I’ve not baked any bread since last Tuesday. This is starting to feel like a long time. Must be time for another bread then.
I was told about a new cooking series on TV called The Fabulous Baker Brothers. It’d completely passed me by until my friend mentioned it but I caught up with the episodes and decided to try one of their recipes; English muffins with spinach.
So far, unimpressed.
First thing, I got all my ingredients out ready. This included 30g butter and 2 teaspoons sugar (type not specified... helpful...), which went into a saucepan over a low heat for the butter to melt. I then measured out 300ml milk. The recipe specified using a teaspoon of dried yeast, which I replaced for 10g fresh yeast. I also had nutmeg and spinach handy, and weighed 450g strong white bread flour out into a bowl with a large pinch of sea salt.
So, butter melted, the instructions were to add the milk and then to add the yeast. Ok so far, but then the instruction was to add the spinach to allow it to wilt. Problem; spinach won’t wilt in tepid milk and I was a bit dubious about heating the milk past this stage as it already had the yeast in. So instead of wilted spinach, I had essentially salad-ready spinach that had been drenched in milk. This not-quite right mixture got a few shavings of nutmeg added to it and then the whole lot was poured into the dry ingredients. Now, the recipe specified to mix in a freestanding mixer on half speed for 10 minutes. Great... but what if you haven’t got a freestanding mixer? (And just ignore for the moment that I do own one) The suggestion was that the dough needed a lot of kneading, as normally 5 minutes in a mixer is sufficient for a bread dough. But no indication of what the dough should look like when the kneading is over. So I kneaded by hand for a bit past 15 minutes, which resulted in an incredibly elastic and almost gooey dough, before putting the dough aside to rise. And, again, the recipe fell down, succumbing to my pet peeve of not specifying what the dough was meant to look like at the end of this period and instead settling for a time scale of 30 minutes.
It got set aside for 30 minutes, with me grumbling a little. When I returned to it... well, it looked pretty much the same. I dusted my worktop with semolina and turned the dough out, then stretched it into a rectangle about an inch thick. The top got dusted with semolina too and the dough then got cut into rounds. They went into a hot, dry pan and were cooked until browned, flipped over half way through. Ominous sign; little to no spring off the bottom of the pan.
Out of the pan and a little cooling later, I hacked one open. It hadn’t looked promising at any stage of this bake and the results continued the theme. The dough had bubbled and there were air pockets, but the stuff around the air was still dough. The whole batch was completely inedible. It felt like a waste of ingredients, but the best place for them was the food waste bin.
Conclusion? I’m fairly sure I over-worked the dough. I remember thinking at one stage that it had got to a nice, coherent consistency where I would normally stop kneading, but the vagueness of the instructions made me think that it needed quite a lot more working than it did in reality. A warning to all recipe-writers out there; if there’s a hole in your recipe that can lead to disaster, I will find it.
Test? Try again soon, but this time with less kneading.