Bread… The ‘Yeast’ of your problems…

Bread… The ‘Yeast’ of your problems…

Here at Crab Apple we love bread… we love making it, baking it, smothering it in lovely stuff and scoffing it fresh from the oven… and you should too.

Did you know, the average loaf of shop-bought bread could contain up to and over fifteen ingredients? Some of them aren’t even proper words… honestly, have a look next time you’re shopping.

Do you know how many ingredients I (Dave) use in my bread?

Four… Sometimes a few more depending on whether its playtime or not, but usually four… Flour, Salt, Yeast and Water…

Now, I (Dave) am far from an expert Baker… a Master Baker if you will (ha!) but I have one of the crucial things needed to make good bread… Love for what I’m doing.
I truly believe that if you love what you’re doing, if you really enjoy the process (and mistakes in equal measure) then your end result will reflect that.
Nobody likes a DJ who just plays records, but someone who jumps around and loves what they’re playing as much as the crowd? Winner all the way… It’s the same with baking Bread.

Well, maybe not the same, it’s the same-same, but different…

Anyway, bread, love it and it will love you back…

This blog is a little introduction to get you on your way, a simple four-ingredient dough that you and your friends, your partner, kids and parents can help out with.
Put on some clothes you don’t mind getting covered in flour, clear the work surfaces of those magazines you’ll never read, those bowls of random Lego blocks or pen lids or half-eaten packets of chewing gum and get ready to make something you’ll love as much as we do…

For this play-date you will need;

750g Strong White Bread Flour 750g Plain White Flour 30g Live Yeast (worth hunting around for) 30g Sea Salt flakes 1050g Tepid Water (Room temperature to us common folk) Time Patience Coffee/Tea/Wine/G&T (Dependent on time & company)

Step 1… Preparation…

Gather all of your ingredients, weigh them accurately, what’s the point of NOT being specific? Why spend all that time slowly pouring out 750g of flour only to end up with 751g? There is none, so take your time, this is supposed to be fun but there’s no fun without pride & discipline!

Step 2… Equipment…

What do you need? I’m going to assume that if you’re the sort of person reading this, you’re probably already a little bit ‘foodie’ and may well own a cake mixer with a bread hook attachment, I may be wrong, maybe you’re old school, you’ll chuck everything into a bowl and mix it up by hand… either way… LOVE WHAT YOURE DOING! There’s no right or wrong way! I can only speak from my own experience and preference so I’ll continue to do so from here on out, but, it’s important to realize that there is a margin for error, my interpretation of a ‘smooth but moist’ ball of dough may differ from yours… trust yourself and persevere, sometimes some epic failures are the way to a truly amazing discovery… Omellettes & Eggs yeah?

So, you’ll need a mixer & dough hook, or a big bowl… that’s pretty much it…

Step 3… Sod the rules…

Maybe you like to cook naked? Maybe you can only do it with the lights on (ha!)… Either way, Chuck it all in a bowl and beat it up…

Well…

Maybe not… I’d start with the water, then the salt; give it a little mix until the salt begins to break down, then in with the flour and yeast. I like to crumble the yeast first, you can rub it through a sieve with a little of the flour, this helps to distribute evenly and ultimately a better loaf.

(I’m assuming you’ve already got the kettle boiled, or the bottle opened, radio on etc.)

Continue to mix the dough, slowly so that a sticky, batter-like substance is formed, keep going… there’s no set length of time to do this, but as a loose guide, until the dough ‘slaps’ the side of the bowl (if using a machine) or when the bowl is left clean of sticky bits and feels slightly warm to the touch… This could take 30 minutes so settle in… its worth it.

Step 4… ‘Prove’ your patience…

Once your Dough is ready, place it on a lightly floured surface and work it a little… There are many ways to do this to get different results, read around, learn stuff, it’s fun, but for this little exercise I will tell you what I like to tell everyone I ‘teach’ how to make bread:

Remember wrestling? (Yes? Read on… No? Read up on it) Remember the ‘Power-Bomb’ move? Ok, so grab your dough from each side, lift, swing forward slightly and slap down (like a Power-bomb) then roll the end nearest you over the top. Repeat this step but grabbing from the top and bottom of the ‘ball’…

Imagine Power-Bombing a Guinea Pig… That’s the easiest way to describe it… and it’s funny… so… yeah.

