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COUNTRY BREAD   –   75% HYDRATION

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Use 1 large bowl with a lid or separate bowls for each loaf. Pick clear plastic bowls so you can gauge the progress of the dough. The dough will rise to double the size, so pick one that will be large enough.

Other tools – silicon spatula and plastic dough scraper makes the job easier.

A good accurate electronic scale that can indicate the tiny amounts of yeast needed is a must. All measurements are done in weight, not by volume, as it is much more accurate. Different flours have different textures so more could fit into a cup than a coarse flour. The other point is that I could compact the flour more than you do. Measuring the weight means that you are always exactly right.

Everything else gets weighed as a percentage of the flour weight.

Kitchen thermometer probe – to test inside temperature of bread – much more accurate than knocking on bottom of the loaf.

What you put in is what you’ll get out –

Flour
Eureka stone ground bread flour and Swartland stone ground bread flour does not have any supplements and preservatives and it is not bleached and genetically modified – the reason for most tummy problems.

Yeast
Anchor instant yeast sachets is what I use.  The less yeast you use, the longer the dough will take to rise. Keep the yeast and salt separate until you add the water – salt has a negative impact on yeast.

Temperature
Contrary to how it was done in the past, the ideal temperature of the water and ambient temperature is 22 – 24 C, you also do not put it in a warm spot to rise. The slower the rise, the better.

Time

The time your dough takes to ferment and prove will directly impact on the flavour.

Water

Use water that is good enough to drink, without too much lime or chlorine. The higher he water content of the dough (hydration) the more open the crumb, or air holes, will be, which leads to bread that is not dense.

The wetter the dough, the more difficult it is to work with.

For 1 normal loaf

INGREDIENT WEIGHT BAKER’S %
FLOUR 400 g 100%
WATER 300 g 75%
YEAST 4 g 1%
SALT 8 g 2%

 

5 normal loaves

INGREDIENT WEIGHT BAKER’S %
FLOUR 2000 g 100%
WATER 1500 g 75%
YEAST 20 g 1%
SALT 40 g 2%

 

11 STEPS

  1. Mix all ingredients
    30 minutes standing time
  1. First stretch
    30 minutes standing time
  1. Second stretch
    30 minutes standing time
  1. Third stretch
    30 minutes standing time
  1. Fourth and final stretch
  2. Bulk fermentation
    60 to 120 minute standing time
  1. Dividing and shaping
  2. Final prove
    60 to 120 minute standing time
  1. Bake
    About 35 minutes
  1. Rest
    40 to 60 minutes
  1. Eat and enjoy!

STEP 1 –  MIX

Mix all your ingredients using a separate bowl (that has a lid) for each loaf or one large one. Remember that the dough will double in size, so make sure the container is large enough.

Put all the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl, making sure you keep the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side. Add the water and bring together with a spatula. Don’t worry about the lumps! It is not a smooth dough. Scrape the sides of your bowl clean with your bowl scraper. The first 30 minutes resting period allows the flour to absorb the water. The French term for this is autolyse.

STEP 2  –   FIRST STRETCH

Coat your hands and counter top with olive oil to prevent the dough from sticking. The purpose of the stretching is to extend those glutens being formed in the dough without breaking them. No kneading is required. Empty the dough from the mixing bowl onto the counter with the assistance of your dough scraper. You’ll notice the dough is not very pliable and is a little sticky. Gently push the dough out in all directions to the size of an A4 piece of paper. If you like, you can flip the dough over before continuing with the stretch.

Once stretched out, you now want to gather up the dough into a ball. This is easily done by taking each of the corners and pulling them into the middle. Constantly rotate until you have a fairly tight ball. This action creates a tension of the outer dough, which assists with the building of a stronger dough.

You can finish off the ball shaping by cupping it in both hands and drawing the ball towards yourself. You’ll notice how the dough continues to tense up. Do this 4 to 6 times, rotating the ball by 90 degrees each time.

Lightly oil the mixing bowl with olive oil as well as the surface of the dough and place the dough into the mixing bowl.

