Making bread is a serious matter. Wherever you go people make bread, talk about making bread, look for a perfect bread flour and so on. It’s trendy these days. Bread is something we all know. It has been there forever. I guess what happened on the way was the food processing revolution, which came, wiped out all the best from the whole foods and eating culture and now we are left with the blaaaaa something bread like in the supermarkets. We miss good times, when things were simple- not only foodwise if you ask me- and we decided to go back to our roots. Wise decision! This recipe is a first from the whole series of bread recipes I would like to introduce here just to show you a few techniques of making bread, setting the dough, proofing the loaf and baking it. I already posted some bread recipes, but they were no-knead method developed by Jim Lahey. This time I would like to show you really the old but still in use ways of making bread, and also some more original combinations of flours and flavors. For those of you who expect to see the sourdough bread today, I have to clarify right away- it will happen but not this time. I came to the conclusion- going trough my own experience- that sometimes it’s better to start from something you can make in one day, or overnight, without making a proper sourdough at first. Why? Because it’s all about the technique. Before you jump into serious baking, it’s good to experiment a little bit with setting the starter, folding it, also to get familiar with your oven, get used to the baker routine. If you’re really into making sourdough now check on Ginger’s blog her recipe for the wild yeast mixture. She’s an expert at this stage. If you’re fine with going through these posts, and try to follow the indications, I’m sure with time you are going to feel confident about what you create in your kitchen, and you might even start thinking of your own recipes, or shapes of your bread. It worked this way for me anyway. I can tell you that from my point of view, there is nothing better then the smell of fresh flour mixed with water. I love it. I believe this is the most natural and one of the oldest aromas created in the kitchen. I got fascinated with different kind of flours and the breads you can make out from them. I’ll try to share it here as much as I can, because I think we all believe in traditional eating and baking. I hope you’ll find it useful. This recipe is going to be our “mother recipe” for many of the breads I will be presenting withing next few posts. So any time you have doubts, always go back to this post. I called this bread “Saturday White Bread” because you would need a day to try this recipe- and Saturday is perfect to do this. Start early in the morning and bake the bread in the afternoon- perfect timing for dinner. I use directions from a fantastic book by Ken Forkish, Flour, Water, Salt,Yeast, but he’s not the only one I’ve been following in these new recipes. There will be more surprises on the way, I promise. In order to make this loaf, you don’t need that much- he also uses the Dutch oven method, so if you have this kind of equipment you’re going to be fine. This bread is perfect- especially if you like white bread- however I changed the combination of flours- the proportion is 900 g of white wheat flour and 100 g of whole grain wheat flour. The whole grain flour gives this earthy traditional flavor to it, and prevents your bread from getting a bit chewy. Believe me, you’ll appreciate this change. By the way, with each new recipe I’ll be giving you the proportions of different flours I used, so you could see how this influences the appearance of bread and its taste. I’m working on some gluten-free recipes too, and I hope with time I can share them here.
I will try to describe carefully each step and explain what certain words mean as well- for me it was new too. I hope with time once you find your routine, you can come back here for more inspiration or even just to compare the results.
Recipe for 1000 g of flour- if you divide the dough into two equal size parts- makes 2 loaves of medium size, however what I do here is I take about 650 g- more then the half of the dough and use it for the loaf and the rest of it for another purpose- these are going to be my next two recipes, which I will publish subsequently one by one, so you could see what can you create in one go from 1 kg of flour, some salt, some water, and a bit of yeast. Schedule- start at 9 a.m, finish mixing at 10 a.m., shape the loaves at 3 p.m., bake at 4.15 p.m., baking time about 50 min, the oven preheat 45 minutes before placing the bread in it, the oven temperature- 245 C ( 475 F).
- 900 g of white wheat flour- it can be bread or every purpose flour
- 100 g of whole grain wheat flour
- water- 720 g ( temp 32 C-35 C)
- fine sea salt- 21 g- 1 tablespoon and 1 scant tsp
- instant dried yeast- 4 g- 1 teaspoon
- some sunflower seeds for dusting the bread
This recipe is going to be divided into a few steps- like I said, it’s going to be our “mother recipe”- so regardless of the timing- since of course, you can change the schedule the way it suits you- the only thing you have to do is to stick to these steps- the timing is of your choice. I follow these steps after Ken Forkish, however it looks like this is pretty much the standard for bread making.
