Monday, October 31, 2011

Seedy rolls

Another influence of the Great British Bake Off on me here. One of the challenges is always to create a set of things - they might be iced buns, cupcakes or mini-pies - and one of the objectives is to get uniformity: they should all look the same. Some people are naturally good at this. I'm not, and therefore I think they are dull automatons, while I am a free spirit. Your rules can't bind me, man.

But it's something I ought to try, and as bread's my forte, baking a tray of rolls seems the best way to look for my inner zombie.

I've used a seedy mix, as follows:

250 g strong white flour
50 g whole rye
100 g strong wholemeal
10 g red malt flour
5 g salt

20 g poppy seeds
20 g sunflower seeds
30 g pumpkin seeds
20 g sesame seeds

with 300 g water and 5 g dried yeast. A fairly quick rising - pre-toasting the seeds made the mix quite nicely warm.

So I had about 700 g of dough and decided to use around 100 g for each roll. Yes, reader, I weighed each roll to a tolerance of plus or minus 10 g. At first I thought I'd do knot rolls, but then decided to do spirals. Uncooked they look, let's say, unfortunate. So I egg-washed them and added more poppy seeds. Oh, and I took two of the lumps and made a three-strand plait. I'm so wild and crazy.
Here's the result. Eggwash always makes bread look better, doesn't it? But look at the two rolls at the front. One spirals this way; the other that. It's left-handed. (Left handed-ness in bread rolls is clearly a recessive gene; of the four spiral rolls, only one expresses it.) I didn't even think of this when I was rolling. And I can't say it's free-spiritedness; it's just that I revert to universals too quickly: a spiral is a spiral. Will I ever have an eye for detail?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pain d'épi

My imaginary girlfried Lorraine Pascale inspired me to do this: french bread in the shape of an ear of corn. It's surprisingly easy to form. You just form a baguette with the proved dough, then snip flaps with scissors at regular intervals and fold them in alternate directions.

I used a basic french bread dough - half and half plain and strong flour, no oil, not much yeast, and a fairly quick rising and proving. It took about four hours from start to finish.

It's probably not going to be the best bread I've baked - it's too quick for that - but it's definitely a proof of concept and I will certainly try this again for a special occasion.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Love life loaf and be happy

Waitrose's new range of "love life" products seems a bit confused. Alongside the wholegrains and pulses, there's a selection of ready meals. One product that caught my eye was this: a wholemeal flour with 11.5% mixed seeds (millet, poppy, linseed) and some other grains. Protein is high, at 16.3%, but a lot of that is down to the seeds.

It's attractive packaging, I think, combining a homespun simplicity with sophisticated colours. So I bought some. What kind of bread does it make?


My first attempt was disastrous. I didn't take any photos and wouldn't publish them if I had. I made a basic dough, using fast action yeast and about 65% hydration, but left in the fridge overnight, which probably isn't a good idea.  The dough never really came to life and when I baked it, in a cudgel shape, it rose very unevely with a big cavity in the middle. I also underbaked it. I think I'm just not used enough to wholemeal baking.

So I tried again, substituting strong white flour for about a fifth of the flour, again using fast action yeast but with normal rising times. Here's the result. Believe me, it's a lot better, but I can't get excited about the taste. I guess it's the seeds: linseed still doesn't do it for me, and the poppy seeds aren't making a big impact. Maybe I've just got so used to the flavour that a long slow rising with old-fashioned dried yeast gives.

Waitrose do a couple of similar seedy flours, and I might try one of them, but I think it will be better to carry on adding seeds etc to my own specification.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Black peppery rye

My first go at a Dan Lepard loaf is his Black peppery rye bread. It's a bold combination of ingredients, using coffee as the liquid, and black pepper as one of the ingredients. I followed the recipe almost to the letter (using fennel seeds), the only difference being that I turned down the oven to 190 after 15 minutes. And I think I should therefore have increased the baking time to 45 or 50 minutes, as the bread's a bit underbaked and doughy.

I'm not sure I like the taste. For me there's a bit too much pepper. Lepard recommends eating this with soft cheese or smoked salmon. I've tried it with some goat's cheese, and that's ok, but still a bit too peppery. I'm not sure the coffee's actually doing anything

There's another couple of faults in my loaf. First, for some reason it's split a bit at the base. Second, the internal structure is slightly marked by the rolling process; here and there it looks a bit like a swiss roll.

But it's a pleasant even texture, and I guess it could be my basic rye bread. Without the coffee and the pepper, though.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Short and sweet

I once had to describe myself in three words for an application form for a quiz we were applying for. I chose the words short and sweet, because it's true, but also because I liked the swank of "wasting" one of my words on and. We didn't get onto the quiz.

Anyway, Dan Lepard has now used the phrase for a manual of baking, with which I hope to exploit my Great British Bake-Off enthusiasm. (The series ended last night, with a victory for sweet, sweet Jo, who pipped the original favourite, Holly. Although Jo's very nice, I like the tinge of steel and ruthlessness in Holly. She'd be a more interesting companion, if interesting is what you like.)

It's a proper cookbook too, with general, slightly theoretical advice prefacing each section (bread, cakes, biscuits ...), detailed, trustworthy-looking recipes, and a nicely rationed supply of photos (maybe one every 6 recipes). Once I get started I hope to be publishing the results here.