“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight... - M.F.K. Fisher
I think my favourite smells are freshly baked or baking bread and brewing coffee. And I totally agree that the smell of baking bread is equivalent to the sound of water slurping against the shore.
I am a fan of home made bread. And by only following a few simple steps, the result is one of the most satisfying outcomes in the kitchen. But of course the loaf is only what you put in. Good quality flour, a bit of salt, yeast, water and seeds or nuts or both. What can be better than that?
One of the easiest ways to get to a very fresh loaf of bread is by putting water, salt, yeast, flour, and if you want, oil in the mixing bowl of a bread maker, time it and let it do its job. Although lots of people claim their bread maker was a waste of space and they hadn't used it at all until they finally got rid of it; I think it is one of my priced possessions. I often fill it at night just before going to bed and time it, so the bread is just about done when I have to get up and get a shower. The smell of the bread baking downstairs is wafting up and eases the pain of getting up.
But, of course it is brilliant for doing all the kneading for you, too. And I think it is just the right size for a loaf, not too big, so you can enjoy the bread while it is still fresh, and not too small so you can use it for a for a dinner party as well.
Anyway, I think baking your own bread is very satisfying, although I think we eat more bread if I make it myself than if we get a shop bought loaf. I started off with just a basic pizza dough, ages ago, plain and simple white loafs and then experimented with different flours and adding seeds and nuts or dried fruit for variation, until I started a sour dough.
I started a wheat sour dough, like in many French Country loafs. It is not as sour as a rye one and produces a lighter sort of bread dough. It is now tucked away in the fridge and is fed from time to time. I just add wholemeal four and water in same quantities and leave it outside for a couple of days, then I close the bowl again and store it away in the fridge. It is greyish brown on top, but inside it is of light beige colour and smells fruity and healthy. I use some of this sour dough and add it to my pizza dough or my dough balls.
My sour dough:
But let's start with a wheat sour dough from scratch and the first bread I made from it. But remember - there is time involved in this process. If you plan on making this for a special occasion you have to start making this about four to five days before you'd like to eat it.
For the Starter or Chef:
50g wholemeal bread flour,
3 tablespoons of warm water.
For the 1st refreshment:
4 tablespoons of warm water,
75g wholemeal bread flour.
For the 2nd refreshment:
120ml lukewarm water,
120g unbleached white bread flour,
20g wholemeal bread flour.
For the dough:
2 teaspoon salt,
enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough (about 175-200ml)
1. To make the chef, sift the flour into a small bowl, add the water and knead for 3-4 minutes to form a dough. Cover with cling film and leave the chef in a warm place for 2 days. There are bubbles appearing on the surface.
2. Take off the cling film, the dough should begin to smell fruity; add the warm water, stir until homogenous, then add the flour and knead again for 3-4 minutes until it forms a dough, in French it is called levain. Cover the bowl with cling film and keep in a warm place for 1 day.
3. Should a crust form on the dough, pull it off and discard it. If not, use it as it is. Place the levain into a bowl to do the second refreshment. Add the warm water and stir it in. Add the two types of flour little at a time and mixing it in very well after each addition to form a firm dough. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place, like the not switched on oven, for 10-12 hours or until doubled in bulk.
4. Add the starter to the flour and add enough water to make a soft dough. Stir for a while with a spoon or spatula then set aside and let it ferment for at least 8 hours.
5. Take a big bowl and sift in the flour and salt. Add the sponge when it is bubbly and liquid from fermentation. Mix the sponge with some of the flour then start to add some lukewarm water. Add water and mix everything into a nice, soft dough.
6. Turn it out of the bowl onto a worktop and knead it for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
7. Place the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film and leave to rise, in a warm and draught free place for a few hours, or until the dough has risen by half.
8. Line a 10cm high and 23cm round basket or large bowl with a dish towel and dust lightly with flour. Knock back the dough, at this point you can cut off about 120g off the dough for the next loaf – knead very quickly for 10 seconds – shape into a ball and place it seam side up into the prepared basket or bowl. Cover cling film and leave to rise for a few hours, or until risen by half.
9. Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas 8. Invert the loaf onto a lightly floured baking sheet and sprinkle with flour.
10. Slash the top of the loaf, using a very sharp knife, for times as pictured.
11. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the loaf has browned. Cool on a wire rack.