Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tomato focaccia (2)

OK, I'm giving this another go, trying to use the lessons of last time to use more oil and yeast. I'm also using semolina, as suggested by Jamie Oliver in a programme recently.

200g VSWF
liquid: 200g water; tiny amount of sugar, scant level tsp yeast

I mixed this up at 1200, leaving it in a fairly cool kitchen.

1745 the biga was huge! I knocked it back and added:
50g vswf
50g semolina
15g olive oil
2g salt
2 sundried tomatoes, chopped

It made quite a wet dough, which I kind of slapped around, rather than kneaded. I've then put it into a baking tray. Should be ready to go in an hour or so.

More olive oil on top, plus oregano and seasalt.
Into the oven (7) at 1955 for 15 minutes, then removed from tray and finished on the rack for 5 minutes at 5.
Here it is:

And I have to say, it's the real thing! It's wonderful, and I'm not sure I'll be able to avoid eating it all tonight. The oil, although there's not that much, gives the bread a kind of pastry texture, or maybe it's the semolina. Anyway, it's an absolute winner, and this is therefore my definitive focaccia recipe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Barleycorn bread

I'm so sad, I got a real thrill of anticipation opening the pack of Doves Farm Barleycorn flour. What will it be like? I'm going to do it the honour of proper hand-kneading, but otherwise it'll be straightforward, fairly quick proving etc.

300g flour
2g salt
Liquid: 200g water; 2g muscovado; 2g dried yeast

The dough seemed too wet at first but I resisted the temptation to add more flour, and kept on stickily kneading, and it turned into one of the nicest doughs I've ever made. For once, it was hard to stop myself kneading it. But at 1045 I did, and it's now proving by the radiator. (But it's a mild day today, so ironically, that may not be a particularly warm place. We'll see.)

1200 Risen, but not greatly. Anyway, knocked back and formed into a boule, slashed.
1245 Into oven. I feel I've rushed this a bit.
But here it is. Looks OK, doesn't it?

I probably should have given it longer for both risings; it's a bit heavier than it should be. Taste is good, but would be better with more salt or with salted butter. Mmm, salt.  

Friday, February 19, 2010

This can't be right

So far, I've done all my mixing and kneading by hand. I don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, just a food processor. But the book that came with that, says it can do bread. Use the metal chopping blade, it says, and process for one minute. But won't that cut the gluten threads? Only one way to find out.

So I've used 400g mix of 50/50 very strong wholemeal and vswf, 300g water, 1 tsp yeast, and 1 tsp sugar. In the processor bowl I first mixed together the flour and a pinch of sea salt, then poured in some rape seed oil. Then added the liquid while processing at a low speed, and it run for a minute. The dough eventually started climbing up the walls of the bowl, but (for a half-wholemeal dough) seemed light and elastic enough.

Basic procedure from then on: about two hours proving, knock back, and formed a plait, which proved for a bit less than a hour. Into a 7 oven on a stone and it's fine.

It was certainly a lot easier than hand-kneading and the result doesn't seem signficantly worse. I may try this again with white flour, but will definitely use it again for heavy doughs like half or more wholemeal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tomato bread

I'm attempting to refine the accidental focaccia of a few days ago, and having bought a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, that's the intended destiny for this. But I'm starting at 2120, so planning an overnight first proofing. For this reason, the biga is made up of:
200g VSWF
200g Badoit (still on special offer at Waitrose, by the way)
tiny amounts (about 1g each) of caster sugar and dried yeast.

I'll be leaving this overnight, probably in the bathroom (which is colder than any other room - especially tonight, which is frosty).

I'll be back tomorrow with the next steps, but note to myself: don't forget to add salt & oil.

Update 1
So, after 12 hours resting both the dough and I are looking good this morning. At 0915 I've added 100g of flour, a pinch of salt, and some oil (from the jar of tomatoes) and rekneaded, adding more flour as needed (probably about 20g), and then mixing in about sun-dried tomatoes, chopped. I've flattened it out into an irregular shape and will let it rise at kitchen temp for two or three hours, I guess.

Update 2
Probably could/should have used more yeast, but at 1250 I've put a still fairly flat bread in at gas 9. At 1305 brown but still a bit wet, so 10 more mins @ 7. At 1315 it still doesn't have the hollow tap sound, but I can't believe it isn't done. Here it is:
Looks nice, no? But no as shiny as I'd have hoped - I suppose I could have been more lavish with the oil wash. And doh I forgot to sprinkle sea salt on top.

It was OK. Still too dry - not enough oil, because I basically tipped in the extra from the jar of tomatoes. I'm nearly there, I think, but I might buy some focaccia from the market on Sunday just to calibrate what I'm trying to do.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I've soaked 20g of raisins in tea (why not?), then mixed them into a dough made of 150g vswf, 20g caster sugar, 100g warm water with half a tsp of dried yeast, pinches of ground cinnamon and allspice. Oh, and then I added three dried apricots, chopped up.

I'm really in uncharted territory here. I've never attempted yeasted buns before. I've no idea if the amount of sugar's right, but the dough tastes like it will be sweet enough. I've a feeling weaker flour might work better.

Nevermind. The dough is now sitting by the radiator. Updates to follow.

Update 1
1320: this dough is slow, but I've knocked it back and formed five little balls. I'll let them sit for a while. 

