I have failed at some breads and have succeeded at some. My ciabattas have flattened out on me and my focaccias have made me proud. Now the breads come out well and none of the stages in bread making scares the bazinga out of me. I thought I will make the basic bread which we have been eating since our childhood. That basic bread is the white loaf.
Yes it is an art to make bread. You start with heaps of white flour and the result is something so rich and full of textures. The house becomes aromatic. The dough need tender care to take the best shape and texture. The whole bread making process will calm you down and the aromas would take you to another world. Baking bread is not difficult. It just needs certain things to be right without which it will not rise properly or there will be no proper gluten formation. Let me take you through the basic steps here so that you can easily bake your bread and hopefully bake it right. It is a simple recipe. Just follow the steps carefully and stick to the measurements. Enjoy the whole process. Watch the dough rising in the bowl, smell the fresh yeasty aroma and watch the bread baking in the oven which finally give the bread its shape and rise. At the end of this recipe you will have an absolutely beautiful puffed up bread with a fresh yeasty aroma.
The Perfect White Loaf
Recipe Source: Kitchen Kemistry
1. 4 cups (440 g) + extra for dusting all purpose flour (depending on the humidity and temperature you may need lesser or more flour. I required about 20-30 grams more than what the original recipe mentioned. So I ended up using about 460 grams of flour including dusting)
2. 1 1/2 cup (360 ml) water (neither too hot nor cold, I kept the water in microwave for about 25-30 seconds)
3. 2 1/4 ts active dry yeast or 1 3/4 ts instant yeast
4. 1 1/2 tsp salt
5. pinch of sugar
6. Olive oil for greasing
Start with proofing the yeast. If you are using instant yeast you need not do anything. But if you are using active dry yeast you have to proof the yeast. Proofing means activating the yeast so that it can eat upon carbohydrates and release carbon dioxide which will puff up your bread. To proof the yeast, mix a pinch of sugar in warm water. Sugar is the food for yeast. Now dissolve the yeast in the water by mixing it with a spoon. When it seems to have dissolved or have formed a semi solid paste, keep it aside for 5-10 minutes. If the top of the yeast has foam or bubbly layer, it has activated and is ready to use. If there are no bubbles, keep it for a few more minutes.
Mixing the Ingredients
Now sieve the flour and salt together. Take about half of the flour and start adding water to it a table spoon at a time. I mixed the flour using a wooden spatula as I don't have a stand mixer. If you have one, use it. It will ease the process of mixing the ingredients. Keep adding the water (about 1/4 cup at a time) and flour (about half a cup at a time) alternately. Use all the water and add flour as per the requirement. Add extra flour only if required. The dough will be sticky but you would be able to hold it together. Now dust a work surface with flour and transfer the dough to it.
This is the time to start kneading. Kneading is a very important step. Kneading helps in the formation of gluten. Gluten is the protein which is formed when yeast and water are added to flour. When the yeast releases carbon dioxide, it gets trapped within the gluten structures. The smooth gluten strands and the air trapped within them give bread its spongy structure. If the dough is not kneaded properly or is over kneaded the bread will become heavy/dense or too dry. If you are kneading by hand you need not worry about the over kneading. But if you are kneading using a machine just make sure that you don't over knead it. Kneading involves turning, folding and pressing the dough.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. To test if the bread is kneaded sufficiently, take the window pane test. Take a part of the dough and stretch it out so that it becomes translucent. If the dough doesn't tear apart it is ready to be kept for rising. Else knead it for a few more minutes and test it again.
The First Rise
Grease a bowl with oil and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl with a lid which gives the dough enough space to rise. Keep the bowl in a warm place. I keep it inside my oven itself. Let the dough sit for 45 minutes or till its double in size. During this time, yeast will eat upon carbohydrates and release carbon di oxide which will get trapped within the strands of gluten. If yeast is not activated the dough won't rise.
To make sure the dough has risen enough, take the rise test. Push your fingers inside the dough upto the second knuckle and if they leave the imprints it is ready to be punched.
Punching the dough will remove the big air holes and will give yeast fresh flour to feed upon. It will add to the texture and flavor of the bread. Punch the dough to push out the air. Knead the dough again for 3-4 minutes.
Rolling and Shaping
Now roll it out. I rolled it out to a thickness of 1 inch. You have to give a shape to the bread now. Start folding in the dough from one side. Keep rolling it over so that the dough starts taking a shape of a long cylinder. Now grease a 9x4 loaf pan. Fold the two ends of the dough so that it fits in the pan lengthwise. Keep the dough inside the pan with the seem facing down.
The Second Rise
Cover it with a plastic cling film and keep it for its second rise. This second rise will help in the formation of gluten and will give a better texture to the bread. Wait for another 25- 30 minutes or till it doubles in size. Do not let the bread spill out of the pan.
Meanwhile pre heat your oven at 190 degree celsius. Also keep a bowl of water inside the oven. As the water evaporates to form steam, the steam will keep the oven humid enough to slow down the process of cooking the top of the bread and will prevent the crust from hardening up while the bread is still cooking. Now place the loaf pan on the middle level of the oven. Set the timer for about 45 minutes.
Do make sure to check the bread in between. Somehow in my oven the steam was not getting properly trapped so the top was cooking faster. Hence I covered the top with aluminium foil so that I can give it enough time to bake without getting the top burned. To check if the bread is cooked properly, tap the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow it is done. I took the bread out exactly after 45 minutes.
Cooling and Slicing
After taking the pan out take the bread out of the pan immediately so it does not get soggy. Place it on the steel grill that comes with the oven. If you keep the bottom on a plate or any other surface which does not let air pass through, it will get soggy. Let it cool down for about 30 minutes so that the hot air inside the bread settles down. Now cut with a serrated knife to get fine slices. (I am missing my serrated knife hence used the normal knife thus the not so beautifully shaped slices)
This is bread, you can serve it with whatever you feel like. The bread was soft from inside, like really really soft. We had it with freshly made egg bhurji and it was a meal to remember.
So don't worry about the yeast, kneading or the gluten formation. Take care of the ingredient measurement, smaller details like window pane test, cooking at the right temperature and you would be good to go.
I am on a bread baking spurge. So wait for my next post which is all about Jamie Oliver's garlic and rosemary focaccia.
Have fun baking bread!
Submitted for Yeastspotting