Serious quarantine baking. Part 1: Bread, of course.

Hello everyone. I am finally back in the blog again. After my last post, (Foodie Love review), I’ve been craving a little bit of cooking around here; a little bit of baking to be more specific.

Baking bread is something I had always wanted to do but had never found the time to actually do it but thanks to all the time to spare that I’ve had thanks to this quarantine, I finally had my chance to do it and I loved it so so much!

I’d like to send a big thank you to my friend Clara P because if it wasn’t for her I might not be here today explaining my bread-baking skill. She gifted me with a bread workshop this past Christmas and it was a great experience that brought me a bigger appreciation for bread and also for its preparation. It is harder than it looks!

But do not worry because I have the definite recipe: quick and easy as I like it but with a proper result. Let’s get our hands sticky, shall we?

Ingredients

  • 500 g of flour (either 500 g. of full strength flour or 250 g of full strength flour and 250 g of whole wheat flour. I’ll show you the result either way).
  • 350 ml of warm water (be careful it is not cold or hot).
  • 10 g of fresh yeast or a sachet of dried yeast (usually it is half the weight of dried yeast).
  • 10 g of salt 
  • A handful of seeds (whichever you like most or none at all).
  • Olive oil (to avoid dough sticking to our hands and bowls).
  • Baking paper (to go over our baking sheet)
  • A flat oven pan
  • A big bowl to knead the dough
  • A dough kneading machine is useful but not necessary
  • An oven

1. Mix it all up

My advice to a good start is to weigh all the ingredients first so that you keep a clean and tidy kitchen throughout the whole process. When you have them ready, you can start by dissolving the yeast, whichever you decided to use, in your 350 ml of water. Stir for a while until it’s properly dissolved.

Then, put all the flower in a big deep bowl together with the salt and the seeds if you decided to add some and mixed them with a spatula. Pour all the water (the part with the dissolved yeast and the rest we’ve yet no used) over the mixture of dry ingredients you just prepared. Mix again using the spatula.

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Dry ingredients mixture

2. The hard part: kneading

If you have a kneading machine, this is the moment to give it a good use. I do have one so the kneading process was quite easy for me. You just have to set the machine to low-medium strength and knead for around 5 minutes until all the flour gets properly integrated into the dough. You should get something similar to the pic on the right below. If it looks like the pic on the left then keep kneading because the flour is yet not fully incorporated. If needed, add a little bit more of water to achieve this.

Actually, to get to this spotless dough, what I did is knead it bit with my hands over the counter in order to give it this rounded shape. It is important to shape it in a way that ensures that the dough stays “sealed” (no opening bits on the top). Down below you can observe how the dough looks before and after giving it this rounded shape.

Since kneading by hand is quite hard to explain only with words, I’m gonna leave here a link to a video that explains it. A good trick that works really well for me is to moisture my hand with olive oil before kneading so that the dough does not stick to my hands throughout the process. This will also moisture the dough and make it more juicy. If you knead by hand you’ll need to do it for 10 min.

3. The easy part: fermentation

When you have your “ball” of dough, put it in a big container. Spread a bit olive oil over its walls first so that the dough does not stick to it. Then cover it with a kitchen cloth or plastic film and leave it to rest for about 1 hour.

During this time, the yeast is gonna do its work which is the actual fermentation. This means that this bug will start eating the sugars in the flour so that it grows in size. You’ll know that the dough had enough fermentation when its has doubled its size. Right as you can see in the pictures above. It could become even bigger but that is fine!

4. Kneading (2nd round)

Once your dough has doubled its size, take it out and put it again over the counter previously covered with a bit of flour. We are gonna knead for another 5 minutes. I like to do it by hand on the second round but you can use your kneading machine as well.

Then put it in the same bowl again and cover it. Exactly as you did the first time.

IMG_20200323_174305
Bread dough ready for second fermentation

5. Fermentation (2nd round)

I like my bread to have a double fermentation because I feel like the final texture is so much better but it is totally up to you to do it or not. You can actually bake the dough right after the first fermentation as well.

If you choose to do it my way, then you’ll have to leave it to rest for another hour (or the same amount of time it took the first time to double its size). The fermentation time depends a lot of room temperature and humidity so if you are in a warm apartment it will probably go much faster.

6. Shape your dough (have some fun)

Take the dough out of the bowl and over the counter for the last time. I promise you won’t have to knead anymore. You just have to give it the shape that you like most. Either rounded or more elongated…you can even split it and get to separate loaves. As you wish!

IMG_20200417_204809
Bread dough ready for the oven

Lastly, before you bake it, using a big knife give it a nice couple of cuts over the top (about 1/3 deep on the height of the dough) as you can see in the picture above. This will tell the dough where to “breath”.

7. Baking time at last!

Pre-heat your oven during 10-15 minutes to 250ºC (just bottom). You can use the last bit of the fermentation time to save some of it. Over the bottom of the oven, put a baking pan full with 250 ml of water. This will moisture the dough during the baking process and your bread will taste so much better.

Once the oven is preheated, put some baking paper over your baking sheet and then put the dough over it. Place your baking sheet the lowest you can inside your oven, just a few centimeters over the pan containing the water.

Be careful because there are three steps you need to follow while baking:

  1. 10 minutes 250ºC just bottom heat.
  2. 40 minutes 210ºC just bottom heat.
  3. 5 minutes 210ºC top heat, either alone or together with bottom. It will depend on how brownish your bread got.

8. Good thing come to those who wait

Get your newly baked beautiful bread loaf outside of the oven but do not jump right in to it. You need to leave it to cool down for a while. At least one hour if not more so please be patient. I know it is hard when you have these beauties looking right at you but you need to be strong! You can do it come on!

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Full strength white-flour-only loaf of bread
IMG_20200405_220243
Half-white half-whole-wheat flour loaf of bread
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More-than-half-white less-than-half-whole-wheat flour loaf of bread

9. Enjoy your bread!!!

Here you have some ideas to enjoy your bread either during breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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I hope you all enjoyed this post and that you found it instructive. Don’t hesitate and bake your own bread now. Just try! You’ll see it is a lot of fun.

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