Form factor

Rectangular loaf

I made this loaf the other day, inspired by but not following Richard Bertinet’s Honey and lavender loaf recipe from Dough.

I’m sure a lavender scented loaf would be lovely, but it isn’t ideal of your basic sandwiches-for-work loaf, so I excised the lavender. Also, I’m finding the very best breads I’m making at the moment all involve using some leaven; I can’t resist adding 3 or so tablespoons full to whatever recipe I’m following.

What I liked most about this recipe from Dough was the form factor. Although the rising in the oven split the loaf more radically along one of my cuts than the others, ruining any chance of pretty regularity, in principle I was very happy with the shape of this loaf.

So anyway.

250g wholemeal bread flour (I used stuff that had been ground on the waterwheel at Otterton)
250g strong white flour
4 good tablespoons of white leaven
5g dried active yeast (my local supplier of fresh yeast was all out)
10g salt
320g water
1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Mix the flours and salt in a roomy bowl.
Mix the water, yeast and honey, then beat in the leaven. (If I’d had freah yeast, I probably wouldn’t have crumbed it into the flour, as per the Bertinent method).
Blend this liquid mix into the dry mix, and bring together to make a soft dough. (I might have bunged a bit more water in here, so it’s nice and moist).
Turn out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead by scooping with your fingers, stretching and flicking the dough over away from you. I kneaded for about 10 mins until the gluten was really making a nice structure.
Form into a ball then return to the bowl (oiled slighly) to rest until doubled in size. This was vary according to how warm or not your resting area is. Took a couple of hours for me.
Turn out gently on to the work surface, and gently press down to even out the gas pockets that have formed.
Form into a ball again, and rest for 10-15 mins.
Take the ball, and, with the most even surface on work surface, stretch it out gently into a squarish rectangle.
Here’s where the form factor comes into play. To create a nice squarish free-form loaf, fold the four corners into the middle, press down gently.
Put the loaf, “join”-side down, on a baking sheet lined with a floured cloth and leave the proof until doubled in volume. Again, this took a couple of hours.

Pre-heat your oven to 220C.

When the loaf has risen nicely, cut a double-cross on the top (I’m using a lame with a razor blade these day – like this).
Spray the inside of your oven with water.
I’m using a baking stone these days, so, using a floured, lipless baking sheet as a peel, I slid it in and baked it for 10 mins at 220c, then turned the oven down to 200C and baked for another half an hour, until the loaf gave a nice hollow sound when knocked on the bottom.

Cool on a rack, under a moist tea towel if you like to keep the crust a little softer.

I was a bit annoyed with the uneven opening of the cuts, but it tastes great.

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