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Archive for June, 2014

This was my second attempt at baguettes. The first attempt was actually a success too but I just took a quick snap on my phone, so I thought next time I’ll try and get some nicer looking photos. Baguettes are something I don’t actually buy very often unless I’m on holiday. I don’t know if this is because I associate baguettes with family holidays to the Northern France when I was younger, but for some reason being away in the sun means that I love a bit of baguette action.

When I do get round to buying or in this case making them, then I just like tearing them apart and having them with cheese and chutney, fancy olive oil and posh balsamic vinegar or just dunking them straight into a pot of hummus. Lovely.

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Whatever the reason is for not buying them when I’m back in Blighty I don’t know, what I do know is I’m going to be baking them myself a lot more regularly. I just use the usual basic white bread recipe which is strong white flour, salt, yeast and water. I’m always impressed how few ingredients turn into something as tasty as bread! The recipe I used was really similar to the one here, except I obviously shaped the dough into baguettes rather than chucking it into a tin.

two breads

Now, I’m struggling a little bit with shaping my breads at the moment. I find that when it comes to shaping them the dough is just a bit too wet to handle comfortably without my hands sticking to it. I don’t mind this when kneading, but it makes it fairly problematic when you try and create a shape but it just keeps sticking to your hand. I suspect if I knead the dough a bit more it will become smoother and more elastic and less likely to stick… I’m not too sure but hopefully this is something that comes with time.

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In the end the shaping of these didn’t go too badly, not perfect baguettes by any means but for a first attempt I’d say they’re alright!  The end results were definitely baguette like, but they did have a bit of ciabatta to them too – the holes were slightly larger than normal baguette but nothing like the size of those in ciabatta. I think this is possibly due to the amount of water I used – 350ml.  I personally quite liked this about them, they were slightly chewy which I find very satisfying. Despite being fairly thin they were also really good for sandwiches.

So I need to work on my shaping technique still which I suspect is something that will take quite a long time to get right. Apart from that, these were a pretty good success – and they were brilliant with cheese and chutney!

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Hmm. Well this didn’t quite go to plan. I would say this was a case of trying to run before I could walk. Luckily I only ended up scraping my knees rather than landing flat on my face.

Looking back it doesn’t seem quite as bad I as thought it was at the time, but it’s still obviously not quite right. I took some snaps to show where it went wrong, but wasn’t going to bother attempting to get some nicer looking photos of this one!

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I got overexcited and wanted to start chucking loads of tasty things into my bread, which is exactly what I did. The basic dough recipe I used here was effectively a milk bread – using full fat milk instead of water. I used a James Morton recipe as I’m slowly working my way through that book, but this one here is very similar except I used honey instead of golden syrup and I used 500g of strong bread flour instead of the mix of strong and plain.

Now I had only used this recipe for bread cobs before and they were pretty good, so I thought I’d be fine just using it again but baking it in a loaf tin and adding some cheese and onion. I had a quick look online for a bit of advice about having extra bits and bobs in the bread. I decided to keep the cheese fairly chunky so it stayed as defined bits of cheese. I think if I grated the cheese it would have become incorporated into the dough and changed the way it would prove and bake. So after the first prove I mixed in my cheese and onion, shaped the dough and chucked it into a loaf tin and left it for another hour. During that hour it had risen a fair bit and seemed slightly large for the tin but I was impatient and wanted my bread so I chucked it in the oven.

When I checked on it after 30 minutes the loaf was huge and had started to seep and sag over one side of the tin… Pretty sexy I’m sure you’ll agree. _DSC0157

 

It was also veeeery dark on top and I had no foil to make a daft little bread tent, so I flipped it out of the tin and returned it to the oven upside down and left it in til I could tap the bottom and it sounded hollow.

So the end result isn’t a complete disaster but the top is definitely burnt and the shape is dead wonky. I’m pretty certain the bread burnt because this dough has a lot more sugar in that the previous bread I’ve baked so is likely to brown (or blacken) a lot quicker. I now know for the next time to put the oven down a bit and keep my eye on it a bit more.

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I also need to work on my shaping of the bread before putting it into the tin. This looks like the sausage I formed was thicker on one side which is why it overflowed slightly and the cross section ended up looking like a bit mushroomy.

Despite the obvious “issues” this loaf has, beneath it’s hard, cracked and bitter top was a really tasty bread. The type you can just eat without anything else because the cheese and onion give it enough flavour on it’s own. I’ll be experimenting more with bits in bread in future posts, I just need a bit more practice with the basic doughs.

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_DSC0005When I’ve mentioned the breads I’ve made to people this is the one that people seem most interested in. That’s because focaccia is bloody great.  It’s also surprisingly easy to make. This is a good one to try fairly early on as it’s really different to a standard white. The dough is incredibly wet and a bit tricky to handle but if you use James Morton’s recipe here, then you don’t need to handle it very much and you’ll still get brilliant results.

Most of the time I’ve baked this it has been just had salt and olive oil and I still find it hard to resist just tearing chunks out of it before it’s barely had time to cool. I am a right greedy bastard though, perhaps other people will show a little more self restraint than myself. It’s also easy to jazz it up by adding various toppings. I’ve tried cherry tomatoes, Peppadew peppers and some feta cheese before. This was really tasty but some of the toppings were a tad too heavy and pushed the dough down in certain areas, making it a bit too dense. I think chopping the pieces into smaller chunks will help, and also trying to remove as much of the moisture as possible before chucking them on. This is just me musing however, so if anyone else knows more I’m all ears!

The recipe above is the one I’ve used here, and I was really pleased with the results. It is a no knead recipe which is helpful as it really is a wet dough.  I had no idea what I was aiming for when I made this but now I’m fairly confident in making this one without encountering any problems, so here are a few things I’ve discovered.

–  As I may have mentioned, this dough is reaaaally wet – don’t panic and add more flour to make it manageable as this moisture helps make the focaccia so tasty and light. The crumb should have fairly big holes.

– Be aware of the proving times. I personally wouldn’t worry about letting the first prove go on a bit longer than specified – you’re going to knock it back down anyway and letting things proof a bit longer apparently help the flavour. The second (final) prove is different however – I wouldn’t let the second prove go on any longer than specified. Over-proving allows too much gas to develop in the bread and when you poke your fingers into the dough, it will probably just deflate into a sad gloopy mess. I’ve personally not run into this with Focaccia but I’ve had it plenty of times with a basic white dough.

– Don’t by shy with the olive oil! Despite being pretty chunky and not being scared to stuff my face I often worry about putting too much oil into things. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter – some things just need lots of oil. Focaccia is one of them. When it says oil your hands, oil your hands good and proper. Don’t be scared. Same goes with the baking try. The oil makes this dough a lot easier to handle as it won’t stick to you or the tray, and it also makes it much tastier.

So this is one of my efforts – not the first one but a fairly early one – 3rd or 4th maybe. I’ll try it with some toppings for a future post to see if I can prevent the dough sinking. If anyone has any suggestions for toppings then I’d like to hear them!

 

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