If u always wanted to make your own – but was scared, that baking bread is just too complicated…. you were absolutely right. In a way of course.
When the freshly baked almost burnt smell circulates in the air, when u can hear the crunch and the tinkle from the bottom of your new born baby… u really feel like in heaven.
When i was a child in nappy – remember, we never ever baked bread at home (till my father surprised my mom with that stupid machine for a christmas – such a shameeeeeeeeeeee), but made huge amount of different cakes which needed almost the same method (i mean kuglóf, pogácsa, fánk etc…) so it was always a mystery for me, how is it possible, to put lots of `dead` stuff in a bowl, mixi-mixi and in half an hour it extended to double size. I was amazed. The mixture just sprang into existence. The reason why i like to work with dough sooo much – it comes alive in my hands. (in my restaurant, where i make bread twice every day for lunch and dinner – i could cry sometimes, there is just such a big difference dealing with that massive bulk of dough, unfortunately i dont really have time to put my soul in it, leave time to evolve perfectly, season with love).
Need to remind myself not to talk too much, let’s start at the beginning. I mean not the history side, cause it’s a bit more complicated and just toooooooo looooooooong. So you are here to bake a bread. The easiest way to do it, to have all the ingredients next to you – not a lot, however it’s possible to play with these as well, but let’s leave it for later. :) So u have your flour, water, salt and yeast. That’s it. See them a bit closer…
Flour… u can use any type of it, but your bread gonna be better and the dough rise easier, if your flour is `a kind of fresh`, i mean wasn`t sitting in the shop on the shelf in the last 25 years. Should be freshly grounded – f*cking hard to get it – but no worries. Need to consider one more thing – if u fancy a wholegrain healthy one full of seeds and nuts, go for it, but will be really heavy, needs more yeast and liquid and i would still suggest a bit of white flour mix with it.
Water… be brave and play with this part. Any – i mean ANY TYPE OF LIQUID can do the job, just makes your baby richer and flavourful. Get some ideas – just like in the case of cakes, milk always wonderful just as buttermilk, you can add some yoghurt, sour cream, even cream. Or go hard, and chuck in a bottle of beer, some vine or cider, orange juice or tomato water. Somehow one shot of gin or vodka helps as well. The dough likes it! :)
Salt… not much to talk about it. You always can see the prices, obviously the expensive ones are better. Possible to find already seasoned salt (or you can make yours with herbs, vegetables or spicies). Only one thing is REALLY IMPORTANT – never ever introduce the salt directly to your yeast. They simply just hate each other. So DON’T even try to make them friends PLZ!
Yeast… don’t want to complicate your task, so just simple. Yeast is something, what is alive. Actually you gonna make it alive. Use fresh yeast if possible, i had really bad experiences with the dried one. It needs a bit of liquid (water or milk), whisk-whisk and that’s it. I use to put some sugar in it, because yeast needs some `food` and have a sweet mouth – can start to work easier. Oh by the way – the temperature is quite important – needs nice warm environment – don’t burn it, but cool if your liquid between 20-30 degrees. And never ever add the salt to it!
Well, i think we can start it… but im always in sh*t with the measuring… i know its easy for me to say `measure with your eye`, and `u gonna feel ` when its enough… so let’s say roughly, get 1 kilo of flour (some extra to cover your working surface), 30g of fresh yeast (a bit less if it’s dried), 30g of salt, 0.6 liter hand warm water| or milk, i would go for that 30g of honey or sugar to feed your yeast, it’s not necessary by the way. Let’s give birth to your baby, mix the yeast with the water and the sweet stuff then leave a bit to rest. When it is going to work, normally u feel a bit of strange smell (2 weeks old socks in the corner of your room:)) and u even can see how the stuff is moving in the water – really cool. Now u can get your room temperature flour already mixed well with the salt in a big bowl and pour the liquid in it. Mix well with your hand – should not see any dry flour bits, the whole thing should stick together after a while. It’s your decision now – if u feel too dry, get some more water, of it’s too wet, add more flour. Possible to play with it – if needed. U can start to knead – long and hard proccess, i bet you gonna sweat at the end. I really can not explain how to do this, just push the dough in every way, down, up, lift, turn etc etc… almost forget about it – do this on your working surface covered with flour of course – shouldn’t stick down.
I think we are just ready with the first round. U have a nice little ball – just put it back in a bowl, sprinkle some water and some flour on the top and cover it with a clean, dump towel. Leave it to rest for at least 45-60 minutes in a warm place.
Meanwhile u can decide the shape of your bread, there are different types u can make – add extra ingredients like nuts, dried/candied fruits, olives, herbs, cheese or whatever your little palette fancy to taste.
Now get your dough out, should be twice as big as it was (congratulation!!! :), be really gentle – need a second knead.
At this time u give the shape of it, so after the careful kneading make focciaccia, flatbread, pizza, rolls, bagettes… dont need to be perfect belive me, dealing with daugh needs special technics and care. Your flavour still gonna be amazing! Ok, its the second resting period, from now on your bread just go straight to the owen, so u need tray with baking paper and leave the dough there for the second rise covered with clean wet towel in the same warm place for another 40-50 minutes. Dont forget to turn on the oven by now, needs to be hot like hell, when your babies go in, lets say around 200 degrees (depends on the size of the loaf – if small, the temperature can goes higher, 220).
The breads are need to be cut or score on the outside skin to help them expand fully in the oven – and finally they can go in. The first part of baking quite brutal – in the first 20 minutes the bread needs as much moist as possible to form a lovely crust – almost steaming. After needs dry heat for another 20-25 minutes, until done. Best way to check it, take out from the oven, turn upside down on your tray and knock the bottom of your loaf, if it `knocks` back – it means that it’s ready, if sounds flat – chuck back in the oven for another 10 minutes. And i think we are done. Good job guys… :)
Let me end the story with the beggining… quickly show u another method to make bread from long long time ago, when the `yeast maker factory` was not on the map at all… this type of bread made from sour dough. Different flavour, different and long proccess – u really need to be keen on this whole thing to try this, but at the end of the day, good fun and it’s worth it.
Without yeast… u need to make your own starter (the same mix as your yeast+water+sugar was at the begining). Develop a starter begins with making a culture which contains the microorganisms and bacterias that make the bread rise. Don’t need anything else but flour and water – after a few days it’s going to ferment spontaneously, by itself. Our part of the story just coming now, from that point we need to start to feed our little `leaven` every day: take out half of the mix and add fresh water and flour, on a daily base.
Carry on with this for days, weeks – probably u can use this after a week feeding, just need to make sure, that the balance of yeast and bacteria is established – the volume of your leaven will increase and collapse as a cycle every day. The breadmaking method almost the same, just needs more time, like a whole day (first resting period takes around 3-4 hours, shaping, another 30 minutes bench rest, final shaping, another 3-4 hours final rise and puffff – oven). U can keep feeding your little pet for weeks, months – just need to keep carry on feed it. Good fun, u can have a little `animal`! It happened so many times that we finally found our way home with Marti, being not very sober after a drinky-drinky party and were trying to find the flour in the kitchen (…), mixing it with warm water in a bowl and smashing half of stuff into the toilet while the other half had a big `dinner`…
So it’s really a pain in the ass, but the flavour… and the fun! xxx