Thursday, 20 January 2011

Proving it Works

It's taken me a while to get round to making a stab at my first official post. What with work and travelling back to the UK for Christmas things have been somewhat manic. So I thought I'd start with something that I try to make every weekend if I can. Homemade Bread! It's amazing and surprisingly easy once you get the hang of the kneading thing. In fact it's a great thing to do if you want to vent a bit of anger! I've tried quite a few recipes and methods and this weekend I thought I'd try a method that I've read about but have never been organised enough on a night to start. So, this weekend I tried the overnight proving method. The process basically involves leaving the dough to prove for the first time overnight in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation process and, so I'd read, makes for a more flavoursome loaf.

So, on Saturday night I got out the scales and gave it a go. I mixed, kneaded and covered the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and a little sceptically placed it in the fridge until the morning. I had a sneaky peak just before I went to bed and it had already started to grow which was exciting. I did have visions of opening the fridge the next morning to see that the dough hadn't stopped growing and that it had filled every available crevice. But no! It had nicely doubled in size and was still within the confines of it's bowl. So far, so good. From that point the process was the same as if you'd left the bread to prove at room temperature. I knocked it back, let it prove for a second time and then baked it.

And the verdict. Well, it was pretty damn good and I have to say that I really do think that it was tastier than normal. I'll definitely be doing it again. It's also a great time saver as I could have a nice little lie in on Sunday morning and still have a nice fresh loaf ready for lunch. Bonus!

I kept this loaf simple without fancy additions. I didn't fancy having it fail on me having spent a small fortune on  nuts and seeds. But next time I think it may be worth it. For this recipe I just used whatever flour I had left in my cupboard but it worked well this time. As a side, I served this bread with home made smoked mackerel pate which was rather yummy. Unfortunately, in my boyfriend's haste to eat lunch I didn't manage to get a photo of it was courtesy of Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals.

Hopefully next time I'll be slightly more organised and get photos of everything! But hey, I'm learning. Enjoy!

Basic Bread Recipe
500g strong bread flour (I used a 100g of wholemeal and 400g of white for this loaf)
7g sachet fast action yeast
2tsp salt
300ml lukewarm water (you may need slightly more or slightly less)

Firstly measure your flour and mix it with the yeast and salt. Pour in the water and bring the ingredients together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. You may need to add a little extra water to the mix if it seems slightly dry. Don't worry if you think it's too sticky. One you start to knead it, it will come good!

Turn out onto a work surface and start to knead. If the dough is sticking, lightly coat the work surface with a little flavourless oil and continue. It's best not to use flour as this will imbalance the flour to water ratio which we don't want! I find that even if it sticks a little, as I start to knead it quickly loses the stickiness.

Knead by holding one end of the dough with your fingertips and with your other hand stretch the dough away from you. Then roll the stretched dough away from you, turn 90 degrees and repeat until the dough becomes smoother. As times goes on the dough will become tighter as the gluten gets to work and your kneading style will change to shorter strokes. I usually knead for about 15 minutes and stop when the dough is silky smooth.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a plastic bag or clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight. I left mine for around 11 hours and it was just fine. The next morning, remove the dough and turn it out onto a work surface. Knock it back, form in into a round and place onto a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Leave to come back to room temperature and double in size. This should take around an hour but I left this one for an hour and a half and it was fine. It all depends on the temperature of the room as to how long it takes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan oven) and when the dough is ready, dust with flour and rub in very gently. Slash a cross atop the top with a bread knife and immediately put it in the oven. Bake for around 30 minutes. If the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom then it's ready. If not, or are in doubt, then leave it a little longer. I find its quite forgiving. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy! Nothing beats freshly baked bread smothered in real butter. But it won't last long so get in there before your boyfriend finishes it for you!


  1. Great post and very interested in leaving it to prove in fridge overnight. I am also a keen baker and am constantly having to stop myself from adding more flour if tje dough becomes too sticky!

  2. I'd read about it for ages but was always a bit nervous about just leaving it but was quite impressed at how well it worked. It's handy as you can get it out the fridge in the morning and you'll have fresh bread ready for lunch.

    It's definitely true what they say too. The wetter the better when it comes to your dough. I think it's all down to practice and experience and knowing when it's right. Good luck if you try the overnight method!