Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Loafing around

I had grand plans to try some sweet potato buns and a blueberry - cream cheese loaf but I decided to try and make a  Sandwich Loaf instead. Bitten by the bread bug, I have in the last week alone laid my eyes on at least a dozen varieties of bread I want to try -- loafs, rolls, buns ... it's like a secret world opened up to me. But,  I decided I first needed to perfect by basic loaf before I venture further into other more "exotic" breads.

To be honest, just a  month ago, I was laughing at my pal Marty's passion for baking bread. She speaks about kneading as if it's the best therapy in the world ... massaging sticky dough, she claims, is an experience in itself. I laughed, it would appear, out of ignorance and now as I excitedly spill my guts about my daily experiences baking bread, Marty rolls her eyes.

I admit my mistake and though I don't get as much pleasure kneading, I am almost euphoric when I watch  my loaves swell  in the oven.

I've stumbled upon some pretty good resources for bread making. The fresh Loaf is one and I also often google Delia Smith for some great recipes. But for this sandwich loaf,  I decided to refer to my "go to" cook, Mark Bittman. In his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, Bittman offers cooks a wide variety of breads to try, each with several variations. He offers five or six ways to make this simple Sandwich Loaf alone. What really got me was Bittman's guarantee that, following the recipe properly, even a ten year old can make the perfect loaf.

If it works, I will publicly declare my love for you Mark Bittman. ;)

Now, every baker has his own trademark and with Bittman, he believes in the need to let the bread rise as much as possiblet at it's own pace. While some recipes show you shortcuts where you can hasten the rising of your dough, Bittman believes that leaving your dough to rise at its own natural pace -- preferably overnight, even -- will result in truly flavourful bread.

So, when trying his recipes, time is something you must be willing to spend. Now, this doesn't mean you have to be at  the mercy of your loaf -- you can prepare the dough and let it sit while you work out at the gym or grab some lunch. Even watch a movie. Your  dough doesn't need a babysitter. It just needs time.

This sandwich loaf took about 3 hours to be readied. Mixing and kneading the dough took about 30 mins but then the dough had to be left alone to rise for two hours and then de-gassed and left to sit for 15 mins; then it had to be shaped and left to rise a further hour. At least.

It was all worth it and true to his word, it was pretty easy. the texture of the dough was perfect, the rising was magnificent and the loaf tasted really good (even though my crust was a little too dark ... I was distracted by an episode of Entourage, guest starring Matt Damon).

Sandwich  Bread

3.5 cups high protein bread flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp salt

1.5 tsp active dry yeast (Bittman used instant and so his recipe differs just a little)

1 tbsp sugar/honey (more depending on taste)

2 tbsp butter

1.5 cups cool milk

First, activate your yeast by adding 1/3 cup tepid water to it and wait for it to froth. In your mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and the frothed yeast and mix for about 30 seconds with your electric mixer -- dough hook attached. Add the sweetener, oil and most of the milk and continue to mix/knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be well mixed, barely sticky and an easy to handle ball.

Grease a separate mixing bowl and transfer the ball of dough into it. COver with a damp cloth and let it rise -- approx 2 hours.

Once its doubled (dont shorten the time), deflate the dough and transfer onto a lightly floured flat surface. Let it sit for 15 mins, covered with the damp cloth.

Use only enough dough to keep it from sticking to your hands and the surface, form the dough into a rectangle and then fold in the long sides to form a loaf. Grease your loaf pan {9 inch by 5 inch) and transfer the loaf shaped dough into it. Cover and let it rise -- approx 1 hour or 90 mins.

30 mins before the time, preheat your oven to 180C. Once the dough rises to the brim of the pan, put it in the oven and bake for about 45 mins.

When you remove the loaf from the oven and tumble it out of the pan, the bottom should sound hollow.

Let it cool and slice.

So, since it worked well, I will honour my promise. I Love You Mark Bittman :)

1 comment:

  1. Ahem... no, no don't worry, I'm not going to gloat. I'm just so happy that you have seen the error of your ways. Keep up the good work!


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