I’ve garnered a wealth of bread-making knowledge from many sources, the most influential being Dan Lepard and Ken Forkish. I decided to combine a Lepard recipe and Forkish technique to bake one of the best breads so far – the sour cream loaf. It has a delicious, tangy faux sourdough flavour and makes the most amazing toast.
A while ago I published an article for home-baked crusty artisan bread. The loaves produced since have been consistently great, yet I aspired to have better fissures, as well as rise. However scoring the dough was proving quite tricky.
I recently found the ideal solution … I just needed to turn things, literally, upside down …
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.
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?
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, it certainly was mine. The other I pondered were: “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.