Saturday 21 April 2012

Baker's delight

I put up a video last weekend about kneading bread. This weekend, I decided to do rather than watch. In the past, I've tried to be sophisticated and have attempted various types of buns, rolls and baguettes - they've been a lot of work and never really worked as well as I would have liked. So this week, I just made up my usual portion of dough (500gm of flour, 350gm of water, 10gm of salt and 10gm of yeast) and turned out a single loaf. Here it is proving, lightly dusted with flour and polenta (I meant to use semolina, but I mixed the tubs of yellow stuff up). I use the plain old white flour that you get at the supermarket - the ingredients shown above cost a bit over 50 cents.

I gave it two minutes in the mixer to bring it together, and then spent 10 minutes manually bashing, stretching and kneading it on the kitchen bench. After that little effort, I couldn't raise my arms. I am getting completely soft and pathetic.

The fancy bakers slice their dough open with old fashioned razor blades, and I can see why - because they are so thin and sharp, they don't "grab" the dough like a knife - even a brutally sharp knife. The way bakers slash the dough is supposed to be their signature - not sure what my signature says about me. Except that I need to get a razor blade.

24 minutes in a hot oven sitting on a pizza stone (I crank mine up to as hot as it will go about half an hour before starting). I put a cast iron lid in the bottom and let it get really hot - just before putting in the loaf, I pour boiling water onto the lid so that it produces great gouts of steam. Apparently that helps with crusty crust formation.

I was going to let it cool off, but that thought lasted all of 5 minutes. Here it is, about to be slathered with $9 butter. Yep - cheap 50 cent bread and expensive butter. It's a good combination. I was planning on using it to make steak sandwiches for dinner, but it didn't last that long. This stuff is perfect with steak. Or vegemite for that matter. You know it's good when the kids descend on the kitchen and demolish it. I was quite taken aback last month when we had a tribe of teenagers in the house and they declared my bread to be "the best they've ever had". I thought their taste in bread would have been shaped by Subway and McDonalds - but evidently not.

I then did something totally different - I got organised and made up a poolish for tomorrow's batch. I'll see if my arms and shoulders are up to doing it all by hand.

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