21 January 2011

Essential White Loaf

A good white loaf is the little black dress in the world of breads. Not my choice day in, day out, but utterly perfect for ever so many occasions. Requiring only a few, simple ingredients and a little muscle, on lazy days, I often feel it is easier to bake this than walk to the next bakery. Well, that's my kind of laziness! Although kneading bread should rightfully classify as an upper body work out...
Method and the following recipe are adapted from Richard Bertinet's "Dough". Your ingredients should be at room temperature:

10 g butter
20 g fresh yeast
500 g wheat flour
10 g salt
50 g milk
300 g water

Crumble the yeast into the flour, add salt, butter and the liquids - use your scales to weigh  the latter rather than measure volume, it's more exact. With your hands, bring everything together into a rough dough:

I place this on my bare, wooden work surface. No extra flour at this point. Yes, the dough is sticky, don't worry about it, any dough sticking to the work surface will over time rejoin the main body of dough. I set my timer for ten minutes and start kneading. It's difficult to describe the exact motion but I'll try. I put my hands under the dough, lift it up, and throw it back upside down. That's the main movement. When lifting, I also stretch the dough sideways, folding the stretched parts back to the middle. After three minutes, my dough is already considerably less sticky:
Now you simply need to keep going until the dough is velvety and smooth. Ten minutes should do the trick. As the dough is getting smoother, I tend to increase the stretching motion to get in extra air. The finished dough is then rolled into a ball, sprinkled with flour and left to rise, covered, for an hour. 

Form into an oblong shape by folding the sides into the middle, pressing quite firmly. Place in a lined loaf tin, cover and leave to rise for another hour. At the appropriate moment, preheat your oven to 240 C. Place the tin into the hot oven, spray quickly with a little water, close the oven door and reduce the heat to 220 C. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown, leave to cool on a wire rack.


And experiment:

There are so many possible shapes!
(Adjust baking time: these took ca. 10 minutes)

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