White bread recipe (use for baguettes or shape it how you like)

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Here’s the traditional baguette recipe that we practiced at pastry school. It’s the bread recipe I use most often — and not just because it’s sugar-free and fat-free. Besides being straight-forward and clean-tasting, it gives lots of crunch and is delicious.

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There are three ingredients, besides water: bread flour, yeast and salt. The method involves mixing the dough, allowing it to rise, strengthening the dough and shaping it —and then leaving it to rise again before baking it. It will give you two medium sized loaves or four smaller baguettes.

It’s a perfect recipe to prepare on a warm, expansive Sunday…. especially since I’m providing a rather detailed account of how to prepare it! (Alternatively, click here for a shorter version but note that the ingredients are halved).

INGREDIENTS

1 kg white bread flour
20 g live yeast (reduce by 25% for dry yeast)
20 g salt
700 g warm water (comfortably warm… not hot)

If you have a teeny oven or you’re new to baking bread, rather halve the recipe, in which case you’ll have two small loaves or one medium sized loaf. Bread-making isn’t difficult, it just takes a little practice.

METHOD

Mix the ingredients together:

Place the flour in a bowl with the yeast. Rub the live yeast into the flour with your fingertips or simply mix in the dried yeast. Pour in the warm water and mix (using your hands or a wooden spoon).

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Finally, mix in the salt — once everything is roughly combined (the mixture will be messy and sticky at this stage).

Knead the dough:

Turn the mixture onto a ‘warm’ work surface (warm up a cold marble surface for instance, as yeast needs warmth). Now pull the dough towards you and slap it down onto the counter, while trapping in as much air as possible.

Work your dough for ten minutes or so until it feels light and silky smooth (the dough should be coming off your hands as you knead at this stage). If you haven’t kneaded dough before, don’t think the stickiness is going to last forever! See this post which links to a great demonstration by the master baker, Richard Bertinet.

Now work the dough into a ‘ball shape’. Sprinkle some flour (or rub some olive oil) onto the bottom of a large bowl (big enough to allow the dough to double in size).

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Gently place your dough inside (crease-side-down, smooth-side-up). Give a light sprinkling of flour over the top of the dough.

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Cover with a dish towel, a towel or some plastic.

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Rest the dough:

Place the covered bowl in a warm, draught-free place.

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Let the dough rest for 45 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size.

A word on timing: we were never given cooking times at pastry school. ‘It’s ready when it’s ready,’ is what Chef Tim always used to say. This approach caused anxiety at first but it forced us to develop our powers of observation. As a result, we developed a ‘feel’ and came to trust ourselves more. Failures were mostly still edible and that’s how we learned!

Strengthen and shape the dough:

Divide the dough into same-sized portions (depending on how many loaves you’re making).

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Fold each piece of dough into itself in order to strengthen it: fold the outer area towards the centre of each piece. This should only take a couple of minutes.

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Once the dough is ‘tighter’ or ‘stronger’, you can go ahead and create the shape of your choice.

To make a baguette shape:

Work the dough into a sausage shape and then roll both ends into narrower sausage shapes. You could create a simple ball shape or a rough ‘ship-shape’… have fun with it, rather than strive for perfection. Keep a light touch and don’t overwork the dough!

Rest the dough again:

Sprinkle some flour on your oven tray before gently placing your bread on it. Use a sharp knife, scissors or a razor blade to slit the top of the bread (this releases pressure).

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Cover it and place it in a warm, draught-free place to rest again — for half an hour or so.

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Pre-baking:

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees celsius.

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If you want a good crust then spray some water over the bread and into the oven before baking. I often rub olive oil and some salt over the dough at this stage — this adds to the flavour.

Baking:

Gently place the oven tray into the centre of the oven (close the door quickly so you don’t lose too much heat). Turn the temperature down to 180 degrees celsius after about ten minutes.

Bake for a further 20 to 45 minutes, depending on how many loaves you have in the oven. A golden brown crust tells you that the bread is close to ready. To check, tap the underside — if there is a sharp, hollow sound then it is ready. If not, place the loaf face down onto the oven tray and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the bread on a rack to cool down a little before serving it. A little olive oil rubbed over the bread will enhance it’s appearance, taste and smell.

