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Bread - A recipe
3 2/3 cups bread making flour (sifted - it changes the weight if you don't sift it)
+An extra 1/3 a cup if needed (if the dough is too wet), and a bit for dusting your bench top surface when kneading.
1 1/2 cups warm milk ( 54 - room temperature - flour temperature (usually the same as the room temperature) = how warm the milk should be in degrees c)
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons bakers yeast
1 teaspoon bread improver (just a product you can buy wherever you buy yeast)
1 teaspoon salt (minimum - I would add a little more perhaps and extra 1/2 tsp)
1 teaspoon sugar
I understand you should try to keep the pure salt away from the pure yeast as it can kill it. I'm not sure if it's true, but it's easy enough to make sure you mix the salt into your flour before you add yeast.
If you are trying to make this with a bread machine premix pack of flour, adding that much salt will make it disgusting because there is already things like salt, and bread improver in the premix stuff.
But you really need to buy a good quality bread making flour. All purpose flour is a compromise product to allow you to make something a bit like bread, or something a bit like cake.
Get bread making flour. It is such a different beast it should have a different name.
Mix your warmed milk, sugar, and the yeast in a bowl. You may as well drop your egg and the oil in there as well.
Whisk it up a bit, then let it stand. After a few minutes, you should see some bubbles forming from the yeast. This step is called proofing, and I'm guessing it proves your yeast is still alive. My first few attempts turned out to be made with dead yeast, and failed completely.
Those times, I made glue.
Crunchy golden glue, but glue.
Now, fill a bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix them up a bit.
Make a well in the centre and, if you can see some bubbles forming, add the wet stuff. Or if you like to take risks, and trust your yeast is alive, add it anyway.
Mix it around for a bit until its a lumpy thing that you think you might be able to pull out of the bowl. At this point you may need to add up to an additional 1/3 cup of flour depending on how soft you dough is. The flour picks up moisture from the air, so you cant really have a recipe that gets it right no matter what.
Now don't pull it out yet.
Let it sit for 15 - 20 minutes so that the flour absorbs some water. This should reduce the kneading time a bit.
Now pull it out, and knead it. The idea here is to stretch it without tearing it. Probably the easiest way to do this is to put it on a lightly floured surface, and with the palm of your hand, push the top half away from you, then turn it around a bit, fold it back on itself, and repeat.
Until the consistency changes to a silky smooth texture.
Here's a really poor photo of it. Poor, partly because my camera is having trouble focusing for some reason, partly because I'm not so good at kneading, and also because this was my hand model's first try (Thanks Mrs 120 Things in 20 years)
Everyone says kneading takes around 10 minutes, but mine seems to take 20. No doubt you get better at it, but as a beginner I knead for much longer than 10 minutes.
Knead it for at least 15 minutes.
Then jam it into a tall thing. Dont use a bowl, because you have to wait until it doubles in volume, and nobody has any idea how much bigger a lump of dough has to be to have doubled in volume. I think a cylinder doubles in volume with a 10 % increase in diameter or something, a sphere, something about 2/3rds of the same size cylinder, and an irregular spheroid of dough... who knows.
Use a straight sided thing.
It doesn't get much easier to judge than that.
Put it in a warm place (in my case on the cup warmer of an espresso machine) at around 25c to get it to rise quickly, but I'm told the longer it takes, the more flavour it will have.
Once it's doubled in volume, turn it out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry surface. Try not to tear it as you get it out. Give it time and it will probably come out on it's own. If not gently coax it out by sliding your hand or a stick up the side between the dough and the container.
The big bubbles at this stage wont tun into some nice looking rustic holes in your bread. they will just swell up and flake the top of your crust off, or burn.
Dough likes a rest.
That doesn't really mean anything, but it makes it easier to shape it after it's had a little lie down. If you have just handled it a lot and try to, say, roll it into a long thin loaf, it will keep springing back into a shorter one.
So give it a rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
I divided this dough into two portions, and this loaf shown here uses around half this recipe, but it's a small loaf. All of it could easily be used for a single loaf.
Now form it into a ball by endlessly tucking the sides towards the bottom. The idea here is to create a smooth, tight, membrane on top. One good way to do this is to cup your hands around the dough, with your little fingers slightly under it, but with the dough resting on a table. Then gently pull the ball toward yourself by a half inch or so, this moves the side closest to you under the ball, and stretches the top. Then you rotate the ball slightly and repeat until you have the desired result.
Smooth, tight, membrane. This holds the loaf in shape and stops it from becoming a puddle. It also keeps the air in and make's it rise a bit better in the oven. The photo below shows a bit of a failure to make that nice thin membrane, because after I did my best, I patted the loaf flat with my hand.
Now place it into or onto whatever you are going to put into the oven with it. You don't want to have to pick the thing up to put into an oven. Experts can do it but I cant, and there's a fair chance that if you've read this far without being disgusted at my methods, you are also a beginner, and thus you cant either. I shaped mine into a flatter disk to stop it hitting the lid of the container I bake it in. But it get's quite delicate after it's final rise, and it's easy to ruin it with rough handling
Now leave it to rise until it doubles in volume. This is tricky and you just have to guess. I found the more I let it rise, the less it rises in the oven. But I'm basing that on a pretty small sample with every one being a different recipe, so try to ignore that.
But don't let it get too big.
I have no idea if that's double the volume. It's very deceiving.
But it's close.
The first ones I let rise until they were double the width and height. That's six times the volume or something crazy.
Next, it's time to wet the top surface of the loaf with water, slash it and add seeds.
I did that in the wrong order, but that's ok.
A very important thing to do to get that extra rise in the oven is to heat it from the bottom. Once again, this allows the rise before a crust if formed on the top. Once the crust forms, unless the loaf cracks open, it cant expand any more. I put a stack of cast iron stuff into my oven at the bottom to collect some heat and preheat my oven to flat out. That combined with having my loaf in a sealed container seems to do the trick pretty well.
Real bread ovens have the option to add steam when you first put the bread into the hot oven.
This stops a crust from forming too soon, and allows the bread to do a sudden extra rise in the first few minutes of being put in the oven. You can throw some water into your very hot oven to do the same, but risk burning yourself, breaking your glass door, and wrecking your electronics. If you cover your loaf, you can get a similar result because the bread puts out some steam of it's own. If it's sealed in, it can do the trick, but I also add a bit of water to the container just before it goes into the oven.
I also leave my oven flat out, and don't remove the lid during cooking. So my oven is at 250c the entire time and it takes around 20 minutes for rolls, and 30 minutes for a round loaf of around 225mm or 9 inches. My pan is only 10 inches wide, and it's all I've got so that's the biggest loaf I could do.
You can tell a loaf is done when it sounds hollow when you tap it.
Your oven will be different, so cook it 'till it's cooked.
120 Things in 20 years - A bread recipe. I think I got most of that in the correct order.
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