Update 2
I suppose it's the fruit that makes it hard work for the yeast. Finally at 1550 I gave in and popped them into the oven at gas 7, after brushing with milk. Here's the result after 20 minutes:

They're nice. Obviously, what we have here are hot uncrossed buns. They're sweet enough (for me), but the spices are a bit weak (for me). Slightly overcooked, but they're not burnt. The colour is no doubt caused by the caramelisation of the sugar. Another time I'd use a lower temperature. And there will be another time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I don't know what I'm finally going to make of this, but I've just mixed up a sponge, biga or poolish.

200g very strong white flour
200g Badoit
3g sugar
2g dried yeast

I'm using Badoit because it's the only bottled water I have. I don't imagine the gas in it will make any difference over the hours this is going to take, but the mineral flavour will surely make a difference.

So, that's mixed up, looking quite dry, at 1045.

Update 1
1700: added (initially) 100g flour, then about 20g, plus 2g salt. Kneaded, and then mixed in 25g sliced black olives. I've spread the dough out in an olive oil lined baking tray, and it doesn't look very nice. We'll see.

Update 2 
1900: bad feelings about this. It's such a cold day today, the bread's hardly risen in two hours. But heyho, I've dimpled it a bit, slapped on some more olive oil, oregano and salt, and in it goes, initially at g9, down to 7 after 10 mins.

And here it is:  
Better than I hoped, if unfocused. It's more or less a focaccia,  I suppose.

This was tasty enough. I think it would have been better if I'd added olive oil to the dough at some stage in the mixing. It was certainly drier than propa focaccia,  and unsurprisingly has dried out very quickly. But it had lovely internal structure, lots of large bubbles. I think oil would have reduced those.

So, I'll try this again soon, maybe using sundried tomatoes instead of olives. It would, obviously, also be a super pizza base.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meanwhile ...

There's a blog over at the Guardian about breadmaking, with some useful ideas. Eg use bottled water if you're in a hard water area, like me; use left over potato-boiling water.
There are innumerable bread blogs around, of course, and I'll be linking to some from time to time.

Doves Farm Malthouse

I imagine this flour is a knock-off of Granary. It includes 3.6% rye flour, which doesn't seem like much, and of course malted wheat flakes. Protein is 12.3%. I'm probably going for a cottage loaf with this. And I'm going for a straightforward two-proving procedure.

450g flour with a pinch of seasalt
250g warm water
6g yeast
5g sugar

These are slightly scaled down from the flour pack recipe, which is for 500g, and worked very well - it's a nice dough to knead and looks ok. The pack recipe includes oil, which I'm leaving out. I'm now (1440) letting it prove near the radiator. An hour should do.

Update 1
1610 - dough nicely risen, knocked back and formed into boule. X slash on top. Oven on.  

Update 2
In oven (7) at 1700 for 35 mins on a stone, no steam. And the result is ... lovely! Quite light crumb, with a crackly crust. It tastes how I remember granary bread. I can only guess that Hovis granary flour is blended mainly for industrial process, so will happily not use it again.  

Update 3
Now I've had chance to taste the fully cooled loaf, I have to say this is one of the best I've ever made. It's terrifically light with a tasty chewy crust, beautiful cut thick and served with cheese or butter. Well done, me. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hovis granary flour

It's my third attempt at using this flour. It's always disappointed me so far; the dough has been horrible to work, and the bread's been too heavy, and less tasty than you'd expect. So I'm trying with a long sponge time, to see if this will work better.

300g Hovis granary flour

Per 100g
Protein 14.7g
Carb 64.3g
Fibre 5.6g

300g water
3g sugar
2g dried yeast (that's about half a teaspoon)

The small amount of yeast is designed to lengthen the sponge period. I'm starting this at 10:30 in the morning, and I want to leave this for at least 8 hours. It's the last of the granary flour. At the second stage I'm going to add strong white flour.

Here's the sponge, looking porridgy. I'm leaving it at kitchen room temperature, which is about 15C today.

And here's my lovely new electronic scales, which enable me to give such precise quantities.

Update 1
Earlier than ideal, at 1700, I've added salt and 150g of very strong white flour. Didn't need to add any more liquid. The dough kneaded well, but a little wetly, and I've formed it into a bloomer, slashed lengthways by way of variety. I think it'll be ready for the oven by 1830.

I think one of the things I dislike about this flour is its colour. I've done a bit of research, and although the recipe is secret, it seems that the flour is basically white, coloured with malt. I prefer Allinson's Seed & Grain flour, which doesn't pretend to be anything but basically white. The colouring seems to make the dough heavier, while S&G is lighter, with seeds etc floating in it.

Update 2
So, I put in the oven at 1820, using a stone and no steam or eggwash. 10 mins at 7, then 30 at 6.  The loaf had spread worringly, but sprung well.
It now weighs 640g. It might be interesting to analyse percentage of water in finished bread: it must relate to the lightness, although I suppose you'd also need to measure the volume. Doing the sums (ignoring sugar, salt and yeast) this bread is about 30% water. I've no idea if that's normal.

So, how was it?
OK, but no better than OK. The bits of malt don't seem to act like nuggets of flavour as they should. Maybe that's because of the long proving - their flavour leaches out into the dough. The crumb was light, and the crust was soft. And it must be a symptom of something that the uppercrust was poorly attached to the crumb beneath, as if there's some late and anomalous rising at the top of the loaf. I won't use the flour again. I think a better approach would be to use normal flour and add the malted grains late, at second kneading.

Not another one!

Yes, sorry, another blog. Worse than that, another bread blog. Look, you don't have to read it! And it means I keep bread out of the main blog.

Here is where, mainly for my own benefit, I will keep a record of my breadmaking, and maybe other cooking adventures. You're welcome to look, of course, and even to comment, but I'll understand if you don't.