As one of the purposes of my blog is to document my efforts to view making mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than reasons not to try, here are some of the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve learnt through making the bread in my post Bring on the Bread!
The more you make it the better you get. The more times I have made this bread, the better I have become at knowing if the dough ‘feels’ right. That’s a bit vague, but if you try to make bread, after a few times, you will understand what I mean.
Water is really important! I’m not sure if that is because I live in a hot climate but I’ve realized that the wetter the dough, the better. Obviously, if the dough is swimming in water, that’s not great. But if I add water gradually and accidentally add too much, if I keep kneading – either by hand or in the mixer – eventually it comes together. So I add about 4 cups/1 liter of water, depending on how the dough looks and feels. When I add more water rather than less, the dough rises much better.
Brown flour and white flour have different qualities. This might be obvious, but if I change the split from 50/50, and add more brown and less white, the bread turns out denser. If I add more white, the bread is lighter and often rises more. But I think both taste good!
The proofing/rising time is essential. If it hasn’t risen on its first rise, then just try to be patient, and give it longer, or move it to a warmer place. I initially stuck rigidly to the one hour rising time even though sometimes it hadn’t risen much. The result was not great bread!
Oiling the proofing bowl is a great idea. It keeps the dough from sticking to the sides. I’ve found the spray oil cans are a nice mess-free way of doing it. At the moment I use canola oil as that’s the spray I have, but I think you can use any.
Hands or mixers? Kneading by hand is very therapeutic and feels great. Also I’ve read that you should use your hands wherever possible when baking as it helps you to be able to feel what the consistency should be like. I found that I was quite inconsistent in pressure and stamina, so when we saw a deal for a mixer with a dough hook, we got it, and it does make the whole thing a lot easier! So now I use a mix of using the mixer and then my hands.
Weighing the dough helps, when splitting it between the loaf tins. I initially just guessed at halving the dough. Sometimes it worked, and other times I’d have uneven sizes of loaves. So I decided to weigh the dough after the first rise (after I had kneaded it for a bit) and then it was easier to split it accurately.
The location of the dough when rising can be important. The dough needs to rise in a place that is free from drafts. I have tried lots of different locations in the house. In the winter months, the oven (not turned on) seems the best place, and in the summer, out (but covered) on the counter top seems fine.