At last … a ‘Mrs Widds bakes’ post.
It’s that time of the week in the Widder household, and as promised, or threatened some might say, I finally managed to remember to take pictures of the process from start to finish … so without further ado, Mrs Widds bakes bread.
First up, boil up ½ a potato with the skin on, until it’s cooked. Drain the water off and set it aside.
Mash the taters, and set them aside too.
Then assemble your dry ingredients.
In a big measuring bowl, add …11½ cups of flour/ grains mix (can be whole wheat/white/unbleached, whatever takes your fancy) Mrs Widds uses unbleached. 11½ cups go into the dough mix and 1½ cups (flour only) will be used in the kneading.
Grains: Mrs Widds throws in a handful of oats, some sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some flax. You can experiment with all sorts of things, but don’t overdo it. There has to be a whole lot more flour than anything else.
Mrs Widds says: Different flours will change the texture/consistency and taste of the bread. You might need more flour during the kneading process, it depends on how the dough feels.
Add, 1 tblsp salt – the salt helps with the leavening process. i.e. helps the dough to rise.
Add 4 sachets of bakers yeast, or 4 slightly-less-than full tblsp.
Next … toss into the bowl 2/3 cup of sugar, or whatever sweetener takes your fancy – honey. maple syrup, molasses.
Mrs Widds says: Any liquid sweetener you use needs to be added to the total amount of liquid you put into the mix, and will also alter the texture/consistency and taste of the bread.
Which brings us to the liquid part of the equation:
You need 5 cups of liquid – including any liquid sweetener you might’ve added – use the potato water you set aside earlier.
Add ½ cup (10 tblsp) marg/shortening/butter to the still warm water, and once it’s melted add the mashed potato.
Mrs Widds says: Butter makes a ‘shorter’/richer loaf.
Now comes the fun bit:
You put the liquid in the dry ingredients, and you mix ‘em all up … to the tune of this song …
Heh, heh, heh … love the Muppets!
Make sure all the ingredients are wet.
Mrs Widds says: It looks more like a thick batter than dough at this stage.
Cover with a light cloth and let it ‘rest’ (everyone needs a nap now and then) until it doubles in size.
Mrs Widds says: As a rule of thumb, each ‘rest’ period ought be long enough to allow the dough to double in size.
Mrs Widds says: All the liquid has been absorbed and the gluten has been released.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use the flour from the 1½ cups you set aside at the beginning.
Sprinkle more flour on and knead some more. Until it looks like this …
At this point you’ve probably used up a cup-ish of the flour, but it’s OK if it’s still a bit sticky-ish.
Mrs Widds says: Side note … you can put all sorts of ingredients in your mix, but be aware it will change the dough. e.g. dry cereal (Corn Flakes, Cranberry Crunch, yum) for instance, already has sugar and salt in it, leftover porridge (oatmeal) has liquid in it. But, don’t be afraid to experiment.
Pour 1-2 tblsp light oil (not olive oil) into your mixing bowl, place your dough in the bowl and turn it a few times so it’s coated in the oil.
Cover and let it rise/rest until it’s doubled in size.
And then: Don’t do this, but if you do, it’s OK, neither you nor the bread will be harmed. (We got into a discussion about something or other and forgot about the dough)
Time for another kneading.
Mrs Widds says: When in doubt, more kneading is better than less. And, pop any bubbles. That’s where the holes in baked bread come from, unpopped bubbles in the dough.
Then, back in the bowl, coat in oil, you know the drill.
It’s ‘Kneadin’ Time again … to the tune of this song … and it shouldn’t be sticky anymore. If it is add more flour as you knead.
Your dough is never going to be the same because now, it’s time to make some loaves!!!
Lightly grease/oil your baking pans. (that’s my job. Gorgeous Assistant Extraordinaire! I use the same type of oil that goes on the dough in the mixing bowl)
Mrs Widds says: I divide up my dough by weight, but you don’t have to. Go with what feels right.
Hack off a piece, throw it on the scales and add or cut off bits until it weighs about 700g (about 1lb 8oz) then knead into a loaf and set aside.
Once all the dough is hacked up and divided, re-knead and set into your pans. Lightly brush with oil.
Mrs Widds says: If you have a bit of dough left over, divide it between the loaves. If there’s too much, flatten it out and put it in a smaller baking dish, drizzle olive oil on top, and sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, oregano, (whatever you fancy) and it’s ready to go too.
… and guess what? You wait for them to rise. Bwhahahahaha
This might be a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. Usually about 5 minutes before the loaves go in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes-ish, or until the bottom of the loaf makes a hollow sound when you tap it.
Mrs Widds says: The focaccia loaf will take less time to bake so add it to the oven accordingly. Every oven has its idiosyncrasies. With ours I need to turn the loaves about halfway through their bake time.
One final task:
Which is usually my job, (Gorgeous Assistant Extraordinaire) unfortunately I had a nasty encounter with a vegetable slicer.
There you have it. WidderBread!