Making Bread

Posted in Baking by Sandra on August 31, 2009
Simple White Bread

Simple White Bread

I’ve been learning how to bake bread since late last week. This is my third loaf, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy making bread. The transformation of flour and water (and yeast) into something sticky but not gooey under your wooden spoon; the kneading of the dough; the shaping of the loaf – it all invokes a certain feeling in me…

Oh, that’s right. That’s the sound of me becoming a hausfrau, albeit in denial.

Still, like I mentioned to a friend, baking (and cooking, for that matter), is a labour of love… And the BF certainly loves his loaves!

Simple White BreadBaking: A Commonsense Guide, Murdoch Books
Preparation time: 30 min+
Total cooking time: 40 minutes
Makes: 1 loaf

2½ teaspoons (7g) instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
450g (1 lb or 3⅔ cups) white strong flour

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over 150ml (5 fl oz) warm water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then leave in a draught-free place for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy.

2. Combine the flour and 2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and make a well in the centre. Add another 150ml (5 fl oz) warm water to the yeast mixture, then pour the mixture into the well. With the mixer set to the lowest speed, mix for 2 minutes, or until a dough forms. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for another 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

Alternatively, mix the dough by hand using a wooden spoon, then turn out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

As I don’t have a mixer yet, I did this using the wooden spoon way. I admit I was very liberal in my mixing of ingredients: First, I mixed salt and flour in the bowl, made the well, poured in the yeast mixture and then slowly added 150ml of warm water in. I did it this way mostly because the yeast had foamed up so powerfully in the mug I was using that there was no space to add more warm water to it. And frankly, who wants to have to wash an extra bowl if one could help it?

3. Grease a large bowl with oil, then transfer the dough to the bowl, turning the dough to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a draught-free place for 1 – 1½ hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

I used melted butter to grease the bowl and to coat the dough. I only had olive oil and I wasn’t sure I wanted to taste olive oil on my bread. Seems to work as well.

4. Knock back the dough by punching it gently, then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a rounded oval and transfer to a greased baking tray. Cover loosely with a damp cloth and leave for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5).

I learned a fair bit about shaping bread from this video tutorial on The Fresh Loaf.

5. Using a sharp knife, make three diagonal slashes, about 4 cm (1½ in) apart, on the top of the loaf. Bake for 40 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I followed the recommended 40 minutes without checking at 20 minutes the state of the bread. I have now learned my mistake:
Simple White Bread

Yes, it got rather burnt on the sides and the bottom of the bread. Next time I would bake for 20 – 30 minutes rather than 40 which is obviously too long.

I also made an egg wash (basically, a beaten egg) to coat the top of the loaf before baking. My previous breads always came out with a pale crust despite cooking through, and egg wash helps the top brown nicely with a golden glaze. There is more information about egg wash here.

My bread was soft and chewy but not too dense. The crust was crunchy and on the whole, if I ignore the darkened bits, this was the best bread I’ve baked thus far.

Note: I bought the book for AU$36.99 (with a AU$30 Christmas gift card from last year)… but there are other alternatives. :)

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4 Responses

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  1. Trisha said, on August 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Im impressed, making bread is as you said “a labour of love”

    It takes so long to make, but when you have made it, it tastes so nice and the smell of the yeast around the kitchen as its cooking is divine

    • Sandra said, on August 31, 2009 at 8:23 pm

      Until the housemate douses himself with 1 minute’s worth of Brut deodorant or eats peanut butter and leaves his jar uncovered.

      I don’t think I like the room-mate (it’s the same one… I wish we didn’t need him for $760.42 a month. He never pays his bills till 2 months later anyway.)

      But yes… it does taste nice while it’s hot. When it gets cooled it doesn’t seem so yummy… Seems a bit like a fruit cake without the fruit. I’ll check out the cooled taste later. At the moment house smells like peanut butter and I’ve lost my appetite.

  2. Py said, on August 31, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    bake bake bake all you do is bake :\

    • Sandra said, on September 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

      There’s no need to envy once you realize my brain is no longer functional.

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