I’ve been successfully baking bread for some time using a minimal knead method. However I recently switched to an even better way of bread making that produces a tastier loaf with a looser crumb and wonderful crust … and also looks fantastic. The trick? A casserole dish.
A friend at work mentioned that he liked bread made using the minimal knead technique. However with work and children (and cats), it took too long on a work night, and the bread was not ready for their dinner time.
I altered the recipe so that dough is prepped before work and baked fresh in the evening. Or prepped in the evening for fresh bread with breakfast.
I still remember the warm summer’s day when I first baked a home-made pizza. It tasted fantastic, fresh flavours and a crisp thin-crust base, served with both a glass of wine and a sweet sense of victory. And the desire to make many more. Which I did.
This post covers the basics with a ham and mushroom pizza using home-made dough. From this foundation, it’s easy to make most pizzas.
Bread with a looser crumb (holes in the bread structure) looks good, tastes great and is the goal of many artisan bakers. I have learned that using a pre-heated baking stone (in my case a pizza stone) to kick-start the rise, or oven spring, is an important factor in achieving such hole-i-ness.
One of my favourite aromas is that of freshly baked bread, even beating a good red wine. And it’s easy to make a crusty, tasty loaf at home with virtually no effort.
My go-to home baking book is Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard. Not just a recipe compilation it is, in Dan’s own words, a “blueprint for great home baking”, imparting much wisdom in a concise and approachable style.
The “eureka” moment was minimal knead bread-making. A slow, steady rise, interjected with 15 second kneads, it is a good fit for home baking in the maelstrom of modern life.
Dan is a master across the field of baking. His book covers cakes, biscuits, desserts, pizza and even beer-battered fish!
The book can be purchased from amazon.co.uk in either hardback or Kindle format.
Walk into any supermarket and head to the baking section. Once there, you will almost certainly be greeted with a bewildering selection of flours to choose from … supermarket brands, named brands, white, wholemeal, brown, organic, rye, seeded, pizza, the list goes on.
There will also be flours which, whilst they can be used to make bread, generally produce loaves that are inferior to those made with proper bread flour. These include plain (or all-purpose), self-raising and sponge.
So to make a loaf bread, which flour do you choose?
Yet even with these measures in place, the rise in the oven can still go awry, with the loaf splitting or rising in a lopsided manner. In this post, we look at the potential culprit … the oven itself.
In the first post of this series we looked at the importance of scoring the dough to control crust expansion as the dough rises. Even so, the crust can still split and crack as it dries out in the oven.
To overcome this, and achieve a lovely golden, crisp crust, we add moisture to the mix.
That is probably the most common question asked by home cooks when making their first loaves of bread, the other two being:
“What is making the crust split and bulge? Why does the bread cook faster on one side?”
The baking attempts that lead to these queries are also the cause of budding and enthusiastic amateurs to give up early on.
Almost all cooks go through this in the beginning … including myself. In this series of posts, entitled “From Dough To Bread“, I share some of the tricks I have learned (and pitfalls I have dug myself out of) in baking a decent loaf of bread.