Finally Bread I’m Happy With

I’ve been trying to make bread during lockdown, and discovered a lot on the way.  I’m pretty happy with the Turkish Flatbread that I made to start with, but have struggled to make a regular loaf that works.
So, along the way, I have discovered Ken Forkish, Peter Reinhart and Richard Bertinet, all of whom have been really helpful – especially Ken Korkish with his stretch and fold method of getting air into the dough.
The other day I searched on the internet for “Best Wholemeal Loaf,” and came across an article in the Guardian Newspaper, which sent me looking for Dan Lepard, and through all of these people have found a loaf that works for me.
This is for a wholemeal loaf

  • 300ml warm water
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar, any kind.
  • ½ a 500mg vitamin C tablet i.e. ¼g, crushed to a powder.
  • 225 g Wholemeal flour
  • 225 g White Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • About 3 Tbs olive oil

On this occasion I just weighed all the dry ingredients out and put them in my trusty round plastic tub. (It used to contain fatballs for the birds)

I mixed all the dry ingredients together. (Keeping the salt and yeast separate to start with – apparently the salt reduces the action of the yeast. I’m not sure if it made any difference, but I did it anyway).By the way – the viamin C tablet – that’s a new idea that came from the Guardian article.  I could only get orange ones, but we couldn’t detect the orange flavour.
Then I added the water and stirred everything up with a spoon until it was a sticky dough.  I might have added a tiny bit of extra water at this point because it was a bit dry.
Then, and I think this is crucial, I left it for ten minutes to get started.
After that I used Ken Forkish’s Stretch and Fold and ‘Pincer’ method – see his video Mixing By Hand.  I added the olive oil at this point a bit at a time, whenever my hand got sticky.  I only did a few of the stretch, fold and squeeze – maybe 4 – and only for a minute or so.
Then I let it rest for 15 minutes and repeated the stretch etc
Then I let it rest for 15 minutes and repeated the stretch etc for a third time

Then I rolled the dough into a rectangle, rolled it up tightly and place seam-side down in a 2 lb loaf tin. I covered the tin with a tea towel and left it for about an hour and a half.  By that time it had risen to almost fill the tin.
There’s a test to see if it’s risen enough – sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough and push the dough with your finger.  If it doesn’t spring back at all, it’s underprooved. If it springs back all the way, it might be over prooved. What you want is for it to almost spring back.
Then I heated the oven to 220 C, dusted the loaf with a little flour, and baked it for 20 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 180 C for a further 20 minutes.
Voila !  I’m sure it can be improved on, but at this stage in my learning, I’m happy.

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