Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bread baking - my hacks to make it super easy!

Since we got back from our latest holiday/vacation I've been baking bread.
I'm  not sure what caused my need to bake bread.  Certainly I have tried it in the past but for whatever reason didn't really continue.  Maybe it was because I was using a bread maker before... and maybe it's because it really isn't this hard... and I'm getting encouragement from colleagues and friends about how good the bread is.  And it's not just empty flattery.  Even I think the bread is good :)

It started with me watching this video on the plane:
The key words "no sugar bread" were probably the reason I watched this one rather than another one.  That and the promise (or advertising) of 8 minutes of prep time!

The day we got back I was trying to stay awake so thought to bake the bread.  It was pretty amazing.  Especially for attempt one!
Bread in oven on pizza stone

Baked bread.  Looks and smells so good!
The issue with this first one was that... the sesame seeds fell off.  But by the second loaf I had Googled a trick.  Somehow I was to dip the dough in water and then dip it in sesame seeds.  But since then I've found an even easier way.

The video indicated to make a batch of dough of 8 cups of flour.  I don't have a "big homestead" so 4 cups or a half batch should be plenty.  For the first batch I used the following quantities:
4 cups of flour
2 cups of warm/hot water
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet of yeast

Otherwise I followed the way shown on the video.  Put all the ingredients together and mix.  I used a dough hook and my food processor.  That was ok until the food processor started smoking!  Since then (just finished 3rd batch of dough) I think I've perfected the recipe and method.  Or at least gotten it good enough for me!

The number of steps looks scary but honestly this is so easy.   Watch the video and then look at my modified steps as I make it easier than the video!

4 cups plain flour (I used the Woolworths brand that looks like White Wings)
2 cups of warm water (I used one cup off the boil water and 1 cup cold out of the filtered water tap)
2 teaspoons of salt (even I think it needed more flavour than my first batch!)
1 teaspoon instant yeast (I bought the Lowan brand which can just go in the fridge)

1. In a large rounded container I mix all the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.  The 4 cups of flour, the 2 teaspoons of salt and the 1 teaspoon of instant yeast.
2. I then add the almost hot water.  It was explained the water should be hot but at a comfortable level so you can dip a finger in and it shouldn't be too hot.  I did the 1 cup hot almost boiling water to 1 cup cold water and it was fine.
3. Mix with the wooden spoon until it all holds together in a ball
4. Put the lid on the container loosely and let the dough rise (1 hour+ ).  If your house is too cool just put it in the microwave -- no not to heat it.  But you could heat some water first so the cavity is warm and then just put the tub in the microwave just to have a warm spot to put the dough.
5. Have a look to see if it's all risen up and I just punch it down.  I may give it a bit of a 'stir' with the wooden spoon.
6. Stick the lid on again tightly and put it in the fridge until you want to bake.
7.  Take the container out and prepare a section of baking paper
8. Take a handful (say about a third of whatever is in the container) of dough out.  You may want to put flour on your hand/s when pulling out the dough.
9.  Smooth the dough into a ball by dragging the dough to tuck in all the extra dough under the ball.  It makes more sense if you watch the video...
10. Put it onto the baking sheet to rise.  Again it's a wait of 40 minutes or so.  I've done it in less... because I'm impatient!
11.  Preheat your oven to over 200 degrees.  I'm never super accurate so just somewhere over 200 degrees C.
12. Spray your now risen ball of dough with water.  With a spritzer.  Then sprinkle sesame seeds (optional!) onto the ball of dough.  I then use the baking paper and fold it over the bread so I can smoosh the seeds into the ball of dough.  Not super hard just enough so the sesame seeds stick!
13.  Slash your bread with 3 parallel lines.  Use relatively deep cuts.  Sometimes my bread listens and uses the slashes.  Other times it doesn't.  I'm not sure why!
14.  Put the bread in the oven.  I've used a pizza stone and a cookie sheet.  Both work equally well.  The cookie sheet is easier to clean.  I just put the whole baking paper which is already on the cookie sheet into the oven.  Makes it easier!
15.  Put a small tray of water in the oven  I just use a small loaf container and put about 1 cup of cold water (just from the tap) into the oven on a lower tray.
16.  Close up the oven and put a timer on for 30 to 40 minutes.
17. Check on your bread.  When it looks brown enough pull it out!
18.  Cool the bread -- ideally on a wire rack.


Dough rising in container (for mixing and storing the dough!)

Dough pretty much ready for the fridge - you can use it now as well but I like the fridge step

Look!  It's almost like 'perfect' crumb (the holes and texture of the bread)

smaller rolls don't take so long

one of my rolls which was taken home by a friend and had the following day after rebaking to freshen it up!

I think this is in my tummy already.  Sorry!

I've been pulling the hot bread out of the oven and wrap it loosely in a tea towel to take to work.  And it's been a hit at work!  I've been asked for the recipe and requests for the bread to be brought in again.  I even had a colleague who was not eating gluten (choice only for now!) who indulged in a bit and praised it!