Friday, March 11, 2011

Bread - Dough for Pizza

One millilitre of water weighs one gram. That is one of the simpler things I learnt this week at a bread making class with Paul Rhodes and his master baker Jan, organised by the real bread campaign.

Other liquids need to be weighed because there is no such simple correlation, but all liquids for baking are measured by weight not volume. Baking is such a precise art. When presented with the consummate skill and obvious passion of both Paul and Jan it is also a real joy. They take time out of a very serious schedule - Rhodes uses 2 tonnes of flour a day in its baking which translates into a serious number of loaves - to bring real bread to a wider public. They are part of this campaign to have bread made in schools and other public institutions for its simplicity and nutrional value, but mostly for its wonderful flavour and texture and the pleasure that gives.

We made a simple white dough - starts out sticky and unmanageable but add only the smallest dusting of flour or the fine balance of weighed ingredients will be lost. The dough quickly becomes manageable and then, with a couple of lessons from both bakers, I was throwing the dough onto the bench, stretching it up and kneading it into a ball, making a quarter turn before throwing and stretching and kneading and turning again. The dough went from very soft to resilient in less than ten minutes, beautifully smooth it bounces back when you make a finger indent. Almost magic.

Left it for a while to decorate our wholemeal cottage tin loaves that we made first and came back to find each ball of dough smooth and risen and smelling wonderfully of yeast. Punched it down, rolled it out and made a base for pizza. Lunch!

I have always shied away from making bread - my few previous attempts have been genuine total fail - so it was a surprise to discover how good it could be. The first thing we were told - great bread needs no more than flour, yeast, salt and water and a small amount of attention to detail is so very true. The only other trick is that a golden crust needs steam - if you don't have a combination oven then simply toss a cup of water into the base of your hot oven before you put the bread in and you will have your own steam cloud, and a lovely crust.

Basic White Bread

500g strong white flour
10g salt
325g lukewarm water - yes you should weigh it!

15g fresh (live) yeast

Sift the flour and salt together. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the liquid. Mix it all together with your hands, it starts off a wildly sticky mess but gets better!

Very very lightly dust the bench with flour and roll the dough into a ball. Knead it well using the fat base of your thumb till it becomes smooth and elastic. This takes about ten minutes.

Leave to prove for about an hour.
The dough will have grown larger and smoother. Knead it again for about five minutes till it feels smooth and resilient rather than soft.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle then roll out till it's about half a centimetre thick. Carefully put it onto a flat baking tray being careful not to tear the dough. Leave to rest again for 15 minutes, then push the edges out if it has shrunk.

Spread with a thin layer of tomato passata and top with whatever it is you love most on pizza.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in a hot oven.



At Anna's kitchen table said...

Interesting post - thank you!
I've learnt something new today thanks to you Bron!

bron said...

Glad I could share it with you Anna - it was a most brilliant day in the kitchen.