Archive for 03/10/2012

Fur, feathers and pig’s pancreas

Take the above ingredients, mix with genetically modified soya and ultra-white flour containing bleach and add an impressive array of chemicals, enzymes and E-numbers. Et voila! What’ve you got?

A plastic-wrapped supermarket loaf of bread! (See the Herald Magazine article “FAKE BAKE“.)

Oh yuck! Ugh!! Ick, ick, ick!!!

We’re off to The Millwheel in town for some organic unbleached bread flour, and we’re going to get our hands sticky with dough.

Granny Blanc says “What did I tell you?”, and a lot more involving “When I was a girl …” and “No self-respecting person …” etc., etc., and smugly offers her recette for Pain Rustique, made by fermenting a starter in the traditional way.

To make the starter:

Put 325ml (11fl oz) water into a large jar and sprinkle in 2tsps dried yeast. Leave it for about 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 250g (8oz) unbleached strong white flour and cover the jar with a tea towel. Leave to ferment at warm room temperature for a couple of days, stirring the mixture twice a day. It should be bubbly, and have a freshly sour smell.

To make the dough:

Pour 200ml (7fl oz) water into a small bowl and sprinkle on 1tsp dried yeast. Again, leave for 5 minutes and stir to dissolve.

In a large bowl mix 50g (1 3/4oz) rye flour, 325g (11oz) unbleached strong white flour and 1 1/2tsps salt and make a well in the centre. Measure out 250ml (8fl oz) of the starter and pour into the well with the yeasted water. (Reserve the remaining starter in the jar – see later.)

Using a wooden spoon, pull the flours into the well from the sides of the bowl and mix until you have a stiff, sticky dough. (If the dough is looking a bit dry, you can gradually add water 1 tbsp at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well until it feels smooth and elastic. (Granny says the texture of the dough should feel like pinching someone’s earlobe. We’ll let you work that one out.) Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2 hours. Knock back, then leave it to rest for 10 minutes, otherwise it will have a life of its own when you try to shape it.

Shape the dough into a plump round ball, place it on a floured baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Leave it to prove in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Alternatively, it can be proved in the traditional way by placing the dough in a small round basket about 20cm (8in) in diameter, lined with a well-floured tea towel. This helps the ball of dough to keep its shape, and should give you a nice basket pattern on top when you invert the proved dough onto a baking sheet.

When proved, lightly dust the loaf with flour. Using a very sharp knife (Granny uses a scalpel …) cut three parallel slashes about 5mm (1/2in) deep across the top, then another three in the opposite direction.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (220C/425F/gas 7) for about 1 hour. The loaf should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath. If you can bear it, leave to cool on a wire rack, then enjoy with plenty of butter.

To refresh the starter:

Add 125ml (4fl oz) of water and 125g (4oz) to the starter remaining in the jar. Ferment at warm room temperature for 12-24 hours before refrigerating. Warm to room temperature before use. If you don’t make bread regularly, the starter should be “fed” every two weeks by discarding half and replacing with equal quantities of flour and water.