Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Wholemeal bloomer - healthy home-made bread

I've recently become obsessed with baking bread. Not in a breadmaker, oh no - our poor Panasonic is sitting unloved in the corner. No, I mean by hand - well actually, again not really. Since I acquired my fab stand mixer (a K-Mix in raspberry of course), I've discovered the joys of kneading using the dough hook. I can leave it going and get on with other things whilst watching it.

I watched, glued, to Paul Hollywood's series, Bread, and not because I fancy him, I just really like his way of going about things. I made his basic bloomer recipe from the BBC website whilst the series was on and then, husband bought me the book for a wedding anniversary present (he is a keeper!) so since then, I've made that loaf a few times and started to adapt it for use in my mixer and I've pretty much cracked it. Even if I do say so myself.

However, I'm trying to be healthy and really, I'd like to master wholemeal bread so we can have nice bread and get some good fibre. So, I tried adapting the recipe to wholemeal bread and I think it worked. I used my  breadmaker recipe book to change the quantities as wholemeal flour needs more yeast because it rises more slowly and the bran absorbs more water.

This recipe assumes you have a stand mixer (or hand mixer) with dough attachment. If you don't have a stand mixer, you could try kneading it for at least 10 minutes - you will know when it is "done" as the dough will feel smooth and form a tight ball easily. It is harder to stretch out like white bread dough, again because of the bran.

Try it and let me know what you think. Don't buy cheap wholemeal bread flour - it's really worth spending an extra few pence to get a better quality flour as it will give you a better result. You'll also note that this doesn't use sugar - the yeast doesn't need it as it is surrounded by starch in the flour. It does mean that it takes longer to rise but this is what makes it taste better than the bread you buy in your supermarket.

Wholemeal bloomer
Makes 1 large loaf


500ml wholemeal strong bread flour
10g fast action dried yeast
8g salt
330ml cool water
40ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing

You will also need a lined baking sheet, cling film, and a plastic bag.

1. Tip the flour into the bowl of the mixer, add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other. Measure out and pour in the water - note it doesn't need to be warm as again, this speeds up the proving process and slower proving means nicer tasting bread - on top, then add the oil. Fit the dough hook, and turn the mixer onto a low speed. Once it has come together as a dough, watch it to see that it's coming away clean from the sides. If you think it looks too dry, add another tablespoon of water but do hold back and give it some time. Even a little too much water can mean the bread spreads outwards rather than upwards.

2. Once the dough has fully come together and the sides of the bowl have become clean, turn the speed up to medium and let it knead for 10 minutes. If it looks like the dough is just spinning around the hook, turn it off, remove the dough, then start up again. My lovely friend Ruth recommends kneading for 5 minutes, resting the dough for 5 minutes, then kneading for a further 5 minutes for her loaves. I figure I stop it enough times but it's of merit, although I am apt to forget if I've got something else to do.

3. After the kneading time, check that the dough is properly kneaded - it will feel smooth and quite silky. Now, this is where I get lazy - everyone else says put it into an oiled bowl but I just take out the dough hook and cover the mixer bowl with oiled cling film. Yes, the dough sticks to the bowl but it comes off easily at the end of the prove. Leave the bread to prove in a room temperature kitchen. If it's really cold, I put it on a chair near the radiator.

4. Leave the bread until it has tripled in size. That should be at least an hour and a half but could be double that. Lightly flour your worktop so that you can knock back and shape your bread. Tip out the dough onto the worktop and knock it back by pressing down and flattening the dough or folding it repeatedly. You need to do this a few times just to make sure you have knocked all the large bubbles out of the dough. Again, the dough will feel smooth once it's been done properly.

5. Time to shape  - knock the dough really flat into a rectangular shape. Turn, if necessary, so that the long side is facing you. Fold the long ends into the middle quite tightly over each other and turn it over so that the seam is on the bottom. Roll it gently so that it starts to form the bloomer shape, a bit like a fat sausage. Place it onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and re-cover with oiled cling film. You can place it inside a clean plastic bag with room to rise but I prefer the cling film balanced on plastic bottles stood at either end of the baking sheet. Now you're ready to prove again.

6. This time, you want the dough to double in size. Typically, it's 1 hour but it might be as long as 2 hours and  of course, that should mean better tasting bread. Towards the end of the proving time, preheat your oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Place a baking tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up and ensure your shelves are spaced to allow the bread to rise as it bakes (I forget this EVERY TIME!)

7. Once your bread has finished proving, spray or sprinkle the dough with a little water then dust with flour. Take a sharp knife and make four diagonal slashes, evenly spaced down the loaf - this will help to make the traditional bloomer shape.

8. Just before you place the bread into the oven, fill a jug with a litre of water and pour into the baking tray in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Place the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Check the loaf by tapping the bottom - if it is cooked, it will sound hollow; if not, put it back for a few more minutes.

9.  Once cooked, take out of the oven and leave it to cool on a wire rack. Try not to eat it all at once.
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