There's something that has always fascinated me about bread - the fact that a few simple ingredients can be combined together to become one of the tastiest, most comforting and popular foods in the world is in no small part why bread is a true food icon.
Unfortunately, bread that you buy is often far from the ideal loaf. Full of preservatives, often flavourless and stodgy - it’s a wonder why people don’t just bake their own.
As a direct result of the success of Ray's Sundried Tomato Bread from a few weeks ago, I have been inspired to get my hands dirty and bake some of my own bread - as such, Ray asked me to write this guest blog spot to chart my success.
So today I am making two loaves - a classic white bread loaf, and a second sundried tomato loaf. Unlike the last sundried tomato loaf however, which was baked according to a modified recipe for sundried tomato bread rolls from the Great British Book of Baking - this time I would be using a classic white loaf recipe from the BBC Good Food website, and into one of the sets of ingredients be adding a good handful of chopped sundried tomatoes. Now, it is fair to say that despite having been making bread for similar amounts of time, my sister is the better baker out of the two of us. It wasn’t until after following through with this risky bread baking method that I learnt adding extra ingredients to a standard bread recipe can drastically alter the consistency, texture and composition of your final loaf, unless preventative measures are taken. However, as luck would have it, there were no bread-based culinary disasters to report.
Adding extra ingredients may be tasty, but can also ruin your loaf if you aren't careful!
I'm sure I am not the only one who finds baking bread a great stress reliever - not only is kneading a great way to vent some steam, but at the end of the day you have a delicious, warm, freshly baked loaf to look forward to.
However, with much excitement on my behalf, and under strict instructions not to break it, Ray allowed me to use her beloved Kitchenaid to mix and knead the dough for our two loaves. While using a Kitchenaid with the bread dough attachment may not be as effective at stress relief as kneading by hand, it is certainly quicker, less tiring and generally more fun - especially when baking two separate loaves!
After around ten minutes at "Speed setting two! Nothing more, nothing less!" the bread dough was smooth and elastic, the equivalent of a good twenty minutes or more of hand kneading.
Smooth and elastic, in only half the time!
From this point on, I was back in classic bread making territory - place the well kneaded bread dough into an oiled container and cover. Place in a warm area (a difficult thing to find in our house!), and allow the dough to double in size - usually around an hour's time.
Once your mixture has grown, it’s time to 'knock back' the dough - essentially, this process undoes all the work that the yeast has done in the last hour, causing the dough to grow. To knock back the bread, lightly flour a clean and dry surface, and begin pushing out the pockets of air that have grown within the dough. While you may feel the last hour of waiting has gone to waste, it is a vital process in getting that perfect loaf texture! Be sure to get all of the air pockets out, otherwise when your bread bakes you will have large holes within the body of bread itself - not so good when you want to slice your loaf and put butter on it!
Looking good so far.
Once you are satisfied your dough is knocked-back enough, unfortunately it is time to play the waiting game again. Once you have grabbed your loaf tins, and have greased them, shape the dough into rugby balls and place it into your tins. Stick on your oven, but don’t be too hasty to put the bread in just yet - it needs to prove first. To me this is the worst part about making bread - you are so close to that delicious, warm smell of freshly baked bread - and yet you have to hide your bread away for another half an hour before you can even think about putting it in the oven, Just as well really, as our oven takes a life-time to warm up!
Not long to go now, but it feels like an age!
Once the bread has proved for the final time, after around thirty minutes - it is finally time to bake! This is, without doubt the best part, other than the eating of your loaf of course! The smell fills the house, and I have to admit, a certain feeling of pride is not uncommon at this point - even if you bake bread every single day, each loaf is always a special thing!
What you have been waiting for!
When your loaf is cooked allow it to cool and enjoy, you deserve it!