Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year - New Beginnings

I am against making resolutions in the new year. I know myself very well that if I make a rule that I won't or will do something, I will do what I said I won't and viceversa. So to me doing as it pleases at that moment makes far more sense than sticking to some rule that I made in the heat of the moment some days/months ago.

But over years I have realized that you do not have to make really strict rules or goals. It could be very general, very accommodating to my already existing principles and only be specific in one generic rule. Now that has become very abstract to even understand. Let me clarify, I already bake bread at home occasionally. So my rule could be bake a loaf of bread at home once a month, instead of making the rule to be every loaf of bread a home baked one. There is no way I am going to achieve that.

Anyways that is not my resolution for this year. It is to begin at the basics of all recipes. I always dream big, and my experiment projects are usually large at scale, that is to make Biryani before I have even mastered how to cook rice in an open pot. So I am going to learn perfectly how to make the basics before I run to the complicated versions.

As part of this goal for January, I baked some stuffed rolls. I always guilt trip myself into making whole wheat versions because of the obvious reasons. But I think knowing how a regular unbleached flour product tastes like is also more important before running away and tweaking the recipe to use whole wheat flour and switching out multiple ingredients. Then I realized I should start from the basic white bread before I even venture into anything complicated. My laziness also helped because we were out of bread and I didnt want to drag myself out of the house to just get a loaf of bread. I was going to bake one and make it the most simple white bread and see what happens.

So I used a Beth Hensperger's recipe for White Mountain Bread, the first recipe in the book "The Bread Bible". I bought this book thinking that I was buying the other famous bread bible, but I have never regretted buying it. It is full of great recipes and I learnt how to make pancakes from this book.

I was measuring out the ingredients and I realized I had a whole day and I only needed the bread the next day morning. So I reduced the yeast by 2/3rd so that it will have a long rise. The first rise finished some 4-5 hrs after the kneading and I shaped it at 4 in the evening and by 8, it was ready to be baked. I halved the recipe, so I got only one loaf out of it.

It was so tasty, even the supermarket loaves of white bread never taste that good. It was the better than the stuffed bread that I made a few days ago. My daughter who usually scoffs my home made breads and prefers the supermarket ones because of the crust and chewiness gobbled up three slices in the morning saying that it was like cheese. The crumb was tight but light and airy as you can see in the pictures. I wouldn't buy white bread again when it is so easy to make at home.

White Mountain Bread
90ml Water
180ml Milk
1 1/2 tbsp Honey
1 1/2 tbsp Butter
1/2 tbsp Salt
1/2 tsp Instant Yeast
360g Bread Flour / Weizenmehl 550

In a cup, mix water, milk, honey and butter and warm them slightly until the butter melts and the mixture is warm to the touch.
Add the salt, yeast and flour into a big bowl and whisk them so that salt and yeast are evenly distributed over the flour.
Mix the warm liquid with the flour using a spatula or a wooden spoon until there is no liquid visible. If it is too much of a slurry add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. The dough should form into a ball and will be slightly stiff and sticky.
Knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes until it is shiny and smooth. It will still be slightly sticky but with a little oil would no longer stick to hands.
Place it in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap tightly and let it rise. As the yeast is less, it will take a long time to rise.
When it has doubled in size and a poke with a finger results in deflated dough, take it out of the bowl, shape it into a loaf.
Butter a 25cm loaf pan and then place the roll inside the pan, cover the pan with the plastic wrap and let it rise for another 4-5 hours.
When the dough crests the lip of the pan, then it is almost ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Remove the plastic wrap and place the pan inside the oven. Bake for 20-30 min until the top is brown and a tap on the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow.
Take the loaf out of the pan, place it on a rack so that it cools down on all sides.
Brush it with butter to make the top crust soft and shiny.
When it has completely cooled, then cut it into slices and enjoy.

Edit: Decided to submit it to yeastspotting