Cover with lid and rest for 30 minutes in a cool place that is not windy.

STEP 3  –  SECOND STRETCH

Use dough scraper to ease dough out of bowl onto oiled work surface.

Repeat the process of step 2 and let rest for another 30 minutes.

STEP 4 – THIRD STRETCH

Repeat stretch process. By now you’ll notice the dough is getting nice and silky and much softer and pliable. Gently push the dough out in all directions to the size bigger than an A4 piece of paper. If you like, you can flip the dough over before continuing with the stretch and even lift each edge and encourage the stretching keeping your hand off the counter top, but gently pulling the dough outwards.

Once stretched out, you now want to gather up the dough into a ball. This is easily done by taking each of the corners and pulling them into the middle. Constantly rotate until you have a fairly tight ball. This action creates a tension of the outer dough, which assists with the building of a stronger dough.

You can finish off the ball shaping by cupping it in both hands and drawing the ball towards yourself. You’ll notice how the dough continues to tense up. Do this 4 to 6 times, rotating the ball by 90 degrees each time.

Cover and rest for another 30 minutes.

STEP 5  –  FOURTH AND FINAL STRETCH

Repeat stretch process

STEP 6  – BULK FERMENTATION

Bulk fermentation step is a longer maturation phase where the glutens continue to develop as do the flavours of the dough. The reason for calling this the bulk fermentation stage is when making multiple loaves of the same bread you would mix the dough all together and only divide into smaller quantities after the bulk fermentation.

For this stage you are looking for a nice slow rise and for the dough to at least double in size. If there is too much yeast or if the room temperature is too high the rise will be much quicker.

Rest the dough for 60 to 120 minutes until at last double in size, in a cool place that is not windy.

STEP 7  – DIVIDING AND SHAPING

The glutens have now been fully developed. To test – if you can stretch a small piece of dough so thin, but does not break (referred to as a window), it is ready.

Tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Do not “knock back” the dough as you want to keep all that air in the dough.

Depending on the shape of bread you want, you would adapt your shaping method as the primary objective is to create good tension in your shaped dough to optimise the final prove and bake. You can bake it in a tin or make a round loaf.

SHAPING A ROUND LOAF

DIVIDING

If we wanted to make 12 rolls with the above dough we have made, we would divide our dough into 12 equal portions. This is done easiest by :

Tipping the dough onto very lightly floured/oiled counter to prevent sticking

Weigh the dough

Divide into 12 equal portions

The dividing process can ‘shock’ the dough making it tight and not elastic. Not to worry, just let the dough rest for 10 minutes or so until flexible again. Once the dough is divided, carry on with your shaping.

Gently stretch your dough to the shape of a circle. Imagine the circle is divided into 8 segments. At each of the 8 points at the edge of the circle, hold the dough, stretch it out a little and then pull it back to the middle of the circle, pushing down firmly. Constantly rotate and repeat until you have completed the routine for all 8 points around the circle. At this stage you will have a fairly tight ball.

Finish off the shaping by cupping the dough in both hands and drawing the ball towards yourself. You’ll notice how the dough continues to tense up. Do this 4 – 6 times, rotating the ball by 90 degrees each time.

Put a piece of cheese cloth in a basket with at least 10 cm sides. Liberally sprinkle the cloth as well as the top of the dough with flour.  Ease the dough into the basket with the top facing down and the seam of the dough facing up.

Cover and let prove for 60 to 120 minutes until doubled in size in a cool place that is not windy.

SHAPING AN OVAL OR RECTANGULAR LOAF

Gently stretch your dough to a rectangle a little narrower than the container you will be using. The short side of the rectangle is facing the top away from you. You now need to roll the dough towards you. After each turn, tuck the dough in with your thumbs, along the full length of the roll, so the roll is nice and tight. Repeat the process until the dough is fully rolled. Face the seam down onto the counter and apply good pressure to make sure it is well sealed. Tuck in each end by flipping the roll over and turning in the two ends. Finish off the shaping by cupping the dough in both hands and drawing the ball towards yourself. You’ll notice how the dough continues to tense up. Do this 4 to 6 times, rotating the ball by 90 degrees each time. The final step is to roll the ball of dough with both hands to create the rectangular shape, which is roughly the same size as your container, in this case a rectangular bread tin. Chose a tin size that will allow the dough to at least double in size.

