Many home bakers are continually striving to improve their bread, particularly the external appearance of the bread. (I will deal with the internal appearance or crumb in another blog)
They want to their bread to look like those on instagram or in high street artisan bakeries; instagrammers have filters, professional bakers have steam ovens.
Most domestic ovens, apart from Aga style ovens, remove any steam that is inside, so the oven is “dry” To recreate the humidity of the professional oven home bakers have to trap steam around the bread; many do this with a dutch oven. These are heavy duty cast iron bowls with close fitting lids, think Le Creuset. They can be expensive, heavy and cumbersome.
I have recently started baking at home using glass pyrex bowls, they are cheap, stackable, see through and do the same job. You can often find them in pound shops for less than a tenner; I have seen them in two sizes 8inch (200mm) or 9 inch 230mm lid. I recommend getting the smaller size (you can make a loaf up to 800gms). As your home baked bread becomes more popular with your friends and family you may want to start using a larger bowl for a much larger loaf (up to 1300gms)
So this is how one can bake a simple round country style loaf in a pyrex bowl.
- Hearth Blend white Flour 300gms
- Luke warm water 180-200mls
- salt 5-6 gms
- dried yeast 4gms / half sachet
- 100 gms of your sour dough starte
Put ALL ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir together with wooden spoon until fully combined. This should take 3-5 minutes, the dough will be sticky. Then continue to stir the dough for another couple of minutes with the spoon, you do not have to get your hands covered in sticky dough. Place the bowl on top of a metal sauce pan half full with hot (not boiling) water. Cover the bowl with plate, leave for 3-5 minutes. The dough bowl should ideally not be touching the hot water.
Remove bowl of dough from the sauce pan and stir the dough with the wooden spoon for 1 minute. Pro tip – leave the wooden spoon in a measuring jug of water.
Replace bowl on top of the sauce pan, cover and leave for 3-5 minutes. If you kitchen is very cold and the water and dough go cold then simply replace the water or put the saucepan on the stove and heat it up a little.
Then repeat the stirring with the spoon a couple more times until the dough no longer feels sticky. You can touch, knead or fold the dough in the bowl with one hand dipped in saucepan warm water, this stops you from having to constantly having to wash dough off your fingers.
Pro tip It is always better to have a dough that is a bit softer (more water) than you would expect, rather than too firm or dry (less water) as it is much easier to add a little flour than add a little water.
Cover with the plate and leave on top of the saucepan of warm water to rest for 20-40 minutes. The dough should not feel cold on your elbow, it should feel warm on your elbow. There is no correct temperature, but it should be in the region of 24c to 29c The cooler the temperature the better the bread will be because the fermentation or proving time will be longer, and you can fold (turn) the dough more times.
I would really recommend buying a digital temperature probe. They are cheap and will help you achieve consistency. In my next blog i will explain how to make a dough the same temperature every time regardless of the kitchen or flour temperature.
When dough has risen a little, it should NOT double in size, remove from the bowl and place on lightly floured worktop
Gently shape the dough into a ball using the flour on the worktop to stop it sticking to your hands.
Cover the dough ball with the bowl it was previously in and leave to rest for 10-30 minutes
Pro tip This intermediate prove or bench rest really helps with the final shaping.
At this stage you should see and feel the bubbles of air trapped in the silky smooth dough, Leave the dough on the floury worktop covered with the mixing bowl for 10-30 minutes .
Take a clean smooth tea towel a place it flat on the worktop, put a large handful of flour in the centre of the tea towel and gently rub the flour into the cloth, approx 12 inch circle (you may need another handful of flour) This is to stop the dough sticking to the cloth as it proves.
Pro tip. The longer the dough is proving in the tea towel the more likely it is to stick, so if you are placing the dough in the fridge for several hours use more flour.
Now is the time to turn on the oven at full temperature and place the pyrex lid inside.
You are now ready to shape the dough ball that has been resting under the bowl. Gently pick it up with floury hands and fold and tuck the dough under as you turn it, this tensions or firms the dough. Place the round dough ball upside down (seam facing up) in the middle of the floury patch on the tea towel. Then gather up the edges of the cloth and lift it and place it in the pyrex bowl, sprinkle a little more flour around the edges of the dough and fold over the cloth.. Cover with a plate and set aside for the final prove. You can of course put the dish in the fridge to cool it down, or sit it on top of some warm (not hot) water to keep the dough warm.
Check every 20 minutes by gently pushing your floury little finger into the dough, your finger should NOT leave a hollow in the dough. If you are unsure it is better to be cautious and place the dough in the oven sooner rather than leave proving for longer. As you gain more experience you will be much better at judging the proving time. But always remember that the dough and room temperature are critical.
When you think it is ready for baking, with oven gloves carefully remove the hot pyrex lid from the oven and place on heat proof surface With kitchen tissue very lightly oil the lid. Gently tip the dough out of the bowl onto your hand or straight onto the pyrex lid, remove the cloth, cut the top of the dough if desired and then place the bowl on top of the lid. With oven gloves place in the hot oven and turn the temperature down to 200-220c gas 5/ 6 , leave for 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully lift the bowl off the lid, watch out for the steam. Replace the lid and bread in the oven to crisp it up, approximately another 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and if necessary use a knife to prise the loaf out of the lid and place it on cooling wire for an hour.