basic white bread

I’m the kind of girl who likes to make New Year’s Resolutions.

I know … you are probably wondering … why?

I like the feeling of starting the year with a bit of an action plan.  What can I do different?  Better?  How can I challenge myself?

Last year the Resolution was limiting my buying of books to 3 new ones per month – excluding anything I bought for book club reading.

The result?

I joined 3 more (virtual) book clubs … ones in which we normally read more than one book a month.  I didn’t really get the result I was aiming for – spending less money on books, and reading more from my already fully stocked bookcase … but I did sure read some good books!

This year my Resolution is all about making bread.

2014 - the year of bread

That’s right!  2014 IS GOING TO BE MY YEAR OF THE BREAD.  My goal is to finally get comfortable using yeast (oh how yeast has scared me away from recipes in the past), enjoy kneading the dough, and turn out a decent loaf.

So far … so good!

We’re three weeks into this New Year and I have been baking bread 2 to 3 times a week.  The same recipe mostly – but I’m finding myself encouraged that:

(1) each and every single loaf has turned out

(2) yeast isn’t as scary as I always assumed, and

(3) I’ve been able to bake a loaf first thing in the morning and slather a piece of warm bread in butter.

Life is pretty grand when you make your own bread.

My confidence is really all thanks James Morton, runner-up of BBC’s 2012 The Great British Bake Off (ps. my favourite show … tied with MasterChef Australia – both worthy of being downloaded & obsessed over).  James is actually a medical student at the University of Glasgow who loves to bake bread.  He competed on The Great British Bake Off, won hearts of viewers and then published a book: Brilliant Bread.

If you are considering bread making at home – go out and get this book.  Seriously.  James is able to make bread accessible to the home baker.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing crazy.  Just good bread.  The book is basically divided into three parts.

1.  No-knead bread.

2.  Kneaded bread.

3.  Fancy breads and things to impress.

I’m still enjoying section one.  I’m not kneading … I’m allowing the yeast to work in its own time.  Considering one of the things that has always scared me about bread making is the kneading aspect, this suits me just fine.

This recipe is the very first in his book.  I haven’t changed a single thing.  There’s no need to.  I can tell you that the first 2 times I used all-purpose flour, and have since switched to bread flour (or as the Brits say – “strong flour”)I like the texture that I get out of bread flour, but honestly, this recipe works just fine with all-purpose flour.

Bakers note:  The one thing I will recommend getting is a kitchen scale.  I have done my best to convert the amounts for you – however, the scale is more accurate. 

Join me in the mission of baking homemade bread.  Your kitchen will smell brilliant; you’ll impress the pants off your friends and family (and yourself!); and honestly … there’s nothing better than a fresh loaf of bread!

Basic White Bread

Ingredients:

500 g (3 cups less 3 tbsp) bread flour

10 g (1 ½ tsp) salt

7 g (1 packet or 1 ½ tsp) instant yeast

350 g (350 mL) tepid water

*tepid water = when you turn on the water to hot and cold, you shouldn’t be able to feel whether it’s hot or cold.

Grab a large glass bowl.  Add your flour.  Sprinkle the salt on one side of the bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast on the other side of the bowl.  You don’t want the salt and yeast to touch right off … since the salt can kill the yeast (thank you James for that bit of information)!

Rub the salt and yeast into the flour (on their respective sides).

Add the tepid water.  I used my hand to mix it into a ball of dough.  You might freak out slightly, thinking there isn’t enough water.  Don’t worry.  Keep mixing the dough together.  It’ll become a cohesive ball.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Set in a warm place and allow it to sit for about 1 hour.  You’ll notice that the yeast starts to work – the dough should increase in size, and appear airier.  That’s good.

When ready, wet your hand slightly and use it to pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and fold the dough in half.  Turn the bowl and continue folding over the dough until it appears smooth and the air has been removed.

the first rise

dough ready for a second rise

Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for another hour.  To be honest, I sometimes let it sit longer – my goal is to get the best rise out of it as possible.

