Bread making tips:
* Always use strong flour.
* Do not add more flour than the recipe tells you to.
* Water should be body temperature. When you put your finger in, it should feel neither hot or cold, but should feel 'wet'!
* Fresh yeast gives a much better flavour. If you can't get fresh, then it's fine to use dried 'easy blend' yeast but halve the quantity that the recipe suggests or follow the packet instructions.
* If you don't have a baker's stone, then use an upturned baking tray in your oven when you preheat it to ensure your bread starts to cook from the underneath immediately when you put your dough into the oven.
* Do not allow your bread to be in a draught when proving. If necessary, place the bowl in your microwave (switched off) with the door closed or in a closed cupboard.
* Have a spray bottle of fresh water handy beside your oven to mist the oven immediately prior to putting the bread in. This will help the crust.
* Have the oven door open for the shortest time you can when misting & putting your bread dough in to preserve as much heat as possible.
I was lucky enough to attend a bread making demonstration recently at the Meile Cookery School in Oxfordshire with Richard Bertinet. Having seen his method of working the dough rather than kneading it, I was keen to try it out & I did so the following day with spectacular results. I was so impressed with this method that I can't ever see me going back to the old way of kneading that I'd always used. Since that Saturday I've now made many loaves using Richard's, method all with success.
So, bearing that in mind and with a huge thank you to Richard for opening my eyes to a new way of working my bread dough, lets "Show the Dough Who's Boss!!!"
Richard's basic bread recipe:
500g Strong white flour
10g Sea salt
10g Fresh yeast
350g Water (at body temperature).
If you are using a baker's stone, you should put your oven on now to 210°C with the stone in it to make sure that its fully hot ready for your proven bread to go in. If you don't have a baker's stone, you can leave pre-heating it until you have worked your dough.
1. Weigh your flour into a large bowl.
2. On one side of your bowl, weigh the salt and on the other side weigh the yeast. Ensure you keep them apart.
3. Rub the yeast into the flour until it forms small crumbs.
4. Weigh the water into your bowl.
5. Using a plastic dough scraper, mix the dough together in the bowl ensuring you have all of the flour combined.
6. Tip your dough onto a clean Worktop/table. It will be sticky, but DO NOT FLOUR THE SURFACE OF YOUR TABLE!
7. Using your hands with your fingers outstretched & your thumbs parallel to your fingers, LIFT the dough from the table.
8. FLICK the bottom of the dough away from you..
9. As the bottom of the dough starts to swing back towards you, SLAP it down onto the table.
10. STRETCH the top of the dough up vertically.
11. THROW the top of the dough over the bottom. This will trap air into your dough to help make it light & to work the gluten.
12. Each time you go to lift, insert your fingers a 1/8 turn.
13. Continue this lift, flick, slap, stretch & throw about 10 times, keeping the top surface of the dough on top. DO NOT TURN YOUR DOUGH UPSIDE DOWN.
14. Use your scraper to 'take your dough for a walk' along the table & back again. Remember not to turn it upside down but to use the scraper to ease it from underneath & almost turn it round sideways. This helps to make sure that you are working all of the dough and that none of it remains stuck to the table.
15. Continue to work the dough & to 'walk' it every 10 cycles until you have a smooth dough that springs back when you press it with your finger.
16. LIGHTLY flour your table then turn your dough upside down so your smooth side is now against the floured table. Fold the outside edges of your dough into the centre & press down gently, then give a little turn & repeat until you have a smooth ball.
17. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour into your bowl and place your dough 'seam side' down/smooth side on top, into it. Cover the bowl with cling film & leave to prove & rest for 20-60 mins, depending on the temperature of your room. It needs to have doubled in size.
18. As soon as you have put your dough to prove, put your oven on to preheat to 210C (if you haven't already because you have a baker's stone). Placing an upturned baking sheet on the shelf will help the bread start to bake from underneath from the moment you put your bread in to cook.
19. Get yourself a water spray (like a plant spray) & fill it with water. Place this close to your oven ready for when you need to put your bread in.
20. Dust a flat baking sheet (or bakers peel) with flour/semolina & put to one side.
21. When your dough has rested & risen, LIGHTLY flour your table & turn your dough out, (top side down) and flatten it out gently with your hands.
22. Fold the edges in to the centre, as before, until you have a smooth round ball.
23. Turn your dough over and on to your dusted baking sheet. Slash the top with a very sharp knife/blade. This controls where the loaf will 'burst' so you can make a pattern if you're feeling arty!
24. NOW YOU HAVE TO DO THIS NEXT BIT QUICKLY AND WITHOUT BURNING YOURSELF IN THE PROCESS. Open the oven door & spray 12-15 times with water. Quickly slide the dough from your baking sheet onto the upturned baking tray that's in your oven. Apply another few sprays & close the door. Ideally this should only take a few seconds as you need to preserve the heat in your oven.
25. Bake your bread for 30-35 mins until nicely browned & it sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped.
26. Remove to a cooking rack & allow to cool before slicing & eating.
Huge thanks go to Richard Bertinet (herein known to me as the Dough Daddy!) for opening my eyes to a new & much better way of working my bread dough and for allowing me to share his method with you. He has also given me permission to create a small video which I'll upload to YouTube showing his technique of working the dough.
It also goes to the Miele Cookery School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire for the opportunity to see Richard's demonstration.