Sunday, 12 September 2010

It's All in the Yeast! Basic White Bread 白吐司

Every now and again (whilst growing up) I've always wanted to make a big, white, soft, fluffy but chewy loaf of bread.  I've baked Hot Cross Buns which turn out like stones and loaves of bread like house bricks.  I always thought it was because I wasn't very good at kneading the dough.

Right!  No excuse now!  Hubbs bought me a Kenwood Mixer with dough hook attachment - that will earn it's keep and do the kneading for me!  OK, bread has improved.  Have found if I mix a wet, sticky dough I can get a moist feeling loaf - but it does ooze over the time if over-filled.  I've got photos of dough hanging over the sides like an overweight person spilling over jeans 2 sizes too small - ewww?  You're right.  Not attractive.  Yet, the bread its still grey brown in colour and the texture looks holey in a good way but after 2 days more resembles a cellulose sponge and is fit for nothing but toast albeit a crisp and airy kind of toast.

I bought some fresh yeast last week after spotting a bread-making book in the local library.  OK, not a-n-y- ol' book, but it's Chinese with English translation!  (Yippee! As my Chinese reading and written is rather rusty these days!)  What better way to start than with the basics?  Labelled White Toast - it's in essence a sweetened white loaf.  Result?  Oh My Word!  A WHITE loaf!  Yes!  It really is white like a supermarket-bakery bought loaf!  It's the same brand of flour that gave me the off-white loaf last month (see here next to the jar of jam.)  Pleased?  I punched the air with delight!

The secret to my successful loaf is in a 17-hour low-temperature pre-ferment dough.  What?!?!  I hear you cry!   70 % of the dough is kneaded and but in the fridge to prove for 17 hours.  As most of the dough has been proved once under the low-temperature, the final proving time is greatly reduced and the final proving gives a major raise in the dough.  The pre-ferment dough helps give the bread a moist, chewy loaf with a yeasty flavour.   This technique is explained in Kin's Book, Natural Breads Made Easy.  (天然麵包香 ~ 獨角仙@藍色大門.)  I've googled her name and here is her blog.

It is a process I've never come across before especially as she talks about Baker's Percentage.  For example, the amount of flour used in a recipe is 100%.  Other ingredients are measured by their weight in relation to that of flour.  Total always add up to over 100%.
So, what she is saying is:
Flour  = 100%     (1000g)
Sugar = 3%         (30g)
Egg    = 20%       (200g)
Salt    = 1%         (10g)
Yeast = 3%         (30g)

This is her recipe:

White Toast 白吐司

Pre-ferment Dough
bread flour          70%          480g
water                  40%          274g
fresh yeast           2%            14g
sea salt                1%            7g
skim milk powder 2%           14g

Dissolve the yeast in water.  Add bread flour, sea salt, skim milk powder and knead until soft.  Cover the dough in cling wrap.  Refrigerate to let it prove for 17 hours.

bread flour          30%          206g
sea salt                1%            7g
sugar                   10%          69g
water                  29%          199g
fresh yeast          0.5%          3g
unsalted butter    10%          58g

  • Cut the pre-ferment dough into small pieces.
  • Knead all ingredients together (except the butter).  Add pre-ferment dough piece by piece and knead after each addition until smooth.  Add butter and continue to knead until stretchable consistency.
  • Put the dough into a big bowl.  Cover with cling wrap and let it prove for about 25-30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into six small equal portions.  Flatten them with your hand to drive the air out.  Hand square them.  Set aside to rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Flatten the dough with your hands to drive the air out.  Roll the dough into a rectangle.  Fold both sides towards the centre and roll again.  Roll it out again until its width is similar to that of the loaf tin, but don't close the lid tightly.  Cover with cling wrap.
  • Lastly leave it to prove for about 45 more minutes or until the dough has risen up to 80% of the depth of the loaf tin.  Close the lid.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170-180 deg C for about 30-35 minutes.
To fill a 450g loaf tin all the way to all top corners, you need 650 to 660g of dough.  You may fit one to several pieces of dough into a loaf tin.
The quantity listed in the recipe is enough to fill two 450g loaf tins.  

Hand squaring is where you flatten the dough into a rectangle shape with the heel of your hand.  Then starting at the top, roll the short end up tightly on itself like a swiss-roll.

Driving the air out relaxes the gluten in the dough, redistributes the yeasts among other ingredients and evens out the temperature throughout the dough.

The author uses 3 squared pieces of dough to fill her loaf tin before proving.  

The author uses a pullman loaf tin which has a lid so the resulting bread is perfectly square when sliced.  I used a regular loaf tin.

I made half this recipe to try it out and didn't think to take photos of each step as I did so.  Apologies.  Wasn't expecting the bread to turn out so well!  I am planning on making a Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed Loaf tomorrow so I will try and take photos along the way, although the 17 hour pre-ferment dough is already doing it's business in the fridge!

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