Today is the first day since before Christmas where there is nothing sweet or junky in the house. And to be honest, it is making me a little frantic and worried… what will happen if I have a sugar craving?
To combat those feelings I decided today was the day to work on my 2013 resolution of baking more bread. When I was growing up we never, ever ate shop bread. Since moving out of home, working and studying, never having good ovens in rental properties etc, I got super lazy. And I promised myself last year that I would start, and I made break once. Well, today, right here and right now, I am making bread! Woo hoo! Let’s see if I can keep it up, at least once a fortnight.
3 sachets of dry yeast (7gm sachets)
2 teaspoons of honey (as pure as you can get)
1 kg of good bread flour, while, whole meal, whatever you like
600ml of lukewarm water
I cup of oats
2 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 teaspoon or ascorbic acid
½ cup pepitas.
Good pinch of salt or two.
You can easily make this bread without the last four ingredients. Or you can swap things out; for example, change the pepitas for walnuts, the oats for linseeds etc, etc.
Start with the yeast. Make sure you’re preparing the dough in a warm room, preferably with no cool breezes.
Put the yeast in the bottom of a heatproof bowl or jug. Mix in the honey to form a weird looking paste.
Add the water. Some recipes for bread say to use tepid water, but I find I get much better bread if I use warm water. Not too hot – too hot and you will kill the yeast. The warmth should be something really comfortable to put your hand in, or to put a baby in or… like lukewarm. I’m at a loss for the words to accurately describe it.
Mix the yeast and honey through the water until all the honey is dissolved and most of the yeast is. You will still see little pieces of yeast. Put in a warm corner and cover with a clean tea towel.
Place the bread, acid, pepitas, oats, salt into a very large bowl (I prefer to use a plastic basin) and mix well.
When the yeast has developed a little head on it, add the olive oil into the water.
Make a well in your flour mixture, and pour the yeast mixture into the middle. Use a knife to cut through until the mixture seems like it’s really coming together and then get your hands in. Dont work it too much at this point, and I also prefer it to be wetter than drier, as you can add more flour at the kneading stage.
Cover with plastic, find a warm spot in the house with no breeze, cover with a towel or something to keep it warm, especially in winter and wait for a few hours.
When it has doubled in size scrape it out onto a clean-floured surface. Now this is going to sound a little weird, but when you knead bread you should be firm and gentle- my mum always said like when your touching your lover’s body. Yup! Even to a 13year old who was totally freaked out by what she said. Always inappropriate, my mum. You want to work it enough to get the gluten going in the flour, but not so much that you toughen it. This takes experience to really know the difference, but you will feel it getting firmer. Also, try not to let it get cold.
Divide the bread into three or four equal portions. I knead by pushing the ball of dough out flat with the heel of one hand, and then bring it sort of folded over with the fingers of my other hand. Do this with each portion.
Now you can either put two portions in a normal bread tin and your loaf will rise and cook well without the centre being either doughy or the crust being too hard.
Or you can flatten them out and make foccacia, or any flavoured bread you like. Today I am adding rosemary, garlic, oil, some tomato and bocconcini cheese.
Once they had done the second proof, I put them in the oven at 180 in a fan forced oven. This is the first time I have baked bread in this oven, and next time I will be aiming more for 160 -170 with a little longer cooking time. I baked the bread for 30 min and the foccacia for 20 minutes.
I completely forgot to take photos of the bread at its first and second proof but I have one of the focaccia cooked! Still learning this blogging thing, and photos of sizes before and after rising may have been helpful! Next time, I promise.
Hope you go and do some baking now! xx