Friday, October 26, 2012

Bread - General Recipe

One of the things that I love making is bread.  The problem with this is I'm a busy person and one of the foods that takes the longest to make is bread.  The following is how I accomplish homemade bread when I've apparently no time.

Note: My method does involve a stand mixer.  If doing things manually, your mileage may vary.

The first thing you need to do is planning.  You need to make sure you have two consecutive days where there's a few hours around the house on the second day.  For me, I usually centre things around the weekends as I usually have lots of chores at weekends that centre around the house.

The first thing we need to do is make a "sponge". This is basically a starter dough that will ferment over the next 24 hours. During this process, it will generate some good byproduct qualities like natural preservatives, acidity, taste, etc.

Day One:
In a 1litre sealable tub (to stop it drying out) pour in:

  • 5 grams instant yeast.
  • 130 grams of luke warm water.
  • 150 grams of flour (can be 100gr white, plus 50gr wholewheat).
Mix it all up with a knife or something that gets to all the sides, then put it aside.  Having spent less than 60 seconds you're now done for day one.  

You will notice over the next 24 hours that the mix grows and collapses as the yeasts break down the gluten structure and mix with the natural yeasts in the flours.  This is normal. It also smells great (like beer).

Day Two:
In a mixer bowl, throw in:
  • Whatever sloppy goop day one has left you with.
  • 350gr of white flour.
  • 100gr of other flour (whole wheat, graham, atta, anything usually works)
  • 5gr of salt
  • 270gr water
  • 15gr of olive oil.
  • Any optional things like nuts, flax, etc, that you want to add.
Mix it up in a mixer.  It'll likely resemble more sticky slop.  If you want to firm it up, add some flour, but I don't normally bother.  This entire process usually takes about 5 minutes.  Next, cover the bowl and leave it for an hour in a relatively warm place (I often shove it in the oven with the light on to warm the space) whilst you mow the lawns or do a load of laundry.  After an hour, the dough will have activated the new yeasts in the flour you added today.  
  • Tip the mixture into a bread pan.
  • Throw some cling film over it (stop it drying out)  
  • Leave it for an hour or so to rise.  
  • Check regularly to make sure cling-film doesn't touch the top of the loaf, otherwise it'll rip and the loaf will deflate.
When it looks like it's getting near the top of the bread pan, remove the cling-film and throw it in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes at about 375F to 400F (depending on how crusty you like it).  When it's done, tip it out of the pan so it doesn't "sweat" as it cools down.

As you can see, the entire process takes a combined total of about 12 minutes spread over two days to create. I generally don't futz about with presentation on this loaf. It's purely utilitarian and nothing fancy.