100 Great Breads: Bread #1 – White Bread

Right. The house is empty of bodies, the baby is down for a nap, the dogs are asleep in the lounge and the cats are out in the rain – a perfect time to make bread! By my guesstimates, my baby’s nap will last about 1 hr (if I am lucky, she is teething at the moment), which gives me enough time to mix and knead the dough before leaving it to rise. If all goes to plan, this leaves the period the baby is awake (I am already annoyed with calling her ‘the baby’, so from now on she is M.D.), for the shaping and second prove, leaving the actual baking for M.D.’s afternoon nap.

Paul Hollywood’s first recipe has already caused some minor problems. He wants to use olive oil as the fat in the bread – any form of fat can be used in these recipes, it is meant to keep the crumb soft rather than add any flavour – but we only have one bottle of extra virgin olive oil, which is just too strong a flavour for this. Our house prefers rapeseed oil; not for any fancy reason about farming ethics, locality or flavours, but because it’s usually on offer down the shop! So rapeseed it is. Paul also claims to not need to cover the bread as it proves, saying that the skin can be kneaded back into the dough; unfortunately, I cannot do this as the uncovered dough is vulnerable to the fur of four animals and two long haired women. I prefer to use cling film as it creates a warmer environment for the dough to rise, and our house is VERY cold, so any bit can help.

Mixing and kneading

Well, this is nice dough to work with. Not as dry as I thought it would be – I prefer mine to be wet (insert any joke, about anything, you like right here). It only needed about 3-4 mins kneading and shaped up nicely for rising. Unfortunately, as I was making it I was thinking that there is not a chance in hell that I was giving this to M.D. as I am pretty sure it is nutritionally ambiguous! However, if it makes nice bread I may tweak the recipe to include a portion of malted or wholemeal loaf and some seeds. This extra substance will appease my dictatorial food tendencies when it comes to M.D.

The Bake

Baked at 230 °C for 35 minutes, the crust is amazing! If bread tasted like it sounds, then this bread is a food orgasm waiting to happen. But it doesn’t, so I am now eating a sandwich to test it. It is a very soft crumb, perfect for sandwiches, but the flavour is lacking. This is most likely due to the short first rise, only 1 hr according to the recipe – with a large amount of yeast, and it is in these rising periods that the flavour of bread develops.

White Loaf

White Loaf - Ignore the wonky rise, our oven has hotspots as I live in a real house, not one of these idyllic baking utopias that you see on telly.

White Loaf Crumb

White Loaf Crumb

[Insert: Ok, after re-reading the introduction parts of the book I have noticed his yeast amounts are for live yeast, not fast-active dried yeast, but his advice to reduce the amount “a little” would drop 15g to what, 10-12g? Still a large amount for a 500g loaf for my tastes any way]

I am not usually a fan of plain, white loaves, but this was very easy to make and with a light tweak (such as remembering what ingredients Paul is actually telling me to use) I think it will become a staple for lazy weekend lunches.

History of Bread:

White bread gets a bad rep from health food advocates, but it has a long history dating back millennia, and it was discussed by the likes of the famous Roman Physician, Galen, living in the 2nd-3rd century C.E.;

“Contrasting with these are genuinely white breads that manage a great weight in a constrained volume. They are the slowest of all breads to pass. You will notice that their dough is particularly sticky, so that it weighs most when unseparated, which is something that is peculiar to a sticky body. These breads of course require more yeast, must be kneaded most of all, and should not be baked immediately after rising and kneading . . . Thus white breads must have a longer time in the oven, bran-loaves a shorter time.” Galen, On Food and Diet, book 1 (trans. Mark Grant)

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