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And if you want to give some to family, friends or neighbours, simply wrap in some wax-paper or pop it into a paper bag ~x~

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PS. Warning to other food bloggers: this post has been copied and pasted in it’s entirety by a content scraper/thief: Bocata.com. They posted it as their own at http://bocata.com/?p=181.

On making Bread (and how to knead and shape it Richard Bertinet’s way)

I love everything about bread!  It’s why I’m mad about France.  It’s why I’m glad I did the Patisserie course. It’s why I enjoy sharing the how to’s with others.  Like my dad:

The thing is, learning from recipe books is all very well BUT when it comes to kneading and shaping the dough, I really believe that one has to be SHOWN the technique to ‘get it’.  We learnt Richard Bertinet’s method at chef school and I am thankful for it.  Here is a link to a fabulous bread lesson with the man himself: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/video/2010/jul/20/how-to-cook-bread 

There’s magic in bread-making…  as you watch it change form several times before it finally comes out of the oven… smelling like heaven. 

From rugby balls to bread with James (aged 5)…

It was my Mom's worst nightmare that her grandson would grow up with rugby balls, and worse still, that James would end up liking them...
Of course, there was no escaping it since James was born to a rugby player whose father was a rugby player etc etc!...
I was reminded of this while looking through some photos I took of James at his first bread lesson (is it a baguette or is it a rugby ball?!)...

At such a young age he didn't waver from the task at hand...
Or miss a detail or lose his sense of enthusiasm or personal responsibility ('we must check the bread... is it ready yet?' he'd say every few minutes before heading off to the oven to see if the bread was 'golden brown' yet)...
His sense of bravery had me smiling - no, I wasn't to take the bread out of the oven, he could definately do it himself! ...
He delighted at sharing with everyone...

Including his four-legged ball-crazy fans...
All the qualities of a sportsman, and I can't help but think of my Mom cheering James on, whatever the case, rugby balls or not... x!

Betty’s Bay Bread Thieves

Yes, folk, it’s true… it has been reported that the low-crime area of Betty’s has been hit by a new kind of criminal: bread thieves.   Local residents are aware that the thieves are living in the bush near the reserve area but refuse to take the matter further.   ‘Times are tough, especially with the drought,’ said Whipping It Up whose freshly baked bread was recently stolen while it was cooling outside.

Whipping It Up filed the folllowing report:

I had just baked a 500g white flour loaf and placed it on a cooling rack outside on the patio next to the kitchen door.  I left the door open as it was a hot day and was about to pour a glass of  chilled white wine when I noticed something very odd.  THE BREAD WAS MOVING!

I dashed closer to the door and there, lo and behold, were two little mongooses trying to get the bread down the stairs.  One of the mongooses had burnt its tongue and was panting (I wish I could describe how cute a mongoose’s tongue is!).  Eventually, after trying various techniques, they figured out that they could move the bread in little bursts by only using the tips of their teeth. 

Unfortunately I moved too close to the scene of the crime and they ran off into the surrounding bush. 

I picked up the evidence and wondered how many people get to eat bread that has little mongoose footprints all over it (there were no bite marks).  I put the oven on high and nuked whatever germs there may have been and then shared my lunch of bread and cheese with them shortly thereafter (although they ate the spoils whilst still in hiding).