 *baker notes: you can even place your bowl in the fridge and allow it to rise overnight between 10-12 hours – your bread will still bake beautifully! 

Once your dough has risen, use your hand to scrape the dough onto a floured surface.  This is the part where you do the most work: shape into a ball.

second rise & shaping

I’d explain the process of shaping into a ball… expect James’ book has such a wonderful visual.  I’ve included it.  All credit to Brilliant Bread and James Morton.

shaping & final prove

Once the dough is shaped, place it on your cookie sheet and set aside for another 40 to 60 minutes.  It’ll double in size and spring back to the touch.

With 20 minutes remaining in the final prove; turn your oven to 410 F (210 C).  You might think this is too high a heat.  It’s not.

When you’re just about ready to plop that loaf into the oven, grab a serrated knife and score the top of your bread.

Place your tray on a low rack in your oven and bake for 40 minutes.  This will create a beautiful golden crust that has a real crunch.  It’s pretty spectacular.

perfect basic white bread

You’ll know the bread is ready when you pull it out, turn it over, and knock on the base.  If it sounds hallow (or if your dog barks at the sound because he thinks someone’s knocking at the door), then you know – your bread is done!

Allow the loaf to cool on a wire rack.  If you cut into it right away you might think it’s a little doughy … so just be patient and allow it to cool slightly.

perfect bread

This recipe has NEVER failed me.  It’s the kind of thing that is building my confidence in becoming a bread baker.  I can’t wait to get tucked into the tea loaf recipe this weekend.  But until then … I’m happy to slather a slice of this loaf with butter and honey. That combo is never a bad idea :0)

butter and honey

suguared doughnuts

The baking crew is back! And we’re on a mission … of sorts. We’ve decided to bake our way through Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook.

One recipe at a time.

We started with Keller’s sugared doughnuts recipe.
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Mother of pearl!

Delicious. They are delicious. A brioche dough … shaped into doughnuts … fried in some oil … and then covered in sugar. And filled with lemon curd. Or filled with whipped chocolate. Or topped with freshly flaked coconut.

For realz. Awesome eh?

Ok so this recipe excites me because … well if you remember the last time I tried making brioche (with the baking crew) … it was not as successful as I had hoped it would be.

But this time … this time I rocked it! I totally got it. Even with a slight typo in the recipe.

I got it.

And the result was … PERRRRR-FECT.

Are you excited? Are you feeling an urge to make homemade doughnuts? (believe me … these doughnuts will make you a lover of fried dough)

Meredith, Cory and I were so excited to make them that we fried them up … OUTSIDE. in -20 temperatures. In the snow. With a windchill.

And … it was fun. Especially when we all popped our first doughnuts into our mouths … freshly rolled in sugar and filled with cream.

The best baking challenge yet (the entire baking crew agree).

A couple of things to take into consideration when working with this recipe:

You have to allow for the dough to rise in your refrigerator overnight. So start this before going to bed.

Secondly …you should probably get yourself a scale. I’ll post the recipe in weights and measures (since that’s how they write it in the book); however I used my scale when following the recipe.

Other than those two points … this is a pretty standard recipe. And if you’re new to bread making / are apprehensive about making dough … give this one a try. I promise it’ll work. Believe me. I know how you feel. Been there. Done that.

So pull out your instant yeast and flour and get busy. You won’t regret trying this recipe out.

Thomas Keller’s sugared doughnut recipe
ingredients:
518g / 3 1/2 c. + 3 tbsp flour
10g / 1 tbsp instant yeast
74g / 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp sugar
9g / 1 tbsp salt
212g / 3/4 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp milk, warmed to 75 F
111g / 2 eggs
9g / 1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
57g / 2 ounces butter, room temperature, cut into small cubes

canola oil for frying
sugar to coat the doughnuts
lemon curd to fill doughnuts

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To make the dough. Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of your stand-mixer fitted with your dough hook. Mix for about 15 seconds just so that the yeast gets evenly distributed.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the butter, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.