Autolyse– in this part you’re required to do only two things- in a big plastic bowl mix together the flour and the water (remember the indications related to the water’s temperature). Mix these two ingredients by hand, until evenly incorporated. Cover and set aside for about 20-30 min.
Mix– spread the salt and the yeast over the dough, mix everything until incorporated- wet your working hand, so the dough would stick to it. It’s ok to wet your hand a few times on the way. The way you mix the dough matters. Reach underneath the dough, grab 1/4 of it and stretch it gently, fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat this 3-4 times, until the salt and yeast are incorporated. Remember this fold move well, because you are going to use it for almost each recipe where the bread dough is involved. Once all ingredients are properly set, set the dough aside for a few minutes and then fold again for another 30 seconds- the consistency should be sort of tight at this stage- this stage might take about 5 minutes in total. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 5 hours.
Fold-Every bread dough requires a few folds- and the number depends on the flour type. Also the way we do it is very important. The whole grain flours are more demanding, and we have to be more gentle while folding this kind of dough, when the white flour dough is more flexible and it can handle a proper stretch. This particular dough requires two folds- if you can do it within the first 1.5 hour- the first one after 10 min, and then the next one. If you can’t, simply do it when it’s possible- the most important is to leave the dough alone for the very last hour. That’s how I do it and it works fine. Sometimes I go out, do shopping, come back home and fold it. Only the last hour matters.
Divide– After 5 hours the dough should triple its original size. On a floured working surface gently ease the dough out from the bowl. Remember to flour your hands, you can also sprinkle some flour around the edges of the dough- it will be easier to take it out. Do not pull the dough, do not tear it. If you do, the dough is going to lose all the air and the precious fermentation gas that’s inside of it. With floured hands try to shape it a bit and then divide- I usually make just one loaf- like today, so I cut “a bigger half” using the dough knife. Set aside the rest of your dough- in the next recipe- which I publish together with this one- you can find out what to do about it.
Shape – If you don’t have the proofing baskets, like the one on the picture above, use something similar in shape- even the pasta strainer is good! Flour it generously- if you use the pasta strainer, use the kitchen towel- flour it before you place the dough on it. On your working surface shape the dough into a ball. In order to do it, start from one point folding the dough- exactly the same way I described above- just go around the dough and gently pull each segment of it, stretch until max and then fold it over the top to the opposite side. The loaf should be sitting tight on the working surface. Place it into the proofing basket and cover. I always sprinkle some flour on a top of the dough, because while it raises it gets sticky and it’s difficult to move it into the Dutch oven.
Proof- Proofing is the final stage of making bread. The temperature of the room where you leave the dough should be ideally around 21 C- my bathroom is perfect for it. Leave the dough for 1.20 min. If the room is warmer- 1 hour is enough.
Preheat the oven– 45 min before you start baking the bread, set the oven to 245 C/ 475 F. Place inside the clay pot or cast iron pot- whichever you prefer. This time I used the clay one by Emile Henri.
Don’t worry about the dough you are left with. 20 min before you’re about to set the bread into the oven, put it into the fridge. The proofing process is going to slow down, but this is absolutely fine. When you’re done with the bread, jump into this recipe and see how you could use the rest of your dough 😀
Bake– Place the dough into the Dutch oven, sparkle some sunflower seeds over the dough- you can also cut it with the kitchen scissors (I made 3 cuts) and put the Dutch oven into the oven. What I always do is, I also set another baking form just underneath the one of which I place the bread, and I pour some water or add ice-cubes. This generates the steam, and it makes the crust crunchy! Bake for the first 30 min with the lid on, after this time take the lid off, and continue to bake for another 20 min or so. Remember that each oven is different, and the baking time may vary- I usually keep my bread 5 minutes longer with the lid on and 5 minutes longer without.
When the bread is ready, leave it aside for another 20 min. Did you know that the baking process is still on?! The bread will be crackling- you can hear it- so do not slice the bread just yet! I know that still warm bread is the best thing ever, but the more I read about it, the more I’m convinced this is not the way we should do it. The best timing is 2 hours since it was taken out from the oven. And I follow these advises coming from the best bakers.
I really hope you are going to find this post useful. For those of you who would find easier to see all these stages on the pictures- I got you covered- this post is on the way. I documented all of this step by step and once done with the editing of these pictures I’ll publish them here. This bread is delicious- it’s perfect for breakfast, or with any kind of meal. Enjoy!
I followed indications from Ken Forkish’ book “Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast”, 2012.