How to make baguettes – using an easy white dough recipe

Ohhhhhh, baguettes… a reminder of the simple life… with the best French wine and cheese, of course! If you’re new to baking bread, please do refer to my comprehensive explanation (step by step with photos) here.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500 g white bread four
  • 10 g yeast (use 25% less for dried yeast)
  • 10 g salt
  • 350 g warm water

HOW TO PREPARE THE BAGUETTE DOUGH – STEP BY STEP:

  • First measure out your ingredients else you’ll have dough all over the show
  • Sift flour and mix in yeast (if live then break the yeast into small pieces and rub into the flour with your fingertips)
  • Add the warm water and mix (I always use my hands – VERY scrumptious but VERY messy, so use a spoon if you prefer)
  • Add the salt (once the flour, yeast and water have combined)
  • Knead the dough (by pulling it away and up towards you and then SLAPPING it down again onto the surface …until such time as it becomes less sticky and gains a silky texture)… be patient… carry on working it… it WILL change from sticky to smooth!
  • HOT TIP: Trap as much air as you can as you fold the dough over and back into itself
  • Once the dough is smooth, pat the dough into a ball-shape and place it in a bowl in a warm place (cover with a cloth or plastic but be sure to allow space for the rising of the dough) until it doubles in size

HOW TO SHAPE THE BAGUETTE DOUGH – STEP BY STEP

  • Once the dough has doubled in size, it’s ready to be shaped!
  • Help the dough drop out of the bowl by scraping from its underside (be gentle)
  • Roll the dough into itself (feed the outside into the inside) to make it TIGHTER and stronger
  • Roll it into a tight sausage roll shape
  • Slice the roll into two pieces (or whatever size you wish but if dividing then weigh out same-size pieces – so as to allow for even baking) and roll each piece into a tight sausage roll shape
  • Work & roll the ends of each ‘sausage roll’ under your palms so that they become thinner – leave the centre section so that it remains wider

FINALLY

  • Slash the top of the bread with a blade or a knife & dust with flour (the slashes allow the bread to release tension as it bakes)
  • Place in the oven to prove (rise again) on 50 degrees celsius with a bowl of water at the bottom of the oven OR simply cover the bread and place in a warm, sheltered place… until it has expanded in size (30 to 45 minutes)
  • Preheat the oven to 180-200 degrees celsius (I prefer to go HOT so that I get a good crust) and spray with water before adding the baguettes… keep an eye on them… they will be ready as soon as they are brown… test for readiness by tapping on the underside.. . if there is a hollow sound, they are ready

PS. This bread is also great with nothing more than butter and honey. In which case forget the wine and have a cup of tea!

Baguettes in Betty’s

I decided to send a short story (about a Lily) I’d written to a friend last night. His response: ‘You’re bad! And good’.

And then he sent me his writing and I laughed so that the giggles bounced back off the walls. It was all so corny! That’s when I realized that my piece was too. I sigh to think of what I’ve posted out there into the world, thinking it was okay at the time. But one learns…. slowly but surely. I think it’s going to take YEARS of constant reading and writing to get into the flow of something really special. DAMNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!

I felt the same way about making bread when I first started at Patisserie School. The gooey doughy mess just seemed to get gooey-er and gooey-er the more I worked it and it felt like I was never going to get to the stage of ‘silky smooth’.

Funny that the only thing that made me feel better about ‘being such a terrible writer’ this morning was to write 2000 freeflow (‘whatever comes words’) and then get down to basics by preparing some dough for baguettes. The kneading and throwing is always somewhat grounding and the whole process somehow soothes the soul!

The dough is presently rising in a big old pot in the sun by the pond, as is my desire to get back to Brenda Ueland’s book: IF YOU WANT TO WRITE.

 (Yes, Ido…IdoIdoIdoIdoIdo!).

See the above post for a simple baguette recipe.

The gooey monster that is DOUGH!

I write and illustrate a story for my family for Christmas every other year.  This year the story was about a Princess who mixes a monster in her kitchen that grows and grows.  She is about to leave the castle for good when she finds out that the monster is dough and nothing to be scared of.  The story ends with an invitation to a bread lesson. 

The first people to jump  at the opportunity?  The kids!  That includes my father (I’ll post something about that lesson a little later!), Olivia and James.  Olivia was into mixing and kneading the dough and James excelled at seeing the whole process through, which included checking on the bread, taking it out of the oven, telling eveybody to smell it and sharing it with everyone,  including baba Chiara.

It was lots of fun, as you can imagine, but it was a also a RATHER messy affair!

Guess which bread is Olivia’s….