Now, continue to knead the dough for a further 30 minutes (your stand-mixer will likely feel warm, it should be fine). Add the small cubes of butter, one piece at a time, allowing it to be incorporated into the dough before adding more butter.

After 30 minutes (all the butter should have been added at this point), turn off the stand-mixer, scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl, push the dough off the hook: resume kneading on a low speed for another 5 minutes.

Run a spatula over the sides and bottom of the bowl and release the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. You only need enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

With your hands, gently pat the dough into a rectangular shape.

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As you can see from the picture above, you’ll want to stretch the left side of the dough out and then fold it over two-thirds of the dough (as though you are folding a letter into an envelope). Once the left side is folded in, repeat the process with the right side. Once that is done, do the exact same thing, working from the bottom and then the top.

That’s it.

20130124-194853.jpgFlip the dough over, seam side down and place it in your bowl (that you’ve sprayed with non-stick spray). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour at room temperature.

1 hour later … use a spatula to release the sides and bottom of the dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

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You’ll do the same thing as you did the first time you stretched and folded the dough; only this time, you’ll cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To roll out the dough & shape the doughnuts.

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On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough, flipping and fluffing it (basically you just want to roll the dough, take your hand and gently lift the dough from the work surface, then turn the dough clockwise, repeat) into an 11-inch round.

Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or freeze for 10 minutes); long enough to allow the dough to be more manageable.

Line another sheet with parchment paper, spray the parchment with non-stick spray (this is an important step), set aside.

Remove the dough from the fridge, and using your 3-inch round cookie cutters, cut out your doughnuts. The recipe says that you should get 8 rounds … I got 16 rounds.

If you just want to fill your doughnuts with pastry cream, whipped chocolate, lemon curd, etc. leave them as is. However, if you want to make doughnuts with holes; grab a small round cookie cutter and cut the centre out of your 3-inch rounds.

Save the mini rounds. They make pretty fabulous mini doughnuts.

To proof the doughnuts. Cover the baking sheet with a plastic tub or a cardboard box and proof for 60 to 90 minutes. The doughnuts will double in size; or when the dough is gently pressed, a small imprint will remain.

To fry the doughnuts. If you’re like me … you go over to a friend’s place and he sets up an awesome fryer outside so that his apartment doesn’t stink up (thank you Cory!). Or if you’re like Tom and Aimee you can use an indoor deep-fryer … both of these things make frying the doughnuts pretty simple.

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If you don’t have one of these options … you can pour 3 inches of oil into a Dutch oven or a heavy stockpot; the oil shouldn’t come up more than 1/3rd of the way up the sides of the pot, but it needs to be deep enough to allow the doughnuts to fry freely.

Heat the oil to 350 F.

Set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet, pour the sugar into a shallow bowl.

If you have a set of chopsticks you should pull them out for this part. They work perfectly for flipping the doughnuts in the oil and pulling them out of the oil. They are long enough that you keep your hands and fingers away from the oil while still controlling flipping the doughnuts.

Gently drop as many doughnuts as can fit into the pot. Fry on the second side for 45 seconds. Flip them over again and fry for a further 45 seconds, or until they are a rich golden brown.

Transfer the batch to the wire rack, and continue frying more of your doughnuts.

You want to roll them in the sugar while they are still warm (don’t worry, they cool enough to handle pretty quickly). If filling – allow the doughnuts to cool completely before using a piping bag and filling the doughnuts with your favourite flavours.

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That’s it.

All done. As you can see … it’s not an overly difficult or tricky recipe. You might be nervous to try it for any number of reasons: making dough, frying in oil, etc. But really, you should give it a try. It will make you a believer in doughnuts.

