Posts Tagged ‘baking bread at home’

We love our ciabatta recipe so much that I thought I’d try and come up with a similar recipe using yeast, for folks who don’t have a sourdough starter on the go.  Pete took lots of pics as I was making it, so be warned – this is a very photo heavy tutorial!

The finished loaves are slightly different from the sourdough version, but they’re even easier and quicker to make.  The recipe makes four small loaves, all with an elastic crumb and chewy crust.  The semolina helps them to keep well for a couple of days after baking, or you can freeze them for a later date.

Because I’ve used cold water and a relatively small amount of yeast in this recipe, the proving time is longer than for regular yeasted loaves.  It will vary a little depending on ambient kitchen temperatures, and is fairly forgiving – just make sure the dough is puffy before you turn it out to cut, as there won’t be a second rise.

I always use scales to measure my ingredients, but I’ve included approximate cup measures as well.  If you have a smaller oven, please feel free to halve the recipe (use 4g dried yeast in that case).

Fig Jam and Lime Cordial Pane de Casa

  • 500g (3½ cups) bakers/bread flour
  • 500g (3½ cups) fine semolina (durum wheat) flour  (we use an imported Italian flour)
  • 7g (1¾ teaspoons) dried/instant yeast (or one sachet)
  • 18g (2¾ teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 750g (3 cups) fridge cold water
  • rye flour, for dusting

Note: don’t be tempted to use fine or coarse semolina instead of semolina (durum wheat) flour – the former is too coarse and won’t absorb enough water, and you’ll end up with a soggy mess.  If you can’t find semolina flour, substitute more bread flour in its place and reduce the water by about 5%.

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, yeast and salt.

2. Add the cold water, and mix the ingredients together to form a sticky dough.  It’s easiest if you do this with one hand, so you can hold the bowl (or answer the phone!) with the other. Really squelch the mix through your fingers until evenly combined.  Scrape off your hand and cover the bowl with a tea towel.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

3. Give the dough a quick knead in the mixing bowl – after the short rest time it will have relaxed a little.  Just fold it over itself a dozen or so times, and then scrape your hand off again and cover the bowl with clingfilm or a shower cap.  Allow to prove until well risen – this might take up to three hours depending on your kitchen conditions.

4.  Once the dough is nearly risen, preheat the oven to 250C (480F) with fan.  If you’re using pizza stones, place them on the racks to heat up, and tear off four sheets of parchment paper.  If you don’t have pizza stones, line a couple of baking trays with parchment.

The dough is ready when it’s puffed up and airy – the photo below was taken after three hours rising time in our Sydney winter kitchen.

5. Heavily dust the bench and your hands with rye flour or fine semolina, then scrape the dough out gently – be careful not to knock all the air out of it.

6. Fold the top of the dough into the middle, and then fold the bottom over to enclose it, forming a long rectangle.  It’s hard to explain, but the photos below should make it clearer.  Keep your hands well dusted with flour, and use your scraper if necessary to help you manoeuvre the dough.  It takes just a little practice to get this bit right.

7. Dust the top of the dough with more rye flour or fine semolina, then using your scraper, cut the dough into four roughly equal pieces.

8. Dust your hands again with flour. Pick each piece of dough up by the ends, give it a little stretch, and then place it on a sheet of parchment to go onto the pizza stones, or onto the lined baking tray.

9. Spritz the top of each loaf with a little water.

10. Turn the oven down to 220C (425F) with fan, and put the loaves in to bake for 20 minutes.  Then rotate the loaves (if you’re baking on stones, remove the parchment now) or the oven tray, and lower the heat to 175C (350F) with fan.  Bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the loaves are crusty and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Note: please check your parchment paper instructions to ensure that it can cope with these oven temperatures.

11.  Allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Whew!  Sorry to be so longwinded, but I wanted to make this tutorial as clear as possible.  I hope you’ll give this a go – it’s a lovely Saturday morning bake – and quite forgiving once you get the knack of handling the wet dough.  Every loaf looks a little rustic, but they all taste delicious!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

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I don’t bake and cook things at home to save money.