Stollen Bread

Stollen is a most satisfying Christmas bread made of  sweet dough, marzipan and mixed fruit and nuts.   It makes a fabulous Christmas gift.

The bread will last for a good few months if wrapped in a sealed plastic bag (not cling-wrap) so you can make it ahead of time.  Adding rum or whiskey will give extra flavour as well as extend the shelf life.

The dough is rolled into a rectangular shape.  The marzipan is rolled out and placed on top of the dough (cut to the same size).  It is then sprinkled with mixed fruit and nuts etc.  The bread is then rolled into the traditional Stollen shape and left to prove before it is baked and sprinkled with a generous amount of icing sugar. 

PREPARE SWEET DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams warm milk
  • 15 grams live yeast
  • 500 grams sifted bread flour
  • 60 grams butter at room temperature
  • 40 grams castor sugar
  • 10 grams salt
  • 2 eggs

Method:

  • Work the yeast into the flour with your fingertips
  • Add the rest of the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre
  • Add the butter into the well and work into the dry ingredients
  • Add the eggs and milk into the centre of the well and work into the mix
  • Knead and bang away until the dough becomes silky smooth
  • Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size

PREPARE MARZIPAN

Search ‘how to make marzipan’ on my blog

PREPARE FRUIT AND NUT MIX

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons flaked almonds (feel free to include other nuts like cashews if you wish to)
  • 4 tablespoons orange peel (or according to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons currents
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamon (don’t over grind as the flavour will be too strong)
  • 1 teaspoon of fine orange and lemon rind
  • A drop of vanilla paste/extract

PREPARE STOLLEN

  • Pre-heat oven to 50 degrees Celsius (to prove your bread once you have prepared the stollen)
  • Prep the bread dough and roll into a rectangular shape (once it has doubled in size)
  • Roll the marzipan into a thin sheet and cut to same size as bread dough
  • Place the marzipan on top of the bread dough
  • Cover the marzipan with the fruit and nut mix
  • Roll the ends of the dough towards the centre of the dough, allowing for a gap (the same size as the roll on each side of it) in the centre or two thirds of the way across
  • Extend the one roll over the gap and place it directly on top of the other roll (use the rolling pin to create an indentation on the underlying roll first)
  • Press down on the outside edges of the dough (about 5 to 10 mm from the outer edge)
  • Place in the oven until the dough has expanded in size (around double in size – look out for a ‘puffiness’)
  • Remove carefully, place in a warm place and set oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • When the oven is ready, spray the Stollen with water as well as the base of the oven
  • Place on a baking sheet on a baking tray in the centre of the oven
  • Bake until golden brown
  • Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter
  • Sprinkle liberally with icing sugar over the melted butter
  • Repeat – give the bread another coating of butter and sprinkle with more icing sugar

Wrap in transparent plastic (once cool) and seal with sticky tape before placing in another transparent bag (or whatever packaging you prefer)…  finish with ribbons and a home-made card for a personal Christmas gift that looks, smells and tastes a treat!

How to make Tresse bread – using a standard sweet dough recipe

Lana's Tresse Bread

As I write, I am nibbling on some of the Tresse bread I made in class today (with butter and honey and a cup of tea).  It turned out beautifully!

See ‘how to make standard sweet dough for bread’ for the bread recipe. Chef Tim demonstrates how to prepare and plait the bread in the photos below:

Roll dough & cut into smaller pieces (I worked on 85 g a piece)

Once you have made your bread dough and left it in a warm place to double in size, gently ease it out of its container and roll.  Cut same-size pieces (I worked on 85 grams per piece) and roll into balls as seen below.

Pastry Tresse Bread etc 118

Take two balls and roll out into two long sausage shapes.  Cross one over the other and continue plaiting the dough, as depicted below. 

Tuck the end pieces under the bread.  Leave in a warm place to rest and then egg wash before baking at 180 degrees celsius (until golden brown).   You could also brush the bread with sugar syrup (swiftly and lightly) as soon as it comes out of the oven. 

The dough should have a good ‘spring’ in it when stretched.