle. After a couple of circles, start to ease the pressure off. Still moving in circles, let your hands form a hollow shape. Gradually cup your hands and relax the pressure, whilst still making the circular movement. Your little finger and thumb should make contact in turn with the side of the roll as it tightens up. Ease off the pressure altogether, and you should have a couple of bun shapes! 

Undercover method: 
8. Place the rolls on a piece of baking parchment so that they are just touching. Place the paper on a baking tray and cover with a roasting dish. Leave until the rolls are roughly doubled in size* then bake at 220C for 20 minutes before removing the roasting dish. Continue baking until the top of the rolls are browned sufficiently - say 10 to 15 minutes.

8. Otherwise, just cover the rolls with a dry tea-towel and leave to prove until well-risen. Bake at 220C for about 15 minutes.

9. Leave to cool on a baking tray.

*To see how big your rolls will grow, at stage 7, take two of the pieces of dough and form it into a roll - that's doubled in size!

If you want to make fancy dinner rolls, here are some shapes to start you off.

1050g of dough weighed off at 125g per roll and covered with a roasting dish, both when proving...
...and for the first 20 minutes of baking - at 220C in the middle of the oven. The bread completely filled the roasting dish
The crumb. It's beautifully soft and light - I haven't been able to stop  nibbling it (and I don't generally eat white bread.)

Must have done something right, my wife has asked for some more of these rolls! 

This time I increased the amounts - 700g white flour, 475g water, 10g yeast, 1 tsp salt and 25g olive oil - to give me ten rolls instead of 8.

I kneaded the dough 4 times in total - each time it was less sticky than before - then left it for about an hour and a half.

Shaped the rolls, covered them with the roasting tray and put the oven on. When the oven was up to temperature, I put the bread in for two minutes to give it a blast of heat - left it for five minutes, gave it another 2 minutes in the oven, left it for 5 minutes then put it in the oven for 20 minutes with the cover on and 10 minutes without a cover.*

I've since experimented with less time undercover in the oven, and now I only leave the rolls undercover for 10 minutes. You need to find the times that work for you and your oven.

*This is the method I use when I'm in a hurry to bake the bread. If I've plenty of time I'll leave the shaped rolls - under the roasting tray - on the worktop to rise by themselves as normal, before baking.

Monday, 17 October 2011

"Breadmaking made easy", Burnham, Sept - Oct 2011

Monday 17th October.

Christmas loaf and pane casereccio (rolled, filled pizza) tonight, the last session.

In this classroom I have a PC at my disposal, so I have been able to put pictures of the bread they were making up on the screen (from my blog). We were halfway through making the pane casereccio when I suddenly realised the computer screen was blank - and the PC was dead. Thinking it was either something I'd done or it was a computer fault I just left it. Shortly afterwards I noticed one of my ovens had gone cold. I still didn't twig. It was only when I noticed that the bread in the oven wasn't browning as it should have been that I realised the power was off. It became obvious that a circuit breaker had tripped somewhere.

I checked in the next room, where the sockets were still operating OK. I found a pair in the small kitchenette - about 20 metres away from the classroom where we were working, but still. Then another 2 sockets were found, so we were able to keep on baking.

Not sure if my four ovens had caused the outage, since we'd used them without any problems in the previous weeks. 

It was nice to hear that the group were sad about the course finishing and were wondering what they'd do with their Monday evenings from now on. I was given a lovely card from everyone thanking me for my efforts over the past 5 weeks. They were a lovely bunch and we had a lot of laughs. I shall miss them.

I have only one pic to post from this session - showing how one student, Joan,  shaped her Christmas loaf, using tinned apricots. [That's still to come.]

Monday 10th October.
Sizzlers and Chelsea buns on the menu today - although Will opted to make a Peshwari naan.

Excellent session, but no pics since I forgot my phone!

Monday 3rd October 2011.
3rd session - Tarte Alsace and Apfel kuchen tonight. The students are now no longer beginners - they all know what to do:
Make the savoury dough - put it to one side, make the fruit dough, shape it and put to prove; shape the first dough, add toppings and put to prove.

They're all very organised and it all works like clockwork - except for the photo-copier! [More to come]

Here's a couple of pics from the session:

Remembered to gather these Apfel kuchens together for a group photo...

But only just remembered in time to take this pic of Tom's Tarte Alsace before he put it away in his basket.

6 students, 4 women and 2 men - none of whom were breadmakers, except one had a machine.

The venue is an ordinary classroom, but, since I have 4 ovens I can carry around with me, we can turn it into a kitchen of sorts.

Each week we make two batches of bread - generally one each, sweet and savoury. The first evening the students made soda bread - I demonstrated a plain one, while the students made a spicy fruit loaf - and also a batch of fancy dinner rolls.

The breads made on the second evening were chosen by the students. The main focus was meant to be on loaves of bread, but one of the guys was desperate to make a pizza:

And here it is.
Here's a focaccia and a batch of sweet breads - pain au chocolat and jam doughnuts:

The two large ones are the doughnuts and the others are the pain au chocolat.

Here's a loaf with the buns.
Next Monday we're making Tarte Alsace and Apfel kuchen.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Poppy and sesame seed crackers

These only took about 50 minutes (no proving!) - they really are quick and easy
They're fun to make - and taste gorgeous!
200g (1 mug) strong white flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon each sesame and poppy seeds
125ml (1/3rd of a mug) lukewarm water plus 1 teaspoon yeast

Oil to brush 
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds to sprinkle

1. Place the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Measure the water, stir in the yeast until it dissolves, then add the yeast liquid to the flour.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife (starting with the yeast first, to dissolve it properly), cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – and stop before you get fed up!

4. Divide your dough into 4 and form  each piece gently into a cob shape. Roll out each portion of dough very thinly, flouring the worktop and the dough - and, when you think it won't go any thinner, roll it out some more.(It helps if you work on these alternately - dough rolls out easier if it has been rested.) Place the dough on a piece of baking parchment  the same size as the baking sheet and roll the dough out whilst it's on top of the paper. Use a pizza cutter to trim the edges to the size of the paper.

5. Brush with oil and sprinkle with either poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Using a pizza cutter, cut them into 2-3cm squares. These separate out and shrink a little as they are baked.

6. The oven needs to be a lot cooler than for normal bread. I had it on 175C, which worked well - but each oven is different. You don't want the oven too hot, so if you're at all unsure, start with 150C. If they are not beginning to colour after ten minutes, turn the oven up to 160C, and so on. Keep an eye on them - sometimes the squares at the edge are ready whilst the ones in the middle are still a little pale. Simply remove the one that are done and return the others to the oven for a couple of minutes more.

I intend to try these very soon with some chilli powder or curry powder.