Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Bread habit May 1, 2010

Filed under: Cooking,Garden — belladonnabess @ 11:37 pm

I’ve discovered that breakmaking and gardening make quite a nice combination for a relaxing afternoon. I get to do a bit of one then the other…

Transplanting: the leek seedlings that I grew from seed. They are quite a bit smaller than the ones the neighbour gave me that I planted a couple of weeks back.

Planting: a few more pak choi and spinach.

Eating: cabbage, silverbeet, tomatoes, chili, celery, potatoes, lettuce, pak choi, strawberries (I’ve had a second flush on a few of my big red plants that grow below the asparagus bed), raspberries (not so many now).

Remembering: last year’s lesson was “plant more carrots, plant fewer tomatoes”. This year it is “plant even more carrots, plant even fewer tomatoes”.

Weeding: the curse of good soil and a rainy climate…

Observing: my pumpkins are not far away from being ready.

Harvesting: Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes from the weedy corner. I left a few Jerusalem artichokes for next year and also only harvested about half of the potatoes. I reburied the rest and covered the garden with pea straw, they will probably keep ok in that garden and I can try and dig some more out in a couple of months.

Baking: tasty wholemeal bread. I’ve now got it consistent enough to put up the recipe, only the recipe probably isn’t much help because it is vague and relies on me knowing when things look and feel right. Also, the trick of breadmaking is not in the recipe, it is in the technique.

2 tsp dried yeast (ratio is 1/2 tsp per cup of flour)

1 tsp sugar (I don’t measure, just enough to start the yeast)

1/2 cup warm water (ditto)

Mix and leave covered in a small bowl for 10 minutes.

4 cups flour (just over half wholemeal)

1 tsp salt (ratio 1/4 tsp per cup of flour)

1/2 cup unsweetened live yoghurt (I don’t actually measure this)

1 tbsp olive oil (I don’t measure this either, but I think this is about how much I add)

Add flour (all except about half a cup of white flour), salt and yoghurt to a large bowl. Mix up then add the yeast mix, which should be foaming. Stir in then add more warm water.

Exactly how much I don’t know. I just mix it until it looks right. A bit of fiddling is involved and I often have to correct with a bit more flour (hence withholding half a cup). When it is mostly mixed up, add the olive oil.

Knead – first in the bowl and then on a baking sheet or some other clean surface. I usually do about 10 minutes. Add a bit of flour occasionally to prevent sticking, but not so much that the dough is hard to knead. I still aim for a nice soft dough.

From about here on in, I follow the instructions in the River Cottage Bread Handbook. They are quite specific and detailed, and it is too late at night for me to explain right now. To those who know how I usually cook, you will be surprised to here that I pretty much follow the instructions to the letter.

Shape flour into round, leave in oiled bowl wrapped in teatowel and plastic bag. Leave for about an hour in a warmish room (leave a bit longer if the house is cold).

Gently massage down (don’t punch or knock it – be kind to your bread). Repeat shaping into a round step and leave another hour.

Massage down again and break off enough for 2 bread rolls. Shape the large piece into a “stubby cylinder” and place in an oiled loaf tin. Shape the small piece into 2 rolls (round or cylinder). Cover with teatowel and plastic bag and leave to prove for 40 minutes.

Slash top of bread, place in oven heated to maximum (about 250C) with a tray of hot water in the bottom). Leave 10 minutes then turn down to 170-180C. After another 10 minutes remove bread rolls, tear open and eat with melted butter.

Cook loaf for another 20-25 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack. Don’t cut into it until it has cooled. That’s why you make the rolls – to save you from the temptation. That’s my contribution to breadmaking – leaving a couple of rolls out from the main loaf so you can leave your loaf to cool properly and have delicious hot bread to eat.

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