Tuesday 6 November 2007
[My daily bread - Simple white bread]
Call me arrogant, but I’ve never considered myself lucky to live in France. To my eyes, nothing could beat the UK. I called London home and Harvey Nicks was my temple.
However, as years passed by, I started to realise that I am in fact blessed to live in such a beautiful country. And I won’t lie to you, food played a huge role.
I just find it fantastic to be able to get gorgeous produce all year round, to know where it comes from and to chat with producers. Please, don’t get me started about the awesome pâtisseries out there; so inspiring!
I wish I could change one thing though. Just one little thing: flours. Can you believe that white flour only comes in two types? 45 and 55, numbers which represent the taux de cendre [ashes content] of the flour. The higher it is, the rougher the flour is; and by rough, I mean whole (type 150 flour is whole wheat flour). Thus, a low number will indicate a high extraction rate – many particles from the hull are removed, making for a whiter, thinner flour.
Type 45 flour is commonly used for brioches, pâtes feuilletées [puff pastry] and feuilletées-levées (for croissants and pain au chocolat, just to name a few), while type 55 is great for cakes, shortcrust pastries and biscuits. Indeed, the latter is poorer in gluten and gives a short sandy texture.
But what happens when it comes to bread making? I have to admit that I’ve always had trouble finding which white flour I should use for breads.
Type 45 flour certainly sounds great because of its high gluten content although, I always feel concerned about it being to finely ground.
If only I lived I the States, where strong flour is a staple, as American wheat contains much more gluten. I’m sure you’ll love to know that at Pierre Hermé’s pâtisserie, the fine high-in-gluten flour is fittingly called corde américaine [literally, American rope]. And ordinary type 55 flour is known as tradition française [French tradition].
So far, and after many many many tries (yes, that many, believe me), I’ve found that farine type 55 is the best when used with Dan Lepard‘s kneading method.
Simple white bread
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe and method.
If you’re looking for a basic white bread, then this recipe is perfect for you. Not only it gets you familiar with bread making; but it also produces a consistent flavourful bread.
It is great as a base for all your crazy ideas – my garlic bread is a great example.
The kneading method is quite time-consuming, but very easy to follow. You just need to stretch and fold the dough for ten seconds. Remember: stretch and fold. That’s what kneading is about.
My other favourite tip is to throw a couple of ice cubes onto the oven rack when I start baking the bread. This will produce a moist environment that makes for a golden crispy crust.
Simple white bread
makes one bread
350g water, at 23°C
15g fresh yeast
500g strong flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
olive oil, for greasing
flour, for dusting
Place the water into a bowl, add the yeast and whisk gently until dissolved.
Place the flour and salt into a clean bowl and mix together well. Add the water and yeast solution and mix together until it starts to come together a sticky, cohesive dough, then cover and leave for 10 minutes.
Grease your hands and a flat clean surface with olive oil. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 10 seconds, then form the dough into a smooth round ball. Wipe the bowl clean and grease with olive oil, then return the dough ball to the bowl and leave for a further 10 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead once more on the clean oiled surface. Shape again into a round smooth ball and return to rest in the bowl, covered, for one and a half hours in a warm place.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each into a ball and arrange into a loaf tin. Leave to rise for one and a half hours, or until almost doubled in height.
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Dust the risen bread with a little flour and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 190°C and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until golden brown.