Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rye Bread

So, the bread using the starter was a fail. I'm not even going to go into the humiliating details, just believe me that it was bad. We are now on take two with the starter. If this is also a dud, I'm going to abandon the friendship bread and go for straight sourdough. I'm a bit afraid to go down that route, as I have assumed that this is (even) harder to get going, as you don't give it a pile of yeast and lots of sugar to start with but rely on just yeasts in the air (or a tiny smidgen of packet yeast) and the flour as the food, but it's conceivable that I am wrong. Some might say likely, but if they do they won't get any bread. And since I am entertaining (and feeding) myself with rye bread made the usual (for me) way until the next starter experiment is ready, that would be a great shame for them. Because it is delicious. This was the best bread that I can recall making. It was packed with flavour and rose beautifully to give a crumb which was soft but tightly woven and perfect for sandwiches. We are going to make it again at the first Anglo-Asian Bakeathon tomorrow - I can't wait!

See how much it has risen in the oven? The above picture was immediately before it went in. And you can see too the "stretch marks" along the fissure where the long gluten chains are all lined up and give the bread it's structure. This is what kneading prepares them to do. The shape of the loaf (high on one side vs. the other - most obvious in the top picture) is yet another demonstration of the uneven temperature distribution in my oven. Le sigh.

Makes one 1lb loaf:
  • 250g rye flour
  • 250g white bread flour
  • 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I used 1tbsp strongly flavoured extra virgin and 1tbsp very mild as I'm out of regular)

  • Mix the flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and oil. Mix with a round-bladed knife and then your hands to form a soft ball of dough. If the dough seems too sticky to knead, add a bit more flour; if it won't form a cohesive, soft ball add a little more water. Rub your hands with flour to remove all of the stuck on stickiness. Turn it out onto a floured work surface (ideally around hip height for maximum leverage) and knead until smooth and springy. Wash out your mixing bowl, oil lightly, put the ball of dough in and give it a couple of turns to get the surface lightly covered with oil too. Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp, clean tea towel and set aside until doubled in size (about an hour, depending on the temperature etc.).

    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Punch down the dough (literally, punch it! SO fun!), turn out on to the work surface and knead again briefly. Press out to a rectangle three times the size of your 1lb (500g) loaf tin. Fold one end in and then the other (imagine folding an A4 letter to go in a business-size envelope) and then put in the tin seam-side down. Leave to prove for about 15 - 30 minutes, until it has risen to above the top of the tin. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until it looks done on top and sounds hollow when you rap on the bottom with your knuckles. Sit on a wire rack, out of the tin, to cool before trying to slice it.

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