Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bread Baking Made Easy

I had always thought making bread was too difficult, dicey and not worth the effort. How wrong I was. After making variations of 'peasant bread' based on recipes by Jamie Oliver and Rose Levy Beranbaum, here dare I present my simplified version:

Argus's Fool-Proof(ed) Bread

1 packet dry yeast (7g)
210ml tepid water (comfortably warm, NOT hot)
2 tsp honey OR sugar

2 cups bread flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 tsp salt

2 tsb extra bread flour for working & sprinkling
a handful of 2 or 3 of your favourite fillings (pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, deseeded olive green and/or black, fig, raisin, apricot, walnut, etc)

1. Mix the yeast and honey/sugar into half the tepid water. Mix the flours and salt in a big bowl or a clean marble countertop. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix. Pour in the yeast mixture. Using four fingers of one hand, gradually stir the flour into the liquid until thick. Add the rest of the tepid water and continue mixing till you get smooth & silky dough. Knead dough for 5 minutes. If dough sticks to fingers, just rub it off with a little extra flour.

2. Shape dough into a round and place it in a big oiled bowl or on floured baking paper. Slice the top twice 1cm deep with a sharp knife to aid the rising. Place in a warm, draught-free part of your kitchen for about 35 minutes for its first proofing. When it has risen about double in size, you're on the right track.

3. Place dough on floored worktop (I use a plastic chopping board), punch or press it down a bit for a minute. Spread the fillings over. Roll it up and shape it into a round or oval (or whatever you wish the final shape to be). Diagonally slice the top 1cm deep a few times. Leave it undisturbed on a floured or baking-paper-lined baking tray or loaf pan for about 40 minutes for its second proofing.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius for at least 7 minutes. Peek at your dough. Has it risen double again? If you're happy with its size, place the baking tray or loaf pan gently in the oven and gently close the oven door. If it hasn't risen enough, wait patiently for another 5 to 15 minutes before baking it.

5. Bake your bread undisturbed for 25 minutes. Take it out and tap on the bottom of your loaf. It should sound 'hollow' -- then, voila! it's done! Let it cool on a wire rack for half an hour before slicing and sampling.

It's so delicious when eaten fresh baked with butter, etc -- that's one of the best reasons for baking your own bread from scratch.

P.S. If you scroll down to Bloomin' Brilliant Brownies, you can see the freshly minted pictures of brownies I baked with toppings of cookies and white choc chunks.


gRaCe said...

Argus my dear...ur making me hungry again!! *dinner's gonna be pretty late for me today..*

really, u can open a bakery already la..hehe..

Argus Lou said...

Boy, Spiff, you caught this post truly freshly out of the blog oven!
Thanks, dear.

My bro in KL buys bread from his neighbour and he pays RM5 a loaf -- wow, I can make a few bucks, ya?

gRaCe said...

yep yep, i managed to catch your blog while it was piping hot.

*also proves that i have nothin to do on weekends.hehe..*

RM5 a loaf?? woww...that's really expensive. you sure'll be rich! =D

Lydia Teh said...

Argus, makes me want to dust off my Kenwood breadmaker and start baking again. The brownies look good!

Argus Lou said...

Spiffy, yeah, the bread my bro buys is supposed to be super-healthy 'artisan bread' or something. Well, you can only charge that in KL. Try doing that in Penang or Taiping -- and be prepared to smack flies ('pak wu ying' in Cantonese means having nothing to do but swat flies in a customerless shop).

Lydia, try making it by hand -- it's quite fun & therapeutic to do. Just imagine the lump of dough as some folk you don't much like, and whack it about. ^_^

gRaCe said...

yeah...i totally agree. U cant sell at such a price at small towns. Even in Seremban..sure close shop one. Hahah...

Lee Ping said...

My good friend gave me a bottle of specialty olives. The olives are stuffed with blue cheese. I am not sure what to do with them yet.

In your first photo of this article, the olive look like it is stuffed with perhaps, red chilies? In the second photo, your bread has olives stuffed with cheese? and dried figs?

Argus Lou said...

Your cheese-stuffed olives sound like a delicious appetiser, MrsHBT. Try putting it in bread and let me know if it's nice. ^_^

Mine, one was stuffed with paprika and the other was stuffed with almond. (The fig pieces I put in separately.) The next green olive I'll try putting in bread is one stuffed with garlic.

Lee Ping said...

OK, olives stuffed with almond. Now that you said that, it does look more like a nut than cheese.

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)