Mellow Bakers – Quick White Loaf

Here we are, at the tail end of April. Where, may I ask, has the first third of 2012 gone? Up in a cloud of flour in my case. Though not as much flour, of late, as I would have liked.

On reading my blog a good friend of mine said, amongst kind words, that I apologise too much for not writing; that people wouldn’t really notice the dates of posts, and that I ought not to mention it. So I’m keeping absolutely schtum. Zip. Nada. Not a word about being behind in the mellow bakers Handmade Loaf bake-along despite only being in month one. Just as well they’re/we’re mellow…

So – quick white loaf. I must admit that, going in to this bake, I was a little bored of white breads. Despite a preference towards the more whole of meals, I have baked mostly white loaves since taking up all this yeasty business. On top of that, another of Dan’s recipes – his sour cream loaf from Short and Sweet, has lodged itself firmly at the top of my favourite white recipes list.

On the other hand, this bake offered the chance to try a couple of new things: baking with fresh yeast, finally sourced from Sainsbury’s, and adding millet flakes. Add to all this a couple of bodged transfers from improvised peel to baking stone in the recent past, and the stakes for this bake were particularly high.

Can you feel the excitement? Try and remember to breath.

The recipe calls for a mixture of whole milk and water, both at 20 degrees celcius. I had only semi, so subbed that in, and used the milk from the fridge mixed with water from a kettle that had boiled about 5 minutes before. This resulted in a mixture at about 30 degrees, which I left to cool ’till it was a little above the required temperature. Being somewhat impatient and impetuous, I went ahead with a couple of degrees to spare. Don’t try and tell me I don’t know how to live on the edge!

To this, I added the yeast, which I crumbled from the butter-like pat that had been hiding in the door of my fridge for getting on two weeks. I was nervous of how old the yeast was, but I figured it was worth a try.

I mixed the dry ingredients, a mix of plain and strong white flour, plus the millet flakes. At this point, the wet mixture didn’t show any signs of life, but the recipe did not call for such, and I forged ahead despite the discouraging voice whispering in my mind’s ear.

Following Dan’s typical knead method (a few brief, sporadic, kneads rather than a constant 20 minute slog), the dough was pretty much as I expected. A little rough due to the millet, and not hyper-extensible given the mix of flours, but otherwise a fairly typical white dough.

I left it for it’s first prove, and checked back after the allotted time. Had the yeast survived it’s hibernation, and emerged the other side into usefulness and productivity?

Yes.

Thank **** for that.

The recipe suggested splitting the dough, but the quantities involved were in line with what I’d typically allow for one, so I shaped into a loaf as per the instructions. I’ve had a bit of practice with this shaping method by now, and as such was quite pleased with the result.

But this confidence was challenged when, during a mid-prove check, the seam had come unsealed. Disaster!

With the help of my handy water spray bottle, and some rather firm and frantic dough-pinching, I left the loaf to finish its prove. Disaster averted.

Counter to some of the Mellow Bakers’ experiences, I found that the proving time listed were, if anything, a little long. I wonder whether it has something to do with the type of yeast used, or the temperature of the water to which I added the yeast. In my (brief) experience, the conversion rates of fresh to instant yeast in Handmade Loaf are a little stingy on the instant side, so perhaps that is a factor.

Anyhow, I decided to add some millet flakes to the top of the loaf, by spraying a mist of water on top, before scattering a handful or two on top, along with my usual rye flour finish, before slashing and sticking it on the preheated baking stone. No trouble getting it off the “peel” this time. A good spray of water for humidity immediately upon adding the loaf to the oven, plus one ten minutes in, and the loaf was done.

I was particularly pleased with the crust on this loaf, which I suspect may be to do with the thorough spraying of water I gave it to help the millet stick. The crumb wasn’t as loose as I had expected , and if anything seemed a little flaky, but the folks and my sis were particularly forthcoming, even for them, with praise when I served it with soup that evening, and I enjoyed it toasted the next day. The millet add’s a nutty quality to the flavour, and a rustic quality to the crust. Next time, I think, I’ll add a touch more water to try and loosen the crumb a tad.

As to whether the fresh yeast was worth seeking out, I am undecided. I would like to do a like for like comparison, baking side by side with instant, and see how the two compare with as few variables as possible. Must be the frustrated scientist in me.

All in all, a keeper!

P.S. I’ve enjoyed reading about all the other Mellow Bakers’ experiences, many of which informed this bake. If you’ve found your via the MB forum, say hi! If not, and you’re interested in taking part, you can find said forum here.

Until next time, dough delighters!

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8 thoughts on “Mellow Bakers – Quick White Loaf

    • You know, that sounds about my idea of heaven!

      There’s a pop-up bakery open on Stokes Croft at the moment, and I might see if they want any baking done…

      Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

  1. worth the wait! that looks a mighty fine effort and you write with eloquence. This recipe was the surprise of the three as i had least expectations of it and i also enjoyed what the millet flakes brought to the flavour. Now bake some flaky butter buns young man!

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