Use your loaf

Use your loaf

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

I always make my own bread but one of my contacts on Flickr-Falling Sky- posted his results of using a recipe from the Guardian. I tried it out and was impressed by the taste and airy nature of the final loaf. It uses the sponge method of soaking half the flour in the water and yeast for several hours. By a strange coincidence there was a TV programme on just this topic last night- The Hairy Bakers.
I have adapted my own recipe to make a batch of 3 loaves using the Kenwood mixer with dough hook.

For the sponge:
1 1/2 Ibs of strong white flour.
2-3 level teaspoons of dried yeast.
1 1/2 pints of warm water

For the dough
1 1/2 Ibs of strong wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 oz of butter.
Put the water in the large mixing bowl and add the yeast. Add the flour and give it a quick blitz with the dough hook to stir it up. Leave for several hours with a tea towel over the top. This is the sponge and it will rise up as the yeast gets to work.
When ready, rub the butter into the second half of the flour – I like some wholemeal mixed in but you can use all white. Mix into the sponge and it may be necessary to add a little more water to create a sticky mix. Leave again and give it a quick knead with the dough hook 30 minutes later. Leave for another 30 minutes and then take out and knead on a surface until its nice and smooth. Don’t add too much flour to stop it sticking. You can oil the board if you want. Then shape and put in to the bread tins. Leave again until they have doubled in size in the tins. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake in a hot oven – 200C in my fan assisted oven for 30 minutes does the trick. Tap the bottoms and they should sound hollow.


Zen and the art of bread making.


Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Baking bread is not just a chore it’s a philosophy. The Tao of Bread if you don’t mind me mixing my philosophies. Something that is simple yet complex. It is part of many cultural histories. The bedouin of the Sinai desert have it right. When you are resting under the shade of the tree watching the bedioun brew fresh tea and bake marvelous bread in front of you on a fire you realise that bread is part of life itself. When you bake bread you are connecting with the soul. The soul of the kitchen and through your hands you breathe life into a ball of flour. It is magical. Every loaf is an individual and each one turns out slightly different. To master bread baking is an art not a chore. Do not give this task to a machine.
Make your own bread and don’t buy a bread maker. Baking your own bread is a far more efficient. You can bake three loaves at a time and freeze a couple and you get the enjoyment and exercise of kneading your dough. Buy a mixer with a dough hook but do not buy a bread making machine!

Kneading dough is a way of connecting with the routes of the earth. Man has been baking bread for centuries and it is one of the most satisfying things to do in the kitchen. The recipe below was given to me by my mother and I have used it ever since with my own decorations and bread designs.
As you knead the dough, practice the art of meditation. Just think about the task in hand, forget about all the other things that you need to do. Pull the dough and roll it under your hands. Think about your breathing as you do this, let the mind and body come together as one and enjoy the inner peace that it brings.
(Do also read my latest bread posting here.)

Ingredients –
3lb of flour to make 3 loaves. Use a mixture of strong white flour and brown or wholemeal flour.
dried yeast – follow instructions on packet. Fresh yeast is better if you can get it.
pinch of salt
mixture of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to mix
1 tbsp olive oil
water to mix 1 1/2 pints of lukewarm water.
Topping: sesame seeds, sunflower, poppy seeds and a little milk or beaten egg.

I use a mixer and dough hook to mix up the flour with yeast, salt and seeds.
If you use fresh yeast – mix up in a jug with some a tablespoon of honey and some lukewarm water. Cover and leave for ten minutes until it froths up and then add to the flour mixture and add more water as below. Use about a teaspoonful of fresh yeast per 1lb of flour.
Then add the water at lukewarm temperture – feeling just warm on the hand. I add a pint fairly quickly at first and then slower as it binds together to get a nice not too sticky dough.
Turn this out on a board – you can flour the board to stop it sticking. Divide into three lumps and then this is the best part.
Knead the dough by pulling it apart and then folding over. Do this for ten times or so on one lump and then move on to the next one. The dough should get springy as it gets to the right consistency.
Leave covered in a bowl for half an hour to expand in size. Then bash it down a bit to expel the air, re- knead for a little and put the dough balls into the bread tins. Leave to rise – they should double in size.

The topping of the loaves is very important – it adds such a lot to the final satisfaction. i used to wait until the loaves had risen and then brush with milk or an egg(for an extra crusty top) then scatter the topping on top – sesame seeds are a favourite because if you toast the bread you get delicious toasty sesame seeds.
Pat, my mother now has a better idea that I have adopted because the problem with the above method is that the most of the seeds drop off before you get to the toast stage. Now we put the topping before you put the dough into the tins. Spread out the topping on a surface and roll the dough over it. This way the topping embeds into the dough and doesn’t fall off. I now use more sunflower seeds and some fllour mixed in for a real chunky topping.