Here is a simple white bread recipe:

400 g water

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

700 g white flour

2 tsp dry yeast

Mix all and bake!

Not so fast. As they say, the trick is in the details.

Looking at this recipe, one can ask a thousand questions (and one definitely should!). For example:

  • what kind of water? Temperature, purity, softness?
  • what kind of salt? Iodine, no iodine, sea, rock or what not?
  • what kind of sugar? Is it any kind, or just refined white cane sugar?
  • what kind of flour? How much protein, how much humidity, stone ground or something else, is it sifted or not and so on
  • what to mix first? is it the yeast and the water, is it the water and the salt, is it the flour and then the water…

 

The questions keep coming up, and it seems that the more experience one gets in baking, the more questions come up.

I guess this is the exciting part for me about baking – the different experiments and combinations.

Many people get excited about kneading the dough and they say it relaxes them. Don’t get me wrong – kneading is as important as anything else (in the breads that need kneading) but for me it is boring and my hands get tired.

That’s why I got a kitchen robot and it is called Heston. A cool machine, really.

So, back to the recipe: there are many ways to make this bread and it really depends on where you live and what result you want to get out of it.

First of all, there are a few things that can damage the process of making this bread – the temperature. The yeast is a living creature, so everything above 42 C will damage it.

For this particular recipe I add the water in the bowl, then add the sugar and the salt to it to dissolve. I ad warmer water – around 60 C and then I spin it around while mixing the salt and the sugar in a way that the water will cool off and the bowl will warm up. Then I use a kitchen thermometer to make sure the water is about 40 C.

The salt I use is specifically selected NOT to have iodine and any other chemicals. I use pure sea salt, and I grind it myself. The salt you see in the store that is already ground has chemicals in it which prevent clumping, but they tend to kill the yeast.

After dissolving the sugar and the salt, I add the flour.

The flour is the tricky bit: they have all kinds of flour in the stores, but it is really hard to find a good one without chemicals. I like also to use a high protein flour. The highest protein contents you can get in the stores here is 12%. I would like to get 14 or so, but I guess these are available only for bakeries.

Also, the flour has to be sifted at least once.

Then the flour itself has humidity content, which is hard to tell without some machinery, but with enough baking experience you will be able to make the distinction.

The best way to approach this is to add only 2/3 of the flour the recipe calls for, and then to slowly stir it in the water. Then see how it looks like and then start adding more flour, as needed. It is much easier to add more flour then to add more water later on.

After incorporating the flour in the liquid, start kneading – for me this means increasing the speed of Heston from 1 to 2.

Knead for 15 minutes, then stop the machine.

Wait for an hour (this really depends on the room temperature – at 28C will be about 45 min, at 22C will be about 85 minutes, but this also depends on the temperature you had when you started kneading).

The guideline here is to have the dough double in volume during the kneading process.

Then turn on the machine and mix for a few minutes until the air bubbles are out.

Take out and put in a pan in which it will bake.

Leave it in the oven with the oven light on – this will usually keep about 40 degrees.

After another hour, start baking.

There are several ways to bake – you can use a cold start or you can preheat the oven and then put the dough in.

It really depends on the room temperature and the flour. If you are counting on a bigger oven spring, the use cold start, otherwise you can use the preheated oven.

Bake for 25 min at 180C, then test with a thermometer to see the inner temperature of the bread. Keep in mind that the water boils at different temperatures depending on its content and the altitude, so you will get a different reading of the bread temperature when it is done.

Eat and enjoy.

In later posts I will explain more about some of the variables.

Bread recipe

Category: Cooking
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