Saturday, 12 February 2011

Fresh Bread Bake Off entry - if at first you don't succeed, try again.

I confess, I am a bit of a bread nerd. This mostly stems from when I did an entry level teaching qualification a year or so ago. As part of it, I had to do a mini teach on any subject and I chose bread as my subject, exploring the science behind breadmaking and comparing handmade bread with traditional white sliced bread. I had never made bread by hand successfully until then, although I often use a breadmaker. Having just researched the science for my prep (and taking myself back 20 years in the process - some of my degree included some food science), I understood more about the process. When I made my bread,  I made sure that I kneaded it properly and I found kneading very therapeutic. The results were amazing. I did a taste test with my "students" and they were all pretty impressed with the taste and texture I got as well as noticing the difference in colour. If you make bread by hand, you don't get white bread - the crumb is distinctly cream coloured, although that can depend on what other ingredients are in the bread. White sliced is blindingly white thanks to the bleaching agents they add - and that's just the start of the nasties.

The recipe I used for making bread then is from Nigella's How To Eat. It's great but it uses fresh yeast so I have to remember to get some from Asda (they give it away) and then try to use it all but inevitably, some of it gets thrown. So when English Mum blogged an easy bread recipe for bread using easy bake yeast, I thought I'd give it a go, especially as a few days later, she launched her Fresh Bread Bake Off competition.

My first attempt was not terribly successful - it took ages to rise and I couldn't figure out why. The resulting bread was OK but not as light as I'm used to. A few days later, I worked it out. I have dried yeast in the fridge that I use in my breadmaker. I thought it was easy bake but something caught my eye and I realised it said it wasn't suitable for breadmaker use! I'd only bought active yeast that needs to be activated BEFORE mixing into the dough. No wonder it didn't work properly!

So I had another go following English Mum's recipe but this time I activated the yeast first (which involved adding it to warm water and leaving it to stand for a while, nothing complicated). I also added less oil this time, using 15g instead of 50g which is closer to the proportions that Nigella uses. I may have used a bit too much yeast because after half an hour of rising, it was like this.

And when I turned it back onto the worktop I had to take another picture because you can clearly see the network of gluten chains forming so you get the nerdy shot:

My only problem is that the bread seem to puff up but also spread a lot. Anyway, here is the finished loaf (excuse fairly rubbish photography!), which looks fairly rustic so I guess it's a cottage loaf.

It's gorgeous still warm but as I'm trying to be good, I didn't eat the lot in one go so it's still going and it makes good toast although I can't put it in the toaster thanks to the odd shape. It tastes great, which is particularly noticeable if you've had commercial bread recently, which tastes like cotton wool in comparison with real bread.

Why don't you have a go? You'll have to be quick if you want to enter English Mum's Fresh Bread Bake Off - she needs your entry by midnight on Valentine's Day. The prize is a range of Marriage's flours and some scrapers so you could get more baking done. And then become a bread nerd, just like me.
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