Thursday, 30 June 2011

Plain Old Loaf

I’ve decided to stop experimenting with fancy enriched breads and make a standard, good plain old loaf of bread. I keep meaning to try different shaping and slashing techniques, but normally forget about it by the time the shaping time comes. And its so much easier to quickly shape a loaf on a counter and pop it into a banneton.

I have a large oval one (for 1 kg loaf), one large round one (for 1 kg loaf) and one oval medium (for 750 g loaf) banneton – Mr Ranty told me that he got them all from Manufactum not from BakeryBits as I thought. I very rarely use the medium sized one, only when I am trying to make a small loaf for someone as a gift or have too many loaves on the go. What I would really like, is a mah-ussive banneton, so I can make giant loaves of bread, you know the ones you see when you go to markets somewhere like France. A massive loaf of bread, that you probably wouldn’t even buy as a whole – they sell them by weight – how cool is that? Can I have a chunk on bread, ohhh, about a kilo?

Three-Flour Loaf

200 g white starter (100% hydration)
290 g water
400 g white flour
60 g wholewheat flout
40 g rye four
1 ½ tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients, but the salt on first speed for six minutes in a KitchenAid mixer. Cover the mixer with a tea towel (so it doesn’t dry out) and leave to autolise for 20 minutes. Add salt and mix on speed 2 for two minutes.
The dough was quite sticky, but I decided I was happy with the hydration level – 58% and decided to leave it at that.



A note on calculating hydration – I believe there a few schools of thought on that. Total hydration of your dough is calculated by dividing the total amount of liquids (water, juices, oils, etc.) over total amount of flour. So, in my case – 290 g water / 500 g combined flour = 58%. However, some people include water and flour measures from the starter into that equation. That would make my bread 390 g of liquids (100 g in the starter and 290 g in the recipe) over 600 g of flour (100 g in the starter and 290 g in the recipe), overall 65% hydration instead.
Now that I am thinking about it, 65% hydration is probably a right way of describing the consistency of dough I ended up with, I like my dough to be well hydrated, I like the crumb it gives it.



Anywho, place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover. Do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half and then leave it to do its thing for further three – four hours. Shape the dough into an oval loaf and place into a heavily floured banneton, cover with plastic and leave for another three hours at room temperature.
I never use extra flour during shaping, unless I am working with super-hydrated dough, like ciabatta or something. I use a dough scraper to help me pull the dough together, and, if it is really sticky, I would oil my hands and the counter surface instead.
Always use rye flour to flour bannetons, the loaf would stick much less if you were to use regular white flour. If you are worried about plastic sticking to the top of your loaf during proofing, sprinkle some flour of top of the shaped loaf, so you don’t tear the surface of the dough when you are taking the cover off.


It was a really warm evening in London – yes, it does happen – and I kind of forgot about the bread, by the time I went to the kitchen to check on it, it was HUGE!! Spilling out of the banneton, a giant doughy dome of goodness.
I managed to get it out of the banneton without too many dramas – had to call in Mr Ranty for help, it was a full on four hands operation, and I didn’t dare to slash it, cause I could just see it deflating like a balloon in front of me. No time to pre-heat the oven either so stuck it as it is, at 210C, with no steaming or anything, just wanted to get it in.


Bake the loaf for 40 minutes, rotating the loaf around half way through. It came out looking quite light in colour, but didn’t lose its shape or anything – much better than I expected. The crumb is not bad either, it is super light in texture and has a nice taste, not particularly sour in flavour.
We’ve make croutons out of it for salad last night, pan fried in olive oil with garlic, salt and peppers, and they tasted delicious!


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