Thursday, February 6, 2014

Baking bread at home

Ingredients :
  • 300 grams unbleached  flour 
  • 3/4th  tspn of dry active yeast ( Store in a refrigerator to ensure the yeast remains in form) 
  • 3/4th tspn of salt
  • 3/4th tspn of sugar
  • 15 gms butter . ( If using salted butter, decrease the amount of salt stated )
  • 215-225 ml lukewarm water.

Mix the flour , salt , sugar, yeast . Then add the butter, water and knead. Initially the dough will be very sticky. But as you knead, adding dry flour from time to time it will slowly form  a firm mass. I added Italian herbs and sesame seeds. U may add milk or yogurt, left over soup, pureed veggies. The options available lets you experiment with variety. Only adjust the amount of water stated in the list of ingredients accordingly. If you are planning to add larger things like raisins or nuts -- do not add them now as they may get squashed or may break as u knead.

Knead for around ten minutes. For bread you may knead in your kneading bowl as against kneading for pav wherein you need to stretch the dough and so knead it on a larger surface ( see my post on pav) .

Over kneading does not help  and so do take care not to overdo the timing of the kneading.  Now take the dough in both your hand and squeeze it lightly with one hand and then the other  around six times, lightly rotating it so that the entire ball has been more or less pinched. This apparently creates surface tension . Now oil a deep container and place the dough in it. Keep it in a warm area  and let it remain there for 45 minutes to an hour till it doubles. If it doesn't double in an hour , let in remain a little longer. The idea of oiling the container before placing the dough is to ensure the dough does not tear off when we reuse it for further processing . When you are letting the dough double, do ensure that it is kept in a place where it receives no jerks. It should be handled with care to ensure that no tear or jerk releases the carbon dioxide inside the dough. 

Now take the doubled dough and punch it lightly from all sides --  for say five minutes. This is the time to add raisins and nuts , if you would like to.  Again create surface tension by pinching with your palms.  Take the baking pan you plan to bake your bread in. Oil it lightly and dust it lightly with flour. Place the dough in it.  If you want a glaze on the bread, you may brush the top of the dough with egg white. For a soft top, brush the top of the dough with milk. If you want to sprinkle sesame seeds or herbs on the top, brush lightly with oil/ milk and then sprinkle the seeds or herbs.  Cover the bread pan and let it again rise till it doubles . This should take another 45 minutes to an hour. Take care that the cover does not touch the dough. If u are covering it with cling film, lightly oil the cling film in the inside so that the cling film can be removed smoothly without tearing the dough.

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees centigrade. Bake the buns for 20 to 30 minutes. This will vary from oven to oven. I baked mine in the convection mode of my microwave and it took me twenty minutes. I plan to bake a little longer the next time for a browner crust. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool on wire racks or it  will become soggy from the bottom. Tilt the bread pan almost upside down and a few knocks on the underside of the pan should have the bread sliding out.  You need to let the bread cool before you cut them . If you cut the when they are warm, the bread is soft and so tears. 

The first time you bake bread, do break it with unbleached flour only. Once you get the hang of it, you may consider a proportion of unbleached flour and whole wheat flour in equal proportions. The  baking teacher recommended not increasing the amount of whole wheat flour beyond 50% as the bread becomes  very dense and is very heavy on the stomach too.

Bon appetit amigos !!  Do not cringe at the language fusion please ;) 

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