BBC is currently showing a great series called the Great British Bake Off. It's not a particularly brilliant or original idea - a mix of Masterchef and the Apprentice - but it's ever so well done, with a thoroughly engaging presentation by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (who is, by the way, one of the few famous Charlton supporters).
This week's programme was about bread, and the technical round required the contestants to make Paul Hollywood's crusty cob. The contestants were given the list of ingredients but not the method, and how to work out how to put them together for themselves. With varying results: one loaf was astonishingly flat.
I'm making the bread using the instructions almost word for word, although it's not exactly how I'd do it. (There's no autolysing stage, for example.) There are also various differences from the loaves I normally bake. I've never used butter, for example, and there's much more salt and yeast than I would usually use. Also it uses instant yeast, which I have used before, but not for a long time. I think the second-stage kneading is inadequate, and his estimate of 5 minutes for the first stage probably isn't enough (but I stuck to it). I didn't stick to his baking time of 30 minutes. That was clearly not enough.
I suspect there are compromises. Hollywood would presumably prefer to use fresh yeast but the recipe has to be achievable without it.
So - how was it?
The dough was easy to work, as it should be, with 100% strong white flour, but I didn't feel I'd sufficiently kneaded it after 5 minutes. The first rise was terrific, climbing out of the mixing bowl well within an hour. As I've mentioned, I'd have felt happier giving a longer second kneading, but followed the instructions.
Proofing did result in some spreading, and so I put the loaf into the oven sooner than I might have, to put a stop to this. The spring wasn't as active as I hoped and so the bread is flatter than I'd like. (In the programme Hollywood put some emphasis on "tightening" up the dough before the second rise, but I couldn't see exactly what he was doing.) I wonder if all that salt had killed some yeast too early. The other point is that the dough was probably a bit too wet for a cob shape.
And I'm still unsure if my new oven's thermostat is correct. Actually, I'm pretty sure it isn't but I feel reluctant to turn it up to max every time. I probably need to overcome that reluctance.
And now I've cooled it etc, it's actually the worst bread I've made in ages! Slightly doughy, and it has a fairly unpleasant odour. The crust is ok but uninteresting.