This recipe is reproduced with the kind permission of Dan Lepard
and produces the “Mill loaf”. It can be found in his excellent book “The Handmade Loaf”.
I’m going to assume that you’re going to bake on a Sunday, and lets say that your leaven arrived on Thursday. You’ve completed the steps when your leaven arrived, and it’s sitting quite happily in the fridge, fermenting away. If it wasn’t a Thursday, then just do what I suggested when it arrives, then do it again 2 days before you bake – you want it in really good condition.
On Saturday morning, take it out of the fridge, and scrape all your leaven into a big bowl, yes all of it. Add 200 grams of room temp water, and mix in well. Then add 200 grams of strong white bread flour, and mix again until incorporated. Cover it with cling film and put it somewhere cool (not the fridge), then wash your kilner jar. It wont want to mix at first, but just cut across the leaven with a spoon and be a bit vigourous
On Sunday morning when you get up, do the following (you choose the time of course, I’m not the boss of you)
9am – take your leaven and weigh out 500 grams into a clean large bowl. You’ll have a small amount left, put that back in the kilner jar, and back into the fridge to forget about it for a few days.
add 550 grams of water (room temp) to your ready weighed 500 grams of leaven and mix well.
weigh out 600 grams of flour (strong white) and 400 grams of a mixed grain malted type flour and 2 1/2 tsp of salt (don’t use table salt, it’s rank, and has anti-caking agent in it. Use a decent one like Maldon and grind it up in a pestle and mortar, it needs to be really fine) give the dry ingredients a mix with a fork, then chuck them into your water/leaven mix.
mix all this together, turning the bowl all the time until such point that you need to get your hands in it and really squish it together. Don’t be shy. You want all the water to be incorporated and all the flour evenly distributed. It’ll be sticky and a bit alien-like, but fear not.
Once its all incorporated, cover the bowl with a tea towel and wash your hands of the sticky dough that’s attached itself. Set your timer for 10 minutes and make a cup of tea, or do whatever it is you do to kill ten minutes (no smutty jokes).
when you hear the beep, put 2 drops of oil (olive or groundnut) on your work surface, and rub it round til you have a 12 inch-ish circle. Don’t use more than 2 drops, it’s all you need. take your dough and turn it out onto the surface. For ten seconds ONLY use the heel of your hand to push the bit nearest to you away from you, and over the main lump of dough. then turn it a quarter turn and do it again, then again, until you get back to the beginning. Wash our your bowl, dry it, put a touch of oil in it and rub it round then chuck your dough back in, and cover with a cloth for another ten minutes.
how to knead
do the kneading again – remember, only for ten seconds. cloth goes back on. timer also goes back on for another ten minutes.
knead again, same thing – 10 seconds. then set your timer for 30 minutes.
when the times up, knead it again, cover the bowl and set your timer for an hour.
when you hear the beep, weigh your dough, then divide it into two – you can do this with a really sharp knife, its a piece of piss. Cut it though, don’t tear it.
shape each piece into a ball. you do this by taking the dough, patting it out a bit (don’t go mad) then pulling the sides into the middle and pressing down so you’re effectively stretching it a little. place your dough balls seam side down on your floured surface. The next bit is the folding, so watch this really professionally made, no-expense-spared video and you will be a master in no time.
FOLDING AND SHAPING
So, your dough is now happily in your tins, cover with ripped plastic bag but don’t let the plastic touch the dough. Leave it for about 3 hours. You want it to double in size. Don’t get wound up about this because at first you won’t know exactly when it’s “ready”. You’re not dealing with commercial yeast so it isn’t critical. It also depends on the temperature of your kitchen, the weather and overall atmospheric conditions. In my kitchen it takes between 2 and a half to 3 hours on a fine day. After the second hour turn on your oven to full whack so the oven is up to temperature when the dough has proved. It’s actually better to put in the oven when it’s under proved than over proved – if you leave it too long it may collapse in the oven.
Just before you put the tins in the pre-heated oven you must do two things, both are critical so pay attention at the back. Your dough needs steam. Comercial bakeries have special ovens which have steam jets on timers, but you don’t, so you have to compromise. You need steam in the oven to stop the crust from forming too soon, which would prevent a decent rise. You also want it because it helps to develop the crust texture and flavour.
Take off the plastic bags from the dough, and with a spray mister set on fine spray, give both lots of dough a good spray with water – you want them to glisten but not be drowned, so about 3-4 sprays each. Then open the oven door and spray water inside the oven – about 8 fast pumps of the trigger (no sniggering) then quickly but smoothly place your tins on the oven shelf (no baking sheet, just on the bars) and gently but quickly close the door and turn the temp down to 220. Time it for 15 minutes. When it beeps, turn down the oven to 180 and cook for about an hour. Because you’re a nosy git you’ll want to look through the oven window. Yes! it’s risen. As you dance up and down on the spot feeling super clever and smug about what you’ve done you’ll then start to worry that the tops of the loaves are going really brown. Don’t worry, you want this for a proper crust as opposed to a hideous, inspid, soft, miserable, dysfunctional “crust” found on supermarket loaves.
After an hour take our your tins. With an oven glove or whatever turn out your loaves – you might have to give them a strong tap on the bottom (oh yes). If you then hold the loaf, topside town and tap the base of the loaf, you’ll hear that it sounds hollow, and this is your indication that it’s cooked, and you are now a bread god. Your breadmaker can be relegated to the cupboard under the stairs, or (better) the tip. As they cool you will hear them – it’s the crust cracking, it’s quite pleasant actually.
Wait for them to get fully cold, and slice them. Don’t eat it hot, you’ll get worse indigestion than Mr Creosote.
I normally slice them up and put the whole sliced loaf in a freezer bag, seal the end and bung in the freezer. But you’ll no doubt want to taste it before you do that, so go on, you know you want to you little minx. If you don’t want to slice it all just put it in an airtight bag but keep it mind that it’ll only last about 3 days max because there’s no fat or preservative in it. if you don’t want to freeze it, and want a loaf that lasts for a week, when you start your recipe substitute 20 grams of good olive oil for 20 grams of water.
This is how it should look – note the air captured in the grain, and the fab chewy crust (don’t even think about cutting off the crust when you eat it, it’s got bags of flavour, and chewing it helps digestion) Note too that it’s pretty rustic.
Keep in mind that due to the manual folding process of the dough that when it goes into the super hot temperature of the oven, that the CO2 produced can do funny things to the bread – it can tear it in odd places (usually the side with loaves) but don’t worry, it just adds to its character and chewy crust.
it’s excellent toasted, but as there is no sugar added to it it can take a while to brown, far slower than sugar laden loaves of awfulness.
So there you have it. No commercial yeast, no preservatives, no nonsense. Just flour, water, salt and natural leaven.