Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Magimix cooking part 2: my fail-safe bread recipe

on June 3, 2014

Photos will appear once I’ve remembered to stop and take some, rather than just getting on with it every time!

I’ve already explained that one of the aims of the Year of the Magimix was to see if I could make better bread by hand than by using my breadmaker.  Since then I’ve been working quite hard to find a recipe that would work for me, so that I could make the kind of bread my family would want to eat on a regular basis.  At first it seemed that I was not going to be able to use the food processor for the kneading stage, which I was disappointed about because I had hoped that would be another purpose for having it out on the counter all the time, but the size of mine means that most recipes for ordinary sandwich/toasting loaves make too much dough for the machine to handle.

I began making it completely by hand, which at first I enjoyed because it gave me a sense of achievement, but then I began to notice that the weather, and the humidity in the kitchen, made it difficult to predict how the dough would turn out and how long it would take to knead.  I’ve read that it’s important to the texture of the bread to add as much of the water in the recipe as possible, so I did do this, but on occasions I was getting so tired from working the dough for 20 minutes or more and it didn’t seem to be getting any less sticky or any more stretchy!  It was time consuming, difficult, unpredictable and, besides everything else, I found the sensation of scraping the wet dough off  the board with my fingernails deeply unpleasant.

I was on the point of giving up the idea of making my own bread when – for the sake of speed – I used a packet bread mix and mixed it in the food processor.  I began thinking about how the quantities of flour, etc, still yielded a 2lb loaf (or at any rate a loaf cooked in a 2lb tin), despite being smaller than the recipes I’d been trying.  I searched for a recipe with a smaller quantity of flour and tried it, with some success.  I think it’s the maximum amount of dough my machine can manage (400g flour) because it tends to get a bit hot during kneading, but I find this contributes to the speed of the first rise, so all to the good – and the machine’s only cut out once from overheating, when I left it going too long!

It’s taken another few weeks of working and tweaking to get it the way I want it, and of course weather and humidity are still variables which make the end result slightly unpredictable.  Sometimes it’s fantastic, sometimes it’s fine but nothing spectacular, and I’ve accepted that that’s beyond my control but at least I don’t have to do any more fingernail scraping or risk becoming too muscle-bound!

My annotated food processor bread recipe

400g strong bread flour – any kind, or a mixture.  Whilst I was struggling with too-dense wholemeal loaves (the kind we eat most often) it was suggested to me by many that I should substitute about 25% with white flour to lighten it, but this seemed like cheating to me!  Thankfully I’ve found other ways of lightening the loaf (see below) but I do sometimes mix in 50-100g multi-seed flour with my wholemeal, just for variety!

2 tsp easy-blend/fast-action yeast – I’ve read up on my yeast as I really didn’t understand the differences, and this is the easiest kind to use.  It comes in sachets (in which case just use 1 sachet) or little tins or packs like mini packs of coffee (more cost-effective than sachets if you’re using it a lot) and you don’t have to soak it or anything, just put it straight in.

1 tsp table salt – I use low sodium salt as that’s what we have in for putting on our chips, and it works fine

2 tbsp oil – Olive oil is nice in wholemeal, but you can really taste it in white bread so use a flavourless oil or just leave it out.  It helps to lighten the bread and keeps it moist longer, but it’s not essential.

270 ml tepid water – This is the amount for pure wholemeal, which I make most often.  If you’re making white bread you’ll only need 220ml and you might want to make your own adjustments for the climate, etc, but these work for me.

Fit the dough blade in the food processor and pour in the flour.  Add the yeast in one side and the salt in the other so they stay apart till the last minute.  Pour in the oil and the water [swoosh it round the bowl to try and make sure all the flour is dampened – for some reason my dough blade has quite short arms and it’s easier to get all the flour mixed in if it’s all wet first], then fit the lid on and switch on to process for 5 minutes [you’ll probably need to stand nearby and make sure the machine doesn’t fall off the counter as it tends to jump around quite a lot!].

Lightly grease a large bowl with more oil [really lightly is fine, I just use the dregs of oil left in my measuring cup, wiped out on some kitchen roll and spread round the bowl], then scoop out the dough with oiled hands and shape it into a ball, which you put in the bottom of the bowl [if the dough is more sticky and won’t come out all in one go, scoop it out with a spatula and pat it together with your hands in the bowl, then lift it up and shape it into a ball].  Cover with cling film and leave for the first rise, until the dough has doubled in size, which will take around an hour, depending entirely on the temperature in your house.   I have a dedicated “proving corner” in my kitchen, namely the top of the cat food storage container, which sits quite near, but not too near, the radiator – it’s warm (either from the radiator or the weather) and sheltered from draughts and has the advantage of being visible when you pass the doorway, so you don’t forget about it unless you go off and watch back-to-back episodes of The Office all evening. I once managed to make a loaf from start to finish in 2 hours (which was lucky as it was all I had before I needed to go out) because it was a very warm day!

When this has happened, remove the cling film (keep it though, you need it again – waste not, want not, and all that!) and scoop out the dough, which will immediately deflate as you puncture it.  Put it on a scantily floured or oiled board and punch it with your fist to flatter in it out, then fold the edges into the middle, flip it over and repeat.  Try to flatten it into a square and then fold both sides into the centre, pressing down on the join to give it better structure.  Oil your 2lb tin and place the folded dough into it, tucking the ends under first and pressing them down if the shape is too long for the tin.  Cover with the cling film and leave to prove.  Preheat your oven to 220C or 200C for a fan oven.  Keep a close eye on the dough – from experience I’ve learned that what you want is to catch it just as it reaches the top of the tin, especially for a wholemeal loaf (white ones are far more robust).  If you leave it till it’s all round and risen and towering above the tin, for some reason it will shrink down while it’s baking (will still taste fine but look small and flat), whereas if you catch it before it’s done all its rising it will do a bit more in the oven and you’ll get a better shape and texture to your loaf.  Either way it will be better than the ones with concave tops that my breadmaker insisted on turning out, after we’d seen the loaf rise handsomely all through proving and baking, only to give up in the last few minutes and collapse.

Bake the loaf for 25-30 minutes, then take it out, remove it from the tin and knock on the bottom as if you’re knocking on a door.  If the bread is ready it will make a hollow sound [it’s brilliant, honestly – my favourite bit every time!], otherwise pop it back into the oven, tinless but upside down, for another 5-10 minutes.  When it’s done, cool on a rack.  DO NOT WORRY that the top feels really hard – you have not overcooked it and this will soften up as it cools.  Also try not to eat it before it’s cooled for a little while at least, as it can give you a bad stomach.

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