With the newly cool weather around here, it's been a perfect time to get back into bread baking. Baking bread is such a satisfying and rewarding thing to do. It's very easy to do and requires a minimal amount of work. While it does require some time and organisation, the rewards are delicious.
There's all kinds of ways to make bread. From simple and quick soda breads when you find yourself unprepared for a sudden craving for freshly baked bread, all the way to rye sourdough that might take several days of preparation.
I've been baking a recipe on the simple and quick end of the scale lately. Basic white bread rolls. Sadly, they never last longer than a day...
BASIC WHITE BREAD ROLLS
400 g plain, bread flour
300 g water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried yeast
1/2 cup polenta or coarse semolina (optional)
1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, followed by the yeast.
Don't add the yeast and salt at the same time, as the salt can inhibit the action of the yeast.
2. Add the water and give it all a bit of a stir so the dry and wet ingredients are combined, then leave it about 5 minutes, g
iving the gluten in the flour time to absorb water, making it more responsive to kneading.
While you wait, spread a small amount of flour on the kneading surface.
3. Tip out the dough and start kneading.
The whole point of kneading is to stretch the gluten, so keep this in mind. Try to knead in a way that stretches and folds the dough.
Don't add too much flour to your hands or the bench. If the dough sticks to your hands and the bench, persist with kneading for a few minutes and the dough should begin to come together.
Knead for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be shiny, stretchy, supple and a little wet when it's ready.
4. Put the dough back in its bowl, put a tea towel over the bowl and leave it to sit for about 45-60 minutes, or until the dough has increased in size by 50%.
Don't let it double in size as this can over stretch the gluten leading to tough textured bread.
You can repeat steps 3 and 4 if the weather is cold and/or the dough is reluctant to rise.
5. Prepare for shaping the rolls (or loaf if you prefer) by spreading some more flour on the bench and the polenta/semolina on a bowl or plate.
6. Knead the dough for a minute before cutting it into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a roll (or shape all the dough into a single loaf).
I roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten it by poking and prodding with my fingers. Then I pull the edges over and into the middle, 'wrapping' the dough as tightly as I can and then I squeeze the seam between my fingers so it doesn't split open.
7. Roll the shaped rolls in flour or dip the seam side of the rolls in the polenta. Or do both. Place the rolls on a baking tray, seam side down.
8. Spray or sprinkle with a bit of water, cover with a dry tea towel and leave for about 45-60 minutes or until the rolls have increased in size by at least 50%.
9. Preheat the oven to 250 C and place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Use the fan if you have one.
10. When the rolls are ready, slash the tops with a very sharp or serrated knife, spray or sprinkle the rolls with water and put them in the oven.
11. Rolls will take 10-15 minutes to bake. A loaf will take 25-30 minutes.
They will be ready when the top just begins to turn golden.