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Breadmaking March 10, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Bread.
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After making cheese, I decided it was good and proper to make some bread to go along with the cheese – after all, what was Nero Wolfe going to eat his cheese on?! Now, I know that breadmaking may not be the most exciting thing in the world for some people, but I’d never tried it before so figured it was about time I learned. Incidentally, making bread brought back memories of counter-top breadmakers, which were so popular about 10-12 years ago. I’m sure lots of people still use their breadmakers….and I’m sure many more people have poor neglected breadmakers, sitting in their cupboards! I’d also like to apologise for the boring photos in this entry – while it’s fascinating to watch dough double in size, the resulting photos may be less than thrilling.

For the bread recipe, I decided to use the basic bread ratio set out in the Ratio app. For this recipe, the ratio is 5 parts flour and 3 parts water, and for the full recipe, Michael Ruhlman calls for flour, water, salt and yeast. I decided to make about half the amount listed on the original ratio, so I used 300 grams of flour and allowed the app to work out how much of the other ingredients I needed.

The first part was easy. I put the flour in the bowl with the salt, added the water and then sprinkled the yeast on top. I used a wooden spoon to bring the ingredients together. In many of the recipes and advice I read, they would suggest to “use the dough hook on your mixer to mix the dough until it is smooth and elastic-y and can be stretched to the point of translucency”. I looked around my counter for my mixer….and not suprisingly, it didn’t appear, since I don’t own one! Having no mixer, I began kneaded the dough by hand (if you take this shocking admission further, you’ll realise I also beat egg whites by hand – which may explain why there’s no souffle recipes on here!).

After about 10 minutes of kneading, I got impatient and began taking small pieces of dough and attempted to stretch the point of translucency without the dough breaking. I kept kneading and breaking off bits of dough, and after another while (I’m not sure how long, maybe another 10 minutes? I had decided it was better not to look at the clock as that was just making it seem even longer) it did get smoother and could stretch better. I stopped kneading when it was fairly stretchy and I convinced myself that I could stretch it to translucency – in reality, I probably should have kneaded it for a bit longer.

I covered the bowl in plastic wrap and left it to double in size, which took about an hour. The instructions said to let it rise in a warm place – I just left it on my counter as it was a warm day. Here’s a photo of the dough after it doubled in size:

Those finger marks are from me poking it to see if it was ready – and then not being convinced the first time so I did it a couple more times! The dough is meant to give some resistance when you poke it, but also not spring back. I punched down and re-kneaded the dough, and then let it rest for another 15 minutes or so. Again I’m not sure if I kneaded it enough at this point but here is the result after I kneaded it for the second time, rested it, and then shaped it and put it in my casserole dish (which had been sprayed with cooking spray).

You might be wondering why I cooked the bread in the casserole dish. In the Ratio app, Ruhlman says that cooking the bread in a casserole dish was an alternative to shaping into loaves, giving a great crust, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Once I’d kneaded and shaped the bread, I covered it with a teatowel and once more let it rise for about an hour. Again it almost doubled in size. Before putting it in the oven, I cut an “x” in the top of the bread which was meant to help with the cooking and rising process.

I had preheated my oven to about 220°C and put the casserole dish, with the lid on, into the oven. After 10 minutes, I turned the oven down to about 190°C. After the bread had been cooking for 30 minutes, I took the lid off the casserole dish and allowed it to keep baking. Ruhlman’s app was a bit hazy on how long it takes the bread to cook, advising instead that the bread would be done when the internal temperature reached about 93°C.

It took just less than an hour. After about 45-50 minutes, I tested the internal temperature and decided it was done. Here’s the end result:

My first impression was that it didn’t rise as much as I was expecting. After doing some internet diagnosing (safer for breads than for medical diagnoses, perhaps…), I decided that I didn’t knead it enough and probably should have kneaded it for longer, especially the first time. Having said that, the crust was crunchy and the bread inside was soft and fluffy. As I’d made plain bread, it wasn’t as ‘interesting’ as the bread I was used to eating, but I was still pretty happy for this first effort.

If you’re wanting to see what it looked like inside, stay tuned for the next post, where the innards of the bread are exposed in all their glory!

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