Eventually, after 4/5 Power-bombs you’ll see a smooth surface begin to form on your dough, less sticky, more smooth. Once you’re happy with the smoothness of your balls (ha!) transfer it to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp tea-towel. Put the bowl somewhere warm and walk away.

Let the dough prove… let the yeast do it’s work… let the dough rise, undisturbed, for as long as you can… I’d say a minimum of an hour – but this is somewhere hot, like an airing cupboard or on top of an oven that’s cooking something… in a normal, Purbeck-Summertime kitchen, I’d say 2-3 hours is a good figure, so go and play with the kids, get outside, do something creative…

Step 5… Ruining all that hard work…

Once you’re happy the dough has doubled in size (at least) then pour it back out onto a lightly floured surface and Power-bomb it again, 2 or 3 times to ‘knock back’… basically knock out all the ‘air’ (the Co2 bubbles created by the yeast).

Then, using a sharp knife, or perhaps a pastry cutter if you have one, portion the dough into desired clumps… for the purpose of this Blog just hack it into quarters.

Then, Power-bomb these smaller balls until smooth, and, once you’re happy with how smooth your balls are now (ha!) place them in an orderly fashion on a tray, or work surface to prove once more. Allow enough room for the balls to double in size again… to swell (ha!)

Guess what? It’s time to walk away again… More family time! Terrible news! More fresh Air! Rrrraaaaargh!

Cover your balls with a damp tea towel though; nobody likes crusty balls (ha!)

Step 6… Playing with your Balls… (ha!)

Now comes the fun part… grab one of your balls… turn it upside down – you’ll notice a light ‘skin’ has formed on the surface of the balls – place this surface down and using your fingers, poke and flatten out the ball, like a pizza base… or one of those old-school cowboy films where the guy plays the piano in the bar, just sitting there and plinky-plonking away at the keys… yeah that’s you, on the dough…

Once it’s flattened out, fold each of the ‘corners’ in on itself, followed by the top and bottom – almost like you’re trapping air inside, then fold from the bottom up, like a piece of paper. Crimp the edges together with your palm, or fingers, whichever your find easier, then turn the ‘pasty’ shaped dough seam-up and repeat, 2-3 times… you’ll notice the ball of dough will stretch and get longer… almost like a long baton of bread.

After you’ve done this part 2-3 times, place both hands lightly on the dough ‘sausage’ and roll, like you would a rolling pin, softly at first and work your hands outwards & apart, lengthening the dough into more of a sausage, applying more pressure towards the tip… (stop it!)… so it tapers down to a point at each end.

Then stop… stop before the smooth surface tears and you have to re-power-bomb the dough and leave to prove again…

Place the loaf on a baking tray – greased or lined with baking parchment and work the rest of the balls.

Step 7… Bun in the Oven…

Whack your oven on 250c, let it pre-heat, allow the loaves to prove once more on the trays, maybe for 30 minutes, then give them one last working-over, make them a little neater, more Good Food Magazine and less “Good God is that a Dead Otter!?”.

Dust your loaves with flour then slash them diagonally with a sharp knife, almost halfway through and put them in the oven.

Turn your oven down to 230c, bake for 15 minutes, then turn your oven down to 200c and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool.

Step 8… Bread or Alive, you’re coming with me…

That’s it!

You’ve made bread!

You’ve actually made something that will bring Life, Love and Happiness to people, I mean come on, how good does that smell? Have you tasted it yet? No? Even that little bit you cut off the end that you thought no one would see?

So how was it for you?

Believe me, it took me ages to make decent bread so please don’t be disheartened if yours aren’t the picture-perfect artisanal bakers dreams you’d pictured many hours ago, only by breaking eggs can you make an omellette… remember?

Not happy? Try again, and again, and again… but enjoy the trials, make bread & butter pudding with the rubbish ones, make breadcrumbs to coat chicken strips, bulk out burgers so they don’t shrink on the BBQ… croutons… Bread Sauce for your Roast Dinners…

Be sure to take pictures, post, and tag us (@crabapplecatering) in them on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, use the Hashtag #HelloDave

I want to see some good and bad pictures people! Get those baps out… use your loaf…

Get in touch if you need some extra-curricular reading too, sharing is caring!

Dave