It’s not that I don’t like to save money, but rather that it’s never been my primary goal.  What motivates me is a desire to feed my family well, to cut down on all the hidden unknowns in packaged foods, and to minimise waste.

But as I’ve mentioned before, the huge bonus from our push to make as much from scratch as possible is that we’ve cut our living expenses dramatically.  And sometimes it’s nice to crunch the numbers, just to see how much of a saving this lifestyle really affords us.

Last weekend I baked rolls for the boys.  Here’s the breakdown:

A bag of leg ham offcuts from Paesanella…$1.86

Kalamata olives… $3.84

Sundried tomatoes (30g)…$0.80

Picasso sheeps cheese…$4

Sourdough bread dough (2kg)…$2

Oven electricity…$0.50

. . . . . . . . . .

Total cost for 24 rolls = $13

Lunch per starving wolf-child per day = $1.08

. . . . . . . . . .

I really can’t ask for more than that!  The bread stores well in the freezer, and our sons take two low GI sourdough rolls each day – Small Man’s are stuffed with olive and sheeps’ cheese; Big Boy’s with off the bone leg ham, cheese, homemade quince paste and sundried tomatoes.

Apart from the nitrites in the ham (which I grit my teeth and accept) and the salt in the olives, there aren’t any other preservatives in the meal – no hidden chemicals or food additives with strange numbers.  The ingredients are all topnotch and I’ve reduced the salt in my standard dough, resulting in bread which is 30% less salty than commercial loaves.  I know it’s not a big deal in a roll stuffed with ham and olives, but every little bit helps.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to make things at home, but in this case, a Saturday morning’s work saved me a week of packing sandwiches at 7am, and $50 in bought lunches!

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bagl 004

I was reading some of the comments to yesterday’s post, and it made me reflect on my first attempts at sourdough baking.

If you’re new to baking with a sourdough starter, please let me reassure you – it isn’t scary.  Don’t be put off by all the numbers and detailed instructions out there, adhering to them really isn’t as critical as some of the more diehard bakers will have you believe.

Let me explain.

A lot of sourdough bakers take it all very seriously – they measure their ingredients to the last gram, set up spreadsheets to crunch numbers to determine hydration percentages, measure the dough temperature and the ambient room temperature, control the amount of steam during the baking process – and so on.

This makes a great deal of sense in a commercial bakery situation – loaves need to be consistent in size and shape, and even the slightest variation in a batch can impact on quality and profit.

But if, like me, you’re just baking at home, for fun, sourdough baking can be an adventure.  Even after nearly five years of breadbaking, my loaves will still turn out a little bit differently each time.  That’s because I’m not overly concerned about exact quantities, my ambient kitchen temperature changes with the seasons, and my proving times vary depending on whatever else is happening in our lives.

My preferred dough is at 74% hydration purely because that lets me work in round numbers for the ingredients.  It doesn’t really matter or make a great deal of difference (and I probably wouldn’t notice) if the finished dough was 72% or 76% – the baked loaves would still be delicious and my sons would still devour them.

So please don’t be put off by the thought that sourdough baking is an overly technical exercise.  It really doesn’t have to be, and it’s great fun to play around with quantities and ingredients to see what works and what doesn’t.

Let me try to explain what I do in simple terms, so that those of you who are considering it can get a clear picture of the process in your mind:

Step 1: feed your starter on flour and water.  Make sure to use a good bread or bakers flour, which is higher protein than plain (AP) flour.  Keep feeding your starter and giving it time to digest its food.  You’ll know it’s ready when it’s all bubbly and frothy.

Step 2: in a large mixing bowl, mix together the starter, water, flour and salt.  I add oil to the dough because I like the taste it imparts on the finished loaf.  Let it rest for about ten minutes, then turn it onto an oiled bench and give it a knead.  Now turn it back into the mixing bowl (which has been scraped out and oiled), cover it and allow it to rise.  This might take three hours, or it might take thirteen.  With experience, you’ll instinctively know when the dough is ready, but to start with, let the dough rise until it’s almost doubled in size.

