Because like most crafts, bakery has its secrets and myths. Bread is simply flour, water mixed with yeast salt and maybe fat. The yeast is allowed to do its magic and then the whole thing is baked. Simple. Let me tell you how to produce your own fresh baked bread with about 15 minutes work.
The first step is buy a packet of bread mix from the home baking section of your supermarket.
Put a small handful of white flour on your work surface. Place the mix into a food processor or, if you want to be really hands on, a large bowl. Add warm water. Exactly what it says on the packet. This is vital: 275 means 275 — not 285, much too wet, not 265 which would be too dry to shape. Weigh the water if you can. 275 ml is 275 g. Simple easy and the most important home bread making advice you will ever get.
So weigh the liquid. When you progress to doing 20 or 30 minute bread then it will become second nature. It cannot be stressed enough, so always weigh your water. Then mix for 90 seconds or so in the food mixer or about five minutes with a strong wooden spoon in your bowl. The mixture will be sticky at this point. Don’t panic, take a little flour from the handful you got ready for this moment and cover your palms. Then just lightly form your dough into a ball. Leave for at least 10 minutes. This is where you make a coffee, read a chapter of your novel or act the overworked home goddess to whoever else is available to impress at the time. And relax.
The magic is starting. When you return after your own relaxing time your dough will have started to work, to come alive. Now you can give it four minutes of your undivided attention. Touch your pile of flour with both palms. Spread a little on the work surface. Put your dough down in the middle and mould. I have read so many methods describing bread moulding. Folding, touching, wrapping and numerous other thingings. Simply use your hands to work the dough. Stretching and pressing then pulling and rolling until it feels right. There is an incredible feeling when it tells you by feel “that’s enough, I’m ready.”
Now it’s time to make your final shape. As a beginner you should split your dough piece into two. Roll one piece of dough between your hands. One hand will stay quite still but slightly cupped. The other will roll the dough between your hands. The dough will form itself into a ball, with a slight hollow on the side which has stayed still. Place the ball hollow side down on to baking paper covering an oven tray. Anything will do, a roasting tin but a pizza stone is ideal. Repeat the rolling noticing how the second cob is easier and a better final shape. The dough is training your hands.
Take the tray or whatever with your two soon to be fantastic first loaves and put them somewhere warm and out of draughts. Cover with a slightly damp cloth to prevent your dough forming a hard dry skin. The oven with just the oven light on can be an excellent spot.
Time to put your feet up and decide how you are going to convince your appreciative customers how hard you have worked. Because that’s it really. You are almost done. In around 30 to 40 minutes your cobs will have doubled in size, almost kissing their sides together on your tray. Then using almost the last of your energy from this frantic exhausting afternoon, turn on the oven (take out your own baked bread first if that’s where you let it rise!). Get the oven hot. Hotter than it says anywhere.
The average domestic oven is not designed to bake good bread. It loses its heat too quickly. Not solid is the technical baker’s term. When the oven is hot, quickly put your bread in to the centre. Close the door and turn down the temperature to what it says on the packet. Go into the next room and lie down on the floor, think of your favourite place, dream gently. The timer goes “Ping”. 10 minutes is up so turn your bread around 180 degrees. Sit down again to recover for another 10 minutes. Then take out your cobs. Slide onto a wire rack, the grill rack will do. They should sound hollow; yes it’s true, when tapped on their hot little bottoms they sound baked and hollow.
Make another cup of coffee and get ready for your applause; you have taken the first steps to becoming a wonderful home bread maker.
Use these equivalents if you still work in Cups or Imperial. Making the change to Metric will help when you need to reduce or increase a recipe.
1 Cup = 8 ozs =225 grms
Half Cup = 4 ozs = 112 gms
Tablespoon=0.6 oz =15gms
Teaspoon=0.2oz = 5gms
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