As you can see … the entire baking crew had a great time (and were pretty darn successful) in making a batch of these …

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baked sunday mornings: monkey bubble bread

bakers note:  please remember that the baked sunday mornings entries don’t include the recipe.  Please click on the link (below) and you’ll be able to find this recipe on the official website.  Gracias!

This has probably been the most … insane baking experience I’ve had to date.

I made this bread 3 times in 4 days.  Seriously.  It is amazing.  Even before it bakes the smell of cinnamon sugar makes your mouth water … and then while it’s baking the smell that emanates from your oven just makes you want to drool.  Oh yeah … and then you actually get to eat it.  It’s best eaten warm.  Right out of the oven.  But I can attest to the fact that it is still FAN-TASTIC at room temperature. 

Everyone … welcome to recipe 3 of baked sunday mornings.  May I present to you Monkey Bread.  The baking god’s gift to instant yeast and dough.  I do not lie.  Sigh.

So three times in almost as many days.  You must be wondering right?  Well … the recipe is pretty simple.  Except.  Yes … there is an exception.  I killed the yeast.

Attempt number one.  Thursday night.  I heated my milk and whisked in the instant yeast.  I was sure I had it … after all, I pulled out my thermometer and checked the temperature.

I should have just used my finger and tested the milk that way.  Sigh.  When I finished mixing and kneading everything together my dough was stiff and didn’t rise.  At all.  I even kept it in my oven overnight.  Nothing.

No go.

Attempt number two.  Friday night (yes.  I make bread on a Friday night… please don’t judge me).  This time I tested the milk with my finger.  Yeast survived!  YAY!  The kneading of the dough went well … I ended up with a silky and sticky (not tacky) dough.  I let it rise for just over an hour. 

It was a thing of beauty.

Step two.  Pull apart the dough into many balls.  Many balls. 

I didn’t get the 60 balls that the recipe book baked explorations dictated I would get – but I got 42.  A decent amount.  Especially after the first failed experience.  I was pleased.

Step three.  I dipped the balls in melted butter.  Greasy fingers.  Happy fingers. 

I then rolled them in a brown sugar – cinnamon mixture.  Happy nose.  A very happy nose. 

And Finally I started layering them in my bundt pan.  A beautiful brick house of dough balls. 

Step four.  Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap and allow to double in size again.  Perfect.  I decided to leave it for the night and bake it on Saturday morning.  Done.

Saturday morning.  I wake up at 6:20 am to preheat my oven to 350 F.  I place my bundt pan in the middle rack and jump in the shower. 

I smell the smoke. 

I quickly checked my oven and (duh!), my bundt pan has a removable base and so the caramel (from the cinnamon sugar mixture and butter) is dripping and touching the element within the oven.  No problem.  Quick fix – place a cookie sheet on the rack below.  It’ll catch the drippings.

Except.

I picked my flat cookie sheet.  Not one with a lip.  It didn’t catch anything.  And so … more smoke.  Only this time.  FIRE!

Seriously.  With 18 minutes to go – I have a fire in my oven.  At 7 am on a Saturday morning.  Oh goodness … please don’t let the fire alarm go off!

I turn off my oven, pull out the bundt pan (I have to save the monkey bread after all), and pour baking soda on the flame.  Close the oven door and wait.

15 minutes later I turn my oven back on.  Place the bundt pan on a cookie sheet (with a lip), and continue to bake the bread.

Success.

This bread was worth that drama.  And it taught me that I have a real problem.  My first thought when I saw the flame wasn’t for my safety … but rather how I was going to save my bread.  This could be a problem.

After the success (I brought the monkey bread to a holiday party) – I decided to bake it again.  3rd time – 4 days.  Obsessed much.  Totally.

This time I went mini.  As in mini balls in mini bundt pans.

Adorable.  Heck yes.  Just as delicious.  AB- Solutely. 

Worth trying and making today?  Oh my.  Need you really ask?  I mean … I fought through fire to make this.  So worth it.