Step 3: turn the risen dough onto an oiled bench, divide it up, and shape it however you choose.  This is the really fun part, where you can turn the dough into almost anything – from pizza to epi to loaves.  You could make stuffed rolls like I do every week, or work the dough into a tray and dimple it into foccacia.  Let it rise again while you preheat the oven.

Step 4: bake the dough.  Once it’s baked, let it cool, and then scoff it blissfully!

Lastly, don’t be afraid to stuff up. Every time you bake a loaf which is a bit ordinary, you’re one step closer to baking one that is perfect!

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As I mentioned in the snippets, I baked Joanna’s cornbread and Sally’s semolina loaf over the weekend.

The semolina loaf (above) is a charming yet easy yeasted loaf, which went down well with my family of sourdough lovers.  The fine semolina gives the bread an interesting flavour and a smooth, creamy coloured crumb.  I made it exactly to Sally’s formula, although I kneaded it by hand rather than machine.

. . . . .

I also baked a version of Joanna’s corn bread, using sourdough starter instead of poolish.  I meant to include yeast as specified in the original recipe, but completely forgot, so this loaf took much longer to rise  and is slightly flatter than expected.

Having said that, Pete absolutely adored this bread and waxed lyrical about its texture and flavour.  The crumb was chewy, elastic, and the most gorgeous shade of yellow…

So, for my own future reference, here’s our version:

  • 225g active sourdough starter (100% or 166% hydration)
  • 115g maize meal
  • 190g water
  • 225g bakers flour
  • 9g salt
  • 20g olive oil

1. Mix the maize and water in a small bowl and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

2. Mix all the ingredients together to form a wet dough, then cover and allow to rest for 15 – 20 minutes.  Turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead briefly until smooth.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size.

3. Shape the risen dough into a ball and allow to prove until doubled in size (I use an oiled and floured plastic basket to rise the bread in).  Preheat oven to 240C with fan.

4. Turn the dough out onto a peel and slash, then dust with semolina.  Reduce the oven temperature to 220C with fan, and bake the loaf on a pizza stone for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 180C with fan and bake for a further 40 minutes to set the crust.

One thing to note – this loaf will only work with fine corn maize.  I’ve tried making it previously with polenta, and the resultant dough was gritty.  It’s definitely worth searching out the maize flour – we found ours at the markets.

It was the perfect loaf to serve with Pete’s beetroot dip!

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Richard Bertinet’s Dough presents a very persuasive argument for baking bread at home.  Over a two-page spread, it describes the difference between a typical shop-bought loaf and one made at home.  Here’s what it says:

Shop-bought loaf typically contains:

  • wheatflour
  • water
  • yeast
  • wheat protein
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • dextrose
  • soya flour
  • vegetable fat
  • emulsifier E472e (mono- and diacetyle tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids)
  • flour treatment agent E300 (ascorbic acid)
  • preservative calcium propionate (to inhibit mould growth).

Home-made loaf contains:

  • flour
  • yeast
  • salt
  • water

That was enough to convince us to start baking our own bread in 2006.

Now, three years on, we know where every ingredient in our bread comes from – our flour is Australian grown and processed in Kevin Sherrie’s state of the art mill; our oil is extra virgin cold-pressed from cousin Andrew’s olives.  We buy Australian sea salt and control the exact amount we use, making our homemade bread about 30% less salty than supermarket loaves.  Our sourdough leaven is constantly being renewed, providing us with crusty, low GI loaves two to three times a week.  Additionally, baking bread satisfies my creative urges, and instills a rhythm and cadence in our lives that I find particularly comforting.

All this for a total outlay of 65c per loaf, about $4.50 a week.  Can you see why we just can’t bring ourselves to buy commercial bread anymore?

If you’d like try baking your own bread at home, you might find our Bread #101 Tutorial useful.  There are also lots of recipes on our Bread page. Have fun!

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