Spray the inside of the bread tin with Spray and Cook to avoid sticking. Place the dough, seam side down, into the rectangular tin. Cover.

STEP 8  –  FINAL PROVE

Let the dough prove for 60 to 120 minutes until at least doubled in size in cool place that is not windy.

STEP 9  –  BAKING

Pre-heat your oven to its absolute maximum or to 230 C. (260 ideal) If you want to introduce steam into your bake to enhance the crust, also place a tin of water in the bottom of the oven (preferable). I also use a spray bottle filled with water to spray onto the top of the loaves during the first 10 minutes to delay the forming of the crust before it has fully risen to maximum. After about 10 – 15 minutes I turn the heat down to 190 C until end of baking.

THE ROUND OR OVAL LOAF THAT HAS BEEN PROVEN IN THE BASKET OR BANNETON

For the round or oval loaf, carefully turn the loaf onto a silicon sheet so the seal side is now facing down.

Slash about 1 cm deep into the unbaked loaf with a VERY sharp serrated knife. You can use any pattern that you like.

Place unbaked loaf in the oven and close the door quickly to avoid heat loss.

Bake for 38 minutes until well browned and there is a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf. Or test with a thermometer – it need to be 92 – 94 C inside.

RECTANGULAR LOAF TIN

The long loaf tin is ready to go straight into the oven, but before you do so, lightly sprinkle the top with flour or seeds and make 2 or 3 diagonal slashes, each 1 cm deep, and place in oven. Bake for 40 minutes or 92 C inside temperature.

Other slashing methods 😐

Keep the blade straight (90 degrees to the unbaked loaf)

Angle the blade at 45 degrees

Slash in a straight line

Curve the slash

Snip the dough with a pair of scissors

 

STEP 10  –  COOLING YOUR BAKED BREAD

Cool on a wire cooling rack for at least an hour. Don’t be tempted to start the feast as further baking takes place in the resting period.

TIPS

SRETCHING
The reason for stretching is to redistribute the small bubbles of gas and yeast cells, you do not want to knock out the air bubbles. That is why you work gently with the dough, not kneading, just stretching the gluten and then letting it in peace to carry on creating more gas bubbles.

FIRST OR BULK FERMENTATION
I prefer to leave my dough in the fridge for a very slow, very long fermentation – up to eight hours. This improves the flavour and texture of the bread.

SHAPING
The goal is to form the dough into the shape you want and to create a strong, smooth skin without allowing it to tear by over working it.

FINAL PROVE OR BENCH PROVE
Shaping has knocked out a good deal of gas out of the dough, if you do not give it a bit of time to create a bit more gas, the finished pieces will be dense. Do this in the pan you are going to bake the bread in, or if baking in pizza oven, on a silicon sheet on a baking peel where you will cause the least bit of upset when you transfer it.  Cover with a cloth to keep from drying out.

SLASHING THE LOAF BEFORE BAKING
This is done to give the dough somewhere to go. The skin on a shaped dough that has risen is more elastic that you realise. The inside wants to expand as the loaf heats, but more times than not, the outer shell doesn’t want to budge. By slashing the bread by at least 1 cm, you create fissures through which the hot bread can spread. Skip this step and your loaves will be very dense.

You can use an old fashioned razor blade, but a very sharp serrated knife is better at the job. Do not place any downward pressure on the blade, literally drag it across the surface of the loaf. Otherwise – use a pair of scissors and make 2 or 3 deep cuts right into the dough.

In artisan bread terms, you are creating an ear – the more pronounced the ‘ear’ the better it is supposed to be.

Stretched dough

Pulling edges together.

Clear tubs with lids to leave the dough in.


Dough just before shaping.

This dough makes lovely airy and light vetkoek

 

 

 

 

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