Friday, November 6, 2009

Haiqing's general bread recipe

3 cups bread flour/unbleached all-purpose flour/wheat flour
1 ¼ ~ 1 ½ cups water/milk
1/4 cup canola/olive oil (or ½ ~ 1 bar unsalted butter – soft, at room temperature)
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons honey/ molasses (and/or 2 tablespoons sugar, white or brown)
1 teaspoon salt
1~3 teaspoons dry yeast
Dissolve the yeast in small amount of liquid for several minutes. The amount of the yeast can vary depend on the time one can afford for fermentation. For rise within 2-3 hours, use 3-2 teaspoons; for overnight rise, 1 (even ½) teaspoon is usually enough. Add remaining of the liquid (including water/milk, sugar/honey, oil/butter) to a total volume of 1 ¼ ~ 1 ½ cups. Mix the liquid with flour and salt with chopstick or spoon and let the dough rest for 10 minutes or so. Knead the dough for 20 ~ 30 minutes. This mixing/kneading can also be done by a mixer machine or a bread machine.
Place the dough in a container with a cover. Leave it sit at room temperature for overnight, or find some warm place for 2 hour (e.g. in the unheated oven or microwave with some hot/warm water). Usually long fermentation in low temperature with less yeast gives more flavor of the grains. When the volume doubles, the rise is done.
Roll the dough on flat surface to get rid of some big bubbles in the dough, knead/roll/shape it whatever shape one wants. Nuts, dry fruits, chocolate chips can also be mixed into the dough. Oil the container if you want to bake in a container. Make some cuts on the surface of the dough. Brush milk or egg wash (egg mixed with water) on the surface. Let it proof/sit for 20-40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degree F, put the dough into the middle shelf of the oven together with a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven. You can also spray mist onto the dough surface in the oven to mimic stream for a nice crust on the bread. Set the oven temperature to 425 degree F. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the inside of the loaf reach above 190 degree F.
Let the loaf sit on a rack for at least an hour or so before cutting/serving. Avoid the temptation to cut it when it's still hot. It's not ready yet.

1. During mixing/kneading, amount of water and flour can be adjusted depend on the batch of flour, the environment humidity, and personal preference. Usually wetter is easier.
2. At any point before baking, the dough can be kept in refrigerator (for hours or days) if not be used right away. Warm it up to room temperature before next use.
3. Oven temperature can vary for different ovens and should be adjusted. What's important is the inside the temperature to reach 190-210 degree F.
4. Store the loaf at room temperature for 1-2 days or in freezer if longer.