Sunday, 8 November 2015

Easy, Quick, No-knead Soft Sandwich Loaf (UK Recipe)

This is my Saturday morning bread recipe; a reliable sandwich loaf that's good for toasting, dipping in soup, and making sandwiches (of course).  I make it most Saturday mornings, getting it started while I make my morning coffee before I've even woken up properly and it's ready by [insert suitable time of day that doesn't make me sound lazy].  It's easy, no kneading just a bit of folding, it's quick, no 24 hour waiting, and the ingredients are straightforward, no weird bubbling sour dough starters to keep alive.

please don't look at how much my extractor switch needs cleaning, look at the lovely loaf. mmm loaf.
375g (Organic) Strong White Bread Flour
125g (Organic) Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour (or you could use all white)
7g Easy/Quick Yeast (the kind that you add straight into the flour), this is about 2 tsps
7-8g Salt, (it's important to weigh the salt because one tsp of salt flakes has a much bigger volume than 1 tsp of table salt) 
Wet (wet should come to 335 to 340g)
1 tbsp of oil
1 tbsp of cider vinegar (I use raw unfiltered organic cider vinegar)
About 80ml semi skimmed milk
"arm (not hot) water (about 200-250 ml, but weight it, rather than measure it, see below)
1 generous tbsp of honey

Equipment: Large mixing bowl, add-and-weigh scales, 2lb loaf tin, and some measuring spoons.

Ingredients, soft no-knead sandwich loaf, white & wholemeal

1. Measure out your ingredients:
You can weigh everything into the large mixing bowl to save on washing, just go slowly when adding the water as it's the hardest bit to remove if you go over!  Weigh your flour, zero the scales and add the yeast, stir it in and add the salt.  Zero your scales and add the oil and vinegar, top up with milk until your scales read about 100g, then slowly pour in the lukewarm water until the scales read 335-340g. Then add a tablespoon of honey.

2. Mix your dough:
Stir it all together with a metal spoon, scraping the sides of the bowl down. You'll probably need to finish off with your hands. All you need to do is get all of the dough evenly wet making sure that you don't have any big lumps of dry flour.  You don't have to knead the dough, in fact it's too sticky for kneading, which is a good excuse not to.  Cover the bowl with cling film.
Your mixed dough will look shaggy, like this, it's supposed to, honest.

3. Prove your dough / First rise:
Microwave a cup of water for 60 seconds to warm up the microwave interior. Then put the bowl in the microwave and leave it for 40 minutes. No microwave? Leave the dough somewhere warm (preferably about 22C, but 18-21C works, just add another 5, 10 or 15 minutes if the dough hasn't puffed up).

In the meantime oil and flour your loaf tin. Use kitchen paper to spread oil evenly over the interior of the loaf tin, then sprinkle it generously with flour and shake it around so that there is a light dusting everywhere, then tip out any excess onto the board you'll be using to shape your dough.

Oiled and floured Mermaid 2lb loaf tin, this makes the loaf slip out easily. No sticking! No Teflon required.

 After 40 minutes the dough should be big and puffy.

This dough has puffed up. You could leave this one a little longer, I used the dough like this.

4. Shape your loaf and second rise:
Sprinkle a layer of flour over a big chopping board, or non-stick silicon mat, and spread it around with both hands.
Flour your work surface; this is a silicon mat from Lakeland, less mess than working on the counter
Tip the dough onto the board. It will be sticky, you'll see the dough be stringy - that's the moisture working on the gluten.

Your dough should look stringy like this after first rise (without kneading)

(1) flatten
You're not going to knead the loaf, but you do need to make the dough hold it's shape a little better. You're going to do that by gently folding the dough over, then making it the right shape for the tin.

Flatten out your dough into a rough oval (1).

Then fold the dough in thirds, by taking the right third over the middle third (2).

(2) fold in right third
Take hold of the left third and then gently stretch it over the other folded pieces (3).

Fold the dough in half top to bottom, then squidge the dough flat and do the same serires of folds again, right third, left third, which will leave you with an oblong piece of dough.

It should now feel a bit more cooperative, but will still want to stick to your hands, don't worry, that's just what this dough is like.

(3) fold left third over the other 2 thirds

roll up your dough like a swiss roll

To shape the loaf for the tin, you need to roll it up like a swiss roll. Shape the dough into a rough square that is a little bit narrower than the width of your baking tin then roll the dough up tightly like a swiss roll and tuck the ends underneath.

