Sunday 3 August 2008

Plain white rolls

Sometimes I just want a plain ordinary (though delicious all the same) white roll to use for making sandwiches to take into work. This is just such a roll. I'd like to say that I bake all my own bread, but sadly I'm just a little too disorganised to make that claim. I tend to run out and need some sooner than I can make it. I have thus far resisted (and this is difficult for a gadget loving girl) buying a breadmaker on the grounds that I won't use it enough - although I have sandwiches pretty much every day, there's still just the one of me eating the bread, so the machine would get used once a week max. Anyway, I digress. So, back to the bread.

One of my favourite bakers is Dan Lepard. I'm not sure where I was introduced to his recipes, but I guess it was probably via the 'How to Bake' column that he writes each Saturday in the Guardian Weekend magazine section. From there I followed his recipes onto the internet, to his extremely helpful forum and discovered that not only does he make (excellent) cakes, he actually specialises in bread and yeast bakery. I've learnt (and am still learning) lots from reading the forums, especially as he often replies personally to people's problems and will explain recipes and techniques in detail, and the forum also inspired me to buy his book, The Handmade Loaf. More to come on that hopefully, but I need to get a sourdough starter going yet......

He has lots of different bread recipes, some of them using different techniques, like this one. I adapted this recipe from one he originally published for red onion and green olive rolls. I made them once in the original format, and they were really good, but this time I wanted something plain for lunches.

Dan's kneading techinque is different from the 'old school' mix ingredients together and knead for ten minutes way. He advocates three short kneads (and they really are short - about 30 seconds each) with 10 minutes resting time inbetween each knead. This initially sounds like a complete faff, with all that hanging around, but I tend to be making something else at the same time, and so the time passes quickly enough, in fact I often stretch ten minutes to fifteen or even twenty on occasion. The idea of kneading on an oiled surface is a revelation as well - no more throwing flour all over everything to stop the dough sticking and ending up in a sticky floury mess. I take this a step further and knead on a wooden chopping board, which means that if anything does happen to stick I can just pick up the board and easily wash/scrape it off.

The difference in this roll is that it incorporates cooked flour. Dan says that this helps to keep the roll moister for longer. (I haven't done any experiments on this, but see no reason to disbelieve him, and it is a lovely, close textured yet light roll).

Plain white rolls (makes 9)
400ml water
2 tsp easy-blend yeast
500g strong white flour
2 level tsp salt
Polenta or cornmeal for dusting

Weigh 50g flour into a saucepan then add 400ml cold water and whisk. Bring to the boil, whisking furiously then spoon the mixture into a large mixing bowl and leave until warm. Beat in the yeast, add the remaining flour and salt, and work to a smooth dough. Cover and leave 10 minutes, then knead on a lightly oiled worktop for about 10 seconds then cover and leave 10 minutes. Repeat this knead-and-rest sequence twice more at 10 minute intervals then leave covered for 30 min. Roll the dough on a floured surface to about 20cm by 25cm, brush with water and sprinkle with polenta. Cut into 9 pieces, lay these spaced apart on 1 or 2 trays (lined with paper if you want although I didn't bother), cover and leave 1 1/2 hours. Heat the oven to 220C (220C fan-assisted) and bake for 20-25 minutes.

The cooked flour and water mixture. It looks like wallpaper paste, but have faith!!!

The brand of yeast I used. I used a scant two teaspoons of yeast and a scant two teaspoons of salt. It was quite warm the day I made them so I could possibly have used less yeast.

Come on, hurry up and cool down!!! I think I waited until it was about 40C before adding the yeast etc.

Mixing the rest of the ingredients in. It looks far too dry, but don't give up, just keep going.

Magic - after the first kneading the dough somehow miraculously comes together!

After the third kneading and ready to be shaped.

To show the fermentation and crumb structure.

Risen and ready for the oven. I dusted mine with flour, perhaps a little too generously.

Delicious crumb structure of the inside of one of the bread rolls. And below, the final product. Really tasty bread, very much recommended.

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