Monday, May 24, 2010
Bun in the oven
I bake bread every weekend and each time, I try and vary my breads/buns a little by adding or substituting ingredients: basic wholemeal, multigrain buns, herbed buns (mixed italian herbs, rosemary, parsley, lavender, basil...), black pepper buns ... it's exciting trying new variations each week. One of the best parts about baking breads at home is how my house smells every weekend -- it's like I'm living in a bakery and truth be told, I've stopped spraying on perfumme after a shower on weekends because I leave the house smelling of fresh bread. A new fragrance? That's an idea!
I truly think the smell of freshly baked breads is one of the best smells in the world. It's a wholesome and awfully comforting smell; enough to make me forget any stress of the week past or to come. I actually used to dislike the smell of yeast fermenting in the dough; now I love even that. I love watching the dough rise and I am pretty sure that I may even come to like kneading by hand and forsake the dough hook.
I'm still pretty new at bread baking but I am definitely more adept at it than I was a couple of months ago. Practice goes a long way, I guess. Still, one lesson I am constantly learning is that vigilance is key. The moment I lose my focus and decide to compromise -- i.e use chilled butter instead of waiting for it to soften at room temperature OR measure a little too little water, the result is a dough that takes a little (sometimes more than a little) too long to rise. There are some basic rules to bread baking you can never forget.
This week, I baked some herbed wholemeal buns with sesame topping. The recipe calls for 4 cups of flour (3 high proten, 1 wholemeal or 2:2), dry milk (1/4 cup), yeast (1tbsp) , butter (6 tbsp), honey (2 tbsp), water (11/2 cups) and salt (2 tsp). Instead of the 6 tbsp of butter required, I decided to use 5 tbsp + 1 tbsp olive oil for added flavour. I added dried Italian herbs -- about 1.5 tbsp as well. The method is similar to that of the Pullman loaf. You first whisk the flours, milk and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the softened butter/oil and mix with the dough hook till it's intergrated. Add the water, honey and salt, up the speed of the mixer, and let the machine knead on for about 7 mins. Transfer the dough (should be a little sticky to the touch) onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a footbal, cover with cling film and let it rest for 15 mins. Uncover and pumch the dough down gently. Gently, you hear. shape it into a rectangle (the size of the pullman pan) and then turn the rectangle 90 degrees and reshape it. Fold in the sides and the edges and transfer into the pullman tin. With these buns, you add the herbs once the water has been added and the dough is moist. Also, instead of shaping it into a loaf, you cut it into 8 equal parts and roll and shape them into buns -- like so.
The oil was a good idea (olive oil usually always is a good idea) as it not only gave the bread flavour but made it more moist too. The herby flavour was fantastic and though I didn't do it this time, I sometimes also add a couple of tbsp of cheese (parmesan or cheddar) to the dough for even more punch and a richer loaf/bun.
I also decided to brush the tops of the buns with an egg wash (egg yolk + water) to give it a shiny, darker complexion.
Am pretty happy with the results. The buns were soft and slightly chewy, not too dense. The herby flavour and smell was therapeutic and the egg wash gave it a rich glaze.
The only thing you have to be wary about home made breads is that they don't keep for long outside or in the fridge -- 3 or 4 days is the average life of homemade breads. Unless you freeze them ... this way you can keep them for a month or so. But, chances are, you won't have to cos they're so tasty they'll be eaten up in a jiffy.