Turn the dough over, then flatten is slightly. Then gently roll the dough up again, you might only be able to do this in thirds or it might roll a little tighter.

after the second roll-up, pinch the seam together

Tuck the edges under, and pinch the seam together.

Lift the loaf and place it gently in your floured tin, seam-side down. Sprinkle with flour and cover with cling film.

Warm the microwave up again by nuking a cup of water.Then put the dough in the microwave to rise for about 45 minutes.

Loaf shaped dough, just put into the oiled 2lb tin. The ends are a bit fat on this one, but it turns out OK!

The risen dough will puff up past the sides of the tin

After 45 minutes, the dough should be just starting to rise above the tin.  If not leave it a bit longer, but check every 5 minutes; this is a wet dough that might collapse if you leave it too long.

5. Bake your loaf:
Turn the oven on to heat up with a target temperature of 190C fan. After about 5 minutes of warming up, put the loaf in the oven (minus the cling film!). Set the timer for 25 minutes.
This loaf is baked at a slightly lower temperature than I see for most loaf recipes, that's to stop the crust from getting too dark or too hard (the honey makes a loaf that burns easily) or generally becoming OH unfriendly.  My disclaimer is of course, that these are the temperatures that my smallish digital oven claims it is baking at, your oven might make different claims. I know my big oven burns everything it sets it's eyes on in one back corner. So, use your experience of your own oven to make adjustments.

After 25 minutes, turn the heat off and let the loaf cook for another 5 minutes in the residual heat of the oven. The loaf should come out mid-brown. Take it out of the tin and a tap on the bottom of the loaf should sound hollow, if it doesn't it might need another 5 minutes.

Let the loaf cool *completely* on a rack before trying to slice it. That's very important. The bread isn't finished until it's cool. Cut too early and the middle will make claggy dough balls. Patience friends. Patience.

If you don't get through bread quickly, you can keep a sliced loaf in the freezer, just taking out a slice or two when you need it. No waste.

My bread-making equipment:
This recipe makes a loaf the right size for a 2lb loaf tin. The loaf in the picture is from one of my two hard anodised Mermaid tins, which I like better than non-stick coated for high oven temperatures. I also use Alan Silverwood 2lb Loaf Tins, which are slightly lower and wider and also hard anodised rather than Teflon coated.  You can double the recipe to make two loaves and bake them side-by-side.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Interim allotment dividend

So, my new 1/2 allotment is mostly covered in black plastic and it's not exactly a vegetable production power-house as yet. But, since someone left a trailer-sized pile of horse manure at the lotty gate and no-one else wanted to barrow it up the hill, I piled it into 3 mini heaps amongst the sea of plastic. In a fit of enthusiastic optimism, I sowed some winter squash rather late, and planted them on the muck heaps.

This is what I harvested last Saturday. In theory they are "curing" (their skin drying and hardening ready for storage) basking in the sun (!) in the warm (!?) conservatory on a slatted bench. 

winter squash drying on a bench
winter squash, pears and peppers

From what I can remember, these are, clockwise from the front: Blue Banana (somewhat under-ripe, so more green than blue but you can see what it was aiming for), a majestic-looking Hubbard,  2 x Burgess Vine Buttercup, one large, one small,  something intimidatingly large and a bit gnarly that I can't remember the name of, I dub it "Two-Hand-Carry Squash of Awesome" for now, and behind that is another one where I didn't check the plant label when I harvested it, it's a large zeppelin-shaped dark  blue/green with light blue stripes squash that might be a Blue Banana but looks considerably darker and more stripy than the actually definitely a Blue Banana squash (note to self: check labels), behind the mysteries there is a properly ripe pale blue Blue Banana, and finally a Squashkin.

You can also see some lovely Doyenne du Comice and Garden Pearl pears (from trees that grow in air pots on the patio) and the last 3 of this years Gypsy (sweet) Peppers from the conservatory.  They are not quite ripe, but following a spectacular red spider mite breakout, the plants were ditched early this year. Much sprinkling of diatomaceous earth. Much sadness. Much grumbling.

Anyway, actually bringing something back from the black plastic wasteland keeps me motivated to dig on. I'm clearing weeds by hand (well, with a shovel and a fork too, not just hands, that would not be super-effective) at the less than impressive rate of 10 sq ft per hour.