“Something we all knead?” A damn good bread making session…

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It’s fair to say I love cooking, I cook for a living amongst other things, and one day I hope I can be true to what I do and just focus on creating delicious food for happy people. I had a manufacturing food company once, it was very scary. I went to great expense custom building a factory unit with the latest equipment, l trained to the highest levels of food technology, hygiene & food safety, dealing direct with laboratories on shelf life analysis, ph testing and all.
I had  refrigerated vans running all over but couldn’t make it pay. It was a harsh expensive lesson in the reality of a food industry sector which is hugely competitive and very cut throat.

I was classed as a SME or small medium enterprise which pitches you against all of the big boys on a very tilted playing field, I’m so very glad to be out of it now.
I realized quite quickly that when you’re the creative aspect of a business you can’t be the bursar also.

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As a chef you only ever want to use the best ingredients and I have a truly artisan approach to what I produce, making small batches of a product to the highest spec, no corners cut. But that isn’t always profitable….

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Bread making is good for the soul, I feel that it’s something everybody should try at least once. It’s by no means difficult but you do have to set aside some time and It’s very rewarding, the more time and effort you invest the greater your reward.

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The thing is not to get bogged down with all the different varieties, flours and so on. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there (possibly thousands) and you need to just start with the basics. I however do like the Italian style foccacia breads and the French do a nice  campagne or country style bread which are light, semi crusted loaves. The Spanish do a fantastic bara gallega bread which is superb. The only stipulation I have (which I found confirmed watching British bake off) is that you prove slowly or like I do make your bread in a two stage process which I will discuss and give recipe for again (watch this space!)

In the words of Paul Hollywood from the hit BBC program “it is essential to prove dough slowly to develop the flavour”.
This is a must and where the time element comes in.
It’s okay to use fast action yeast but don’t try speeding things up with water that’s too hot, you are looking for just warm/tepid water.

I always like to make bread by hand it’s an all together more holistic experience and be prepared for some physical exertion! (very good for relieving stress)

The recipe

750g (1lb8oz) strong or extra strong bread flour,
2 tsp of salt
25g (1oz) butter
A good glug of quality Olive oil
1x7g satchet of fast action bread yeast
450ml (3/4 pint) warm water

Method
1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, butter, salt and yeast. Keep the salt and yeast away from each other to start with by sprinkling into opposite ends of bowl.

2. Stir in the water and mix to a soft dough, turn out onto a lightly floured service and knead well for a good 10-15mins stretching out the dough and rolling it back into a ball vigorously.

3. Place the dough back into the bowl, pour over a glug of olive oil and cover with cling film. Leave in a warm place to double in size.

4. Once the dough has doubled in size, return to a floured surface, knock it back by thumping all the air out of it, stretch it back into a smooth ball. Shape into loafs, or small baguettes place onto a floured baking tray.

5.Prove again to double in size then bake in a pre-heated oven 230 degrees C/450F/gas mark 8 for 30-35 minutes.

A baked loaf should sound hollow when tapped underneath. For a soft, moist crust you can wrap in a damp, clean tea towel once removed from the oven.

I will post my other bread recipe next week and discuss bread making tips & techniques also.

Enjoy

Andy

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