The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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ActiveSparkles

Having recently ventured back in to bread making, I found myself making some pretty poorly shaped and generally poorly executed loaves. I decided the best way forward was to start from scratch.

With this in mind, I have been working from Paul Hollywood's Bread, a great book which had the added bonus of starting with the very basic recipes to build your bread knowledge on.

Having spent many hours researching kneading techniques and shaping many doughs to varying degrees of success. I still found my basic bloomer to be springing out in all sorts of odd shapes and angles once it hit the heat of the oven. After a bit of googling and general internet digging-  I established that my slashing of the dough, or lack of it- may be to blame.

I have always tried my hardest to avoid slashing bread, or doing it so poorly that it really might as well not happened at all. I found that I was overly heavy handed most of the time, deflating more than my fair share of dough just before it was about to be cooked.

This was one I stumbled upon a video on youtube of someone using a tool I had never seen before, what to me looked much like a razor on a stick.


What was this mystery object?

I did some more digging and came across the term "bread lame". This seemed to be the answer to my question.

This article on this very site (and goodness only knows why I didn't come here first) provides amazing detail and insight into why scoring/slashing can be a very important step in creating a great loaf shape.

So I ordered one of these amazing things from the internet (an admittedly cheap one by standards, but I will invest in a better one once this one has run its course.

My first few outings trying this tool were far superior to my earlier attempts- but you can see that I am still dragging the blade a little. (you can see where it has pulled the dough, even after cooking.)

So I persevere, and my slashing is gradually getting better and better, and thus the shape of my loaves are getting better as well. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

ActiveSparkles's picture
ActiveSparkles

So, thought I would make a quick blog about my recent success in making soft bread rolls! I have taken a few different methods from various sources and cobbled them together to make a roll which I find to be delicious and wonderfully soft.

The recipe:

625g strong white bread flour (I have tried this with plain flour, was not pleased with the results)
1 sachet (7g) dried active yeast (I use tesco own or allinsons, whatever you like really.)
15g salt
60g unsalted butter (Anything but country life)
400ml warm water (not hot. . you already knew that)

Will also need:
Olive or vegetable oil for kneading and greasing
Full fat milk for brushing
small knob of butter for brushing
Tin foil for covering

Mixing:
Measure your flour into a large bowl, adding your butter in the middle. Add salt to the right and your yeast to the left. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together. (I am told that you should be careful to not bring the yeast and salt into direct contact before the mixing, hence putting them on different sides of the bowl)

Add about half of your water to the mix and stir it in. Gradually add another quarter of your water while stirring.
At this point, abandon the spoon and dig in with your clean hands! Now, this is where your judgement comes into play. Bring the mix together into a ball, making sure to mop up all of your flour into the ball. You will now add some, or all of your remaining water. I like to use the majority of it, it does make the dough a bit sticky; but this will work its self out with kneading and a little sprinkled flour if needed. (although avoid if possible.)

When your dough is suitably formed and ready to knead, put about a teaspoon of your oil on your clean surface and rub it over. Now turn out your dough on to the surface and coat it once in the oil. Kneading is a personal thing I think, I use a fairly basic press, turn, fold and repeat method. Do this for about 6 minutes, then leave the dough to rest while you clean out the mixing bowl. Knead for a further 4-5 minutes. As mentioned, your mix should be fairly wet, so having a bread scraper and a little flour at hand will be really very useful. Just to stop the nightmare of the dough sticking all over the place.

Lightly oil your bowl and place the dough in to it, turning once to cover. Place a tea towel over the top and leave to rise. The time varies, but at least an hour will be needed. You want it to be doubled in size.

Prep for next stage:
once you feel your dough is almost ready to be knocked back and shaped, you can prepare a few things for the next stage of the rolls. Prepare a baking tray (625g will create 8-10 fair sized rolls, so it will need to be a fair size) by either lining it with baking paper, or as I prefer to do- greasing them with some margerine or more olive oil. (Me and olive oil have a great relationship going)
You will also need to get some full fat milk in a small bowl or glass, along with a brush.

Stage 2:
Lightly flour your surface and turn the dough out. Lightly apply pressure to the dough, trying not to knock all of the air out as you flatten it slightly. Now leave it to rest for 10 minutes.
10 minutes later:
Using your hands, roll the dough out into a rough square shape. If you used plenty of water, this can be easily achieved by lifting the dough in the corners and letting it sag slightly. Now roll the dough in towards you, forming a french stick type shape. Using your hands, roll lightly from the middle out until the dough is roughly the same thickness right across. How thick this is doesnt make a great deal of difference, as we are going to cut it anyway. Using a sharp knife, Divide dough into 8-10 similar sized pieces. No need to worry about weights etc, as long as they look about the same, that will do.

Shaping:
Now to shape the balls into your rolls. Again, whatever works for you. I personally like to fold it into a rough ball, then push my hands together under the ball while using my thumb on the top to push the dough down at the side. Its a hard one to explain, so again, whatever works for you. Just a good roll shape. I like to flatten them down a little, as the water quantity will lead to them spreading anyway. Do this with all your dough and place them on the prepared tray. About an inch and a half or so apart. At this point, brush your rolls with the milk and place it in the fridge, as we will need it again later in the cooking process.

Now cover them with again with your tea towel and leave somewhere warm.
After about 20 minutes, turn your oven on to 180ºC/356ºF. (fan assisted) At this point, I like to pick the towel off the rolls and re-cover it. Just so it doesn't get stuck on them. Leave to rise for another 20 minutes while the oven warms up.

Cooking:
Place your rolls in the middle of the oven for 13 minutes. While they are cooking, cut your self 2 fair sized sheets of tin foil and get your milk back out of the fridge.
At the 13 minute mark, bring the rolls out of the oven. they should be very light coloured. Again, brush them with the milk. Now cover your tray with the tin foil, taking care to fold the foil over the edges so it doesn't get blown up by the pesky fan as you open the door. We are going to leave these for a further 10-15 minutes. We will take this oppertunity to melt our butter. How you do this is entirely up to you. I put some kettle water in a glass bowl, and rest the butter in a plastic bowl over it.

Take your rolls out of the oven and uncover one end to check on the rolls. You can use which ever method of telling "doneness" you like now. I use a probe to check the internal temp has reached 210f. If your rolls are done, uncover entirely and leave to cool for 2-3 minutes. Now rub the butter lightly over your rolls. Not too much, just enough to cover and leave shiny.

Cooling:
If you have one, place your rolls on a wire rack and leave to cool for 2 hours at least.

 

The finished product!

You should hopefully be left with something like this! Light in colour (thanks to your tin foil) and once cooled, will feel soft and light. They go wonderfully at the side of a meal, or just as a quick meal in their own right. I personally am a sucker for plain old cheddar cheese.

I hope you will consider giving these a go, and letting me know what you think :)

Thanks for taking the time to read my first bread related blog.
Charlie

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