Thursday, 29 May 2014

White Loaf Perfection (and a few other variations)

I have been a bit quite of late, due to a number of things, but mainly down to two small babies to run after and a lot of DIY work at home. I am blaming DIY for the murder of my starter – the number of times I have forgot to refresh it cause I fell asleep from physical exhaustion! Warm weather and a tired baker does not bode well, I tell you that! I still have some mother starter in the fridge, so not all is lost. However I decided to take a break from sourdough breads an started looking to a quick and easy every day loaf recipe that I can do in a couple of hours in-between looking after babies and house work.

I came across “John Whaite Bakes at Home” book and I found loaf perfection!!  John is the winner of The Great British Bake Off a couple of years back and I have been following him and his recipes for a while. I was super happy when Mr Ranty bought me John’s book as a present – its a beautiful book to look at, nice layout and tempting photos, also John’s writing style is incredibly personal and open – made me feel like I really got to know him as a person as well as a baker.

I’ve tried a few of recipes from the book and they all have turned out amazing. My latest obsession is his white loaf recipe – its very easy and also very versatile – I’ve made a number of variations, and they all have turned out incredibly well. Here is my journey through John’s recipe :

 
White Loaf (John’s true-born recipe) :
500g strong white flour
10g salt
20g sugar
10g fast-action yeast
100ml milk
240ml tepid water
40g unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil (for greasing proving bowl)

Bake in a 2lb/900g loaf tin

I am using KitchenAid to mix up this bread, but the dough could be easily done by hand, its very easy to handle. Place milk, warm water, yeast and sugar (honey) in the mixing bowl, leave to stand for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile melt butter and measure out flour(s and any other dry ingredients you might be using). Add flour (plus anything else if using), melted butter and salt to the mixing bowl. Mix on slow speed (speed 1 on my KA) for 4 minutes followed by 2 minutes on fast mixing (speed 2 on my KA).

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, roll it around to cover it with the oil, cover with cling film and leave to prove at room temperature until doubled in size – it has taken anywhere from an hour to two hours for me, depending how warm it is.
Take the dough out of the bowl, knock it back and shape into a fat sausage – don’t use any flour for shaping. Oil your kitchen top if the dough is too sticky, too hard to handle. The dough will be very soft, a little bit of the sticky side, but with a nice shine to it.

Line the tin with baking paper, place the shaped loaf in the tin and clover with cling film. Leave it to prove for further hour or so until the top of the top rises over sides of the tin.

Preheat the oven to 200C and bake for 25 minutes – mine is a fan over and it super fast, so you might need another 5 minutes to bake it through.

The finished loaf is a lovely dark golden colour, and the smell, THE SMELL – the butter gives it almost brioche-y smell, your house will smell amazing for days afterwards.
The bread is great toasted – again, toasting brings that butter-ness in the bread, giving a nice soft toast, but strong enough to stand up to jam and peanut butter and any other spreads you might like.

Also here are a few of “bastard” recipes,  based on John’s recipe above, but with some of my own twists. I like wholemeal or seeds or both in my breads, so I have tried a number of varieties, and they all have worked out really good. Follow the mixing/proving/baking directions as above, and feel free to make your own flavours:

White and Wholemeal Loaf
300g strong white flour
200g strong white flour
10g salt
20g honey
10g fast-action yeast
100ml milk
300ml tepid water
40g unsalted butter, melted

Apple and Oat Loaf
450g strong white flour
50g oats
10g salt
20g sugar
10g fast-action yeast
100ml milk
140ml apple juice or cider
140ml tepid water
40g unsalted butter, melted

Seeded Loaf
420g strong white flour
80g mixed seeds
10g salt
20g sugar
10g fast-action yeast
100ml milk
280ml tepid water
40g unsalted butter, melted

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