Firstly, sorry for the absence, I've been busy getting a new job!!! That having been achieved, I'll hopefully be posting more!!! This post serves dual purpose, to tell you about the best bread I've made to date, and to enter Celia's Cottage Loaf bake-off. You can see a round up of the cottage loaves here. The recipe for the bread is very similar to this one that I first made back in November for the Fresh from the Oven challenge. I decided recently to adapt the recipe slightly. I don't often have milk in because I don't eat cereal and I don't like hot drinks, so milk is not at the top of the shopping list. I wondered if I could make a bread with a fine texture like the half milk half water tin loaf without using milk. I decided to keep the proportions of plain and strong white flour the same, but substitute all water (hand hot) for the milk. However, remembering how silky smooth and lovely to work with this olive oil dough was, I decided to add a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to the dough to try and recreate that soft texture. (And yes, I know that the finest extra virgin olive oil should only be used for salad dressings to appreciate its unique bouquet/flavours/aroma etc etc but realistically, the EVOO I buy from the supermarket isn't top notch-remortgage your house stuff, it's nice enough but not that special. Also, if you live on your own having loads of different bottles of oil open means lots of stale oil after a while..... after all, I don't drink it!)
Did my recipe work? I certainly think so. The other thing I added was a little vitamin C powder, a trick learnt from Dan Lepard to improve the texture of bread. I can't honestly say what made the difference, whether it was the vit C, or the olive oil, but this was the best bread I've made yet. It was soft, with quite a close crumb, perfect for toasting or sandwiches (being sturdy enough to stand up to the journey to work). It was similar to the sort of bread you can buy at the supermarket bread counter unsliced, but better! I'm not suggesting it has the depth of flavour of a rye/spelt/grain/sourdough loaf, but it's perfect for day to day unchallenging yet rewarding eating.
So when I saw that Celia was holding a Cottage Loaf bake off with free reign to choose the dough you want, I decided to see how this dough would hold up. Although I was pleased with the final result in terms of looks and the taste of the bread, I have to confess to cheating. I dutifully shaped my bread into a cottage loaf shape and watched it prove outwards instead of upwards, in a collapsing fashion! So a quick reknead and reshape was on the cards, and it was put straight into the oven without being allowed to rise!!! Against all bread making rules but who cares, it's only me eating it and the only thing I noticed was the crumb is a little tighter than usual. Still good though!
Plain white bread
150g plain flour
300g strong white flour
315ml/g hand hot (lukewarm) water
1tsp instant yeast
1tsp fine salt
1/8 tsp vitamin C powder
1tbsp olive oil
Mix all ingredients together until a rough dough is formed without any flour remaining in the bowl. Leave for 10 minutes or so. Knead briefly, for around 10-15 seconds. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat this process twice. Leave for 30 minutes. Shape as required - for a tin, or as a cottage loaf. Leave until increased in size by about 1/2 or so (I find it hard to tell, but you want there to have been movement! and bear in mind that I reshaped my cottage loaf at this point!). Preheat the oven to gas 7/220C. Place loaf in oven and give it 10 minutes. Reduce heat to gas 6/200C and give it 20 minutes more. At this point, the cottage loaf (using a half batch of dough) was done, but I usually turn the tin loaf out and give it 10 minutes more upside down to crisp the base. These are the timings that work for my oven, you want the loaf to sound hollow when tapped on the base. It should be a lovely golden brown too.