White honey loaf

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Makes one 600g loaf

I’ve chosen Shipton Mill’s Finest White in this bake. There are plenty of good quality extra strong whites out there, but I just love the extra spring this gives my loaves. As bouncy as a new lamb gambolling in buttercups.

An all-white is unusual for me. Normally I can’t help tinkering: adding herbs, nuts, seeds, grains or swapping out the water for beer or other liquid. I just can’t help fiddling but I’ve toned it down here, as just this one ingredient does make a difference on its own. The honey adds a refined, nutty sweetness and I suspect adds to the vigour of the rise, as its carbohydrates would be a welcome additional yeast feast.

A couple of slices of this loaf elevated my bacon sammich to (literally) new heights of crumb fluffiness and bouncy-ness and was also awesome made into French eggy toast.

Notes

Giving my wild yeast starter a bit of a break to recoup, so this is an easy dried yeast recipe.

Makes one large hand raised or banneton-prooved boule/cob loaf.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Baking stone or large thick baking sheet
  • Linen tea towel or couch or banneton
  • Flat (no lip) baking tray or peel
  • Water sprayer

Ingredients

  • Extra strong white bread flour – 600g
  • Water – 350ml (only just tepid)
  • Oil – rapeseed or non-virgin olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Honey – any of your preference. I used a local wildflower honey – 2 level tablespoons plus a little extra
  • Salt, fine (bought fine or freshly milled) – 1 1/2 teaspoons (10g)
  • Fast action dried yeast – 1 1/4 teaspoons (7g)
  • Extra flour for dusting and cleaning hands (no need to use the expensive extra strong white, just normal bread flour will do)

 

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl – I prefer to use a table knife for this process, though you may like to use fingers, a flexible dough scraper or a dough hook on your machine. It will form a very rough-looking sticky mess. This is fine
  2. Leave for ten minutes
  3. Tip out on to a clean surface and use your dough scraper to get all of the residue out. Have your flour and scraper handy
  4. Knead the dough until the surface becomes silky and smooth – this will be about 10 – 12 minutes
  5. If – and only if – the dough is far to sticky to work with, dust a little flour on to the table. Otherwise you should persevere with kneading the dough without adding any more flour (this actually will change the ratio of flour to liquid and other ingredients so it’s best not to dust if you can). It should eventually start to come together without the flour and you can use your scraper from time to time to ensure all the dough is getting kneaded by scraping along the surface
  6. When the dough starts to come together, dust the bowl with flour to prevent it sticking (if you have not managed to take the dough out without leaving a lot behind, you may want to use a clean bowl)
  7. Roll the dough up into a dome and place in the floured bowl
  8. Cover the bowl either with the tea towel/cloth or cling film (or if you have one a cheapo shower cap is ace for this)
  9. Leave to rise somewhere that isn’t cold until the dough looks like it’s about twice the height it was before. This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to three hours depending on how cold a space you have)
  10. Once risen, turn on your oven to 220 C fan / 240 C conventional
  11. Flour your baking stone or thick baking tray and put it in the bottom of your oven
  12. Lightly flour the counter you’re working on and the baking tray or peel
  13. Tip out the risen dough gently into the middle of the flour on the counter and press down gently with your finger tips all over to knock back the dough. Don’t be too vigorous – a lot of issues with bread are when the knocking back is too fierce
  14. Fold the dough over on itself from one side then the other and then fold the ends in
  15. Pinch the loose edges together to get them to ‘stick’
  16. You’re aiming to make the dome of the loaf tense and smooth without tearing it. By folding over towards the centre you create a tension in the surface of the loaf – it should look smooth and taut
  17. You’re after an elongated circle – a similar shape to a capital ‘O’
  18. Liberally flour your tea towel/couch (or prepare your banneton with enough flour)
  19. Place the shaped dough with the seam side down in the middle of the cloth. Push the sides of the cloth up to gather it at the sides of the bread in order to support the shape and stop the bread spreading (though if you have successfully given the surface of the loaf enough tension it should hold, but this will still help)
  20. [If using a banneton,  place with the seam side facing upwards]
  21. Leave for the second proof – roughly an hour depending on the temperature. It will be ready when and it springs back into shape if you press it gently with the pad of a finger
  22. Just before your loaf looks ready, start to heat your oven to 220C fan / 230C conventional and put in the baking tray or stone
  23. When the bread and the oven are ready, carefully scoop up the loaf with your peel or thin baking sheet [or tip out from the banneton to this sheet]
  24. At this point you can slash the loaf if you want or leave it plain to make a nice artisanal crack of its own accord. I’d suggest if you’re nervous about slashing but do want to try, then just make three diagonal scores in the bread – this will help you understand how the bread grows and stretches and you’ll see the outcome,, so you can try something more adventurous next time
  25. Transfer the loaf to the oven and onto the baking stone/tray
  26. Spray the oven or pour a little water into a small tray at the bottom of the oven
  27. Shut the door and set the timer for 10 minutes
  28. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180C fan/190C conventional and bake for another 25 minutes
  29. The bread should be nicely dark (though not burnt) where the slashes or cracks have occurred
  30. Test the loaf’s ‘doneness’ by tapping the bottom of it – it should sound hollow
  31. Leave to cool on a wire rack or something else that will allow airflow to the bottom of the loaf or the evaporated moisture that comes off a new loaf will gather and cause a soggy bottom (yes, this problem isn’t just confined to pastry!)
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