Sunday, January 13, 2013

Instructions incomplete

I was at a loose end this afternoon, so after killing time in the most pointless ways (e.g. turning on the TV at random and watching a whole episode of Doctor Who, even though I haven't watched it since the 80s, and didn't have a clue what was going on) I decided it might be a better idea to do some breadmaking.

Brown bread (no knead) (p22) is the last of the bread recipes. I'd had to wait until I could get my hands on some kibbled wheat, but as chance would have it, I made a mission to Bin Inn yesterday for this and one or two other hard-to-find ingredients. Bin Inn is definitely the place to look for a lot of things you can't get in the supermarket.

The first step in the recipe is to place the kibbled wheat in a a bowl with some boiling water, and leave it to stand for 20 minutes. I poured the hot water over the kibbled wheat and turned back to the recipe, trying to establish whether I could continue with any other parts of the recipe while I was waiting for the 20 minutes to pass.

As I read through the recipe, something struck me as odd. I read it again, and again. No, I wasn't missing anything. The recipe begins with the instruction "Combine kibbled wheat and water. Set aside for 20 minutes." After that, the kibbled wheat is not mentioned again. It goes on to describe the use of flour, yeast etc, but it never tells you what to do with that soaked kibbled wheat.

I was tempted to follow the recipe to the letter, and end with a photo of the completed bread sitting next to the jug of abandoned kibbled wheat. I decided not to go ahead with this, as the kibbled wheat would be wasted. Common sense would dictate that it had to be added to the dough at some stage (though I was unsure of whether it should be drained, or the excess water included, or whether I should expect all the water to be absorbed) so I figured I'd just throw it in at some point.

I started by combining wholemeal flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of my mixer. The recipe doesn't mention a mixer at this point, but it does indicate an electric mixer later on, and I didn't see any reason to do the early mixing in a different bowl. I spent a little time trying to work out how much yeast to add; I had sachet yeast where the recipe indicated surebake. There's conversion information at the beginning of the breads and buns recipes, but after trying to force my slow-moving Sunday brain to work out the right quantity, I ended up just shrugging and tipping in one sachet.

Next into the bowl were a cup of cold water, some golden syrup, and a cup of boiling water. I guess the idea is the cold water prevents the hot water from killing the yeast. This mixture was left to stand for a few minutes, after which I stirred in an egg, and began adding the white flour. After two of the three cups of flour were in, the miture was starting to get a bit stiff, so I tipped in the kibbled wheat, excess water and all, before stirring in the final cup of flour.

This is where the mixer comes in. I attached the bowl back on the mixer, and set it on low for a couple of minutes. I decided to use the bread hook attachment, (because it seemed appropriate) but the ordinary paddle would have worked fine.

I was pleased to see that the mixture resembled the "thick batter...not quite as thick as a dough" described in the recipe. Maybe I'd got the kibbled wheat bit right. I divided the mixture into two greased loaf tins and set them in the pantry for the dough to rise.

After half ah our or so, the dough was threatening to overflow both loaf tins. I transferred them from pantry to oven and crossed my fingers that they would bake ok. 35 minutes later, the loaves came out looking beautiful. I tipped them out onto a rack and let them cool for a while before cutting myself a slice.

This bread was actually quite successful, despite my confusion over the recipe. It's soft and unusually moist, which I hope means it won't go stale as quickly. I always prefer a grainy bread, so the chunks of kibbled wheat throughout are definitely to my liking, and somehow it's avoided forming that massively thick crust that I always seem to get with homemade bread.

I'm not delighted with the way this particular recipe has been written: it's wordy but not all that clear. There's certainly an instruction missing about the kibbled wheat. Still, if you use your common sense and bung it in somewhere, you do end up with two very nice loaves of bread.

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