We interrupt our quasi-regularly-scheduled programme of The Baking School Chronicles (limited) Series 1 with a sudden urge for a Birthday Bake.
I’d actually planned to do this last weekend, because I loved learning how to make bread that first week of school. Alas, it was harder than I thought to source vegetable shortening, of all things. Not that I didn’t know where to get it, it was just that, thanks to my country’s dubious distinction of having the third Worst Traffic In Asia (marginally a little better than our other record of Worst Place To Drive In The World, 2015), I had no inclination whatsoever to fight my way through EDSA to get to what is, admittedly, the best baking supply store in the whole of Metropolitan Manila:
But I digress. Anyway, once I got my Crisco, I decided to not waste any more time. So last night, after spending the whole day in a post-birthday Treat Yo’self manner (which included a lengthy visit to the hair salon), I was feeling a bit wired* at 10:00 pm, so I figured, fresh bread for breakfast tomorrow!
Here’s how I did it. Chef would be so proud.
Recipe for WHITE PAN BREAD
- 500 grams of bread flour
- 300 grams (or mL–it’s the same) of water
- 5 grams of instant yeast
- 9 grams of refined salt
- 100 grams of white granulated sugar
- 25 grams of vegetable shortening
- 20 grams of non-fat dairy milk solids (NFDMS–basically, powdered milk. Chef recommended a local brand, Milk Magic.)
- Egg wash (1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk, and a pinch of salt, all beaten together)
- Water for steaming
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl first; everything but the water and shortening. (In this recipe, sugar is apparently counted as a Dry Ingredient. I just went with it.)
- Once the dry ingredients are combined, make a well in the middle and pour the water, then the shortening in. Mix until it’s all together and ready to knead.
- Knead that monster on a flour-dusted surface until there is elasticity. The dough should not break when you stretch a sample of it.
- Ball it up as smoothly as you can get it, then let rest in an oil-lubricated bowl for 1 hour, covered with cling film. Depending on the temperature where you are, you can bung it in a proofing drawer, or if you’re in a tropical country like moi, just leave it at room temp or beside a warm stove, just in case.
- After about an hour (or a little sooner if, when deeply poking the dough with an oil-covered finger, the dough only bounces back, like, halfway), uncover the bowl and tip the dough underside UP! onto a flour-dusted surface.
- At this point, you can preheat your oven to 375 F (or 190 C). Compensate if you have a convection oven. I think it’s a difference of 20 C less if your oven is convection.
- Fold the dough on all four sides, like you would a piece of paper, then turn over and ball up again. Let it rest under a cloth / plastic wrap / your empty dough bowl for about 20 minutes.
- Uncover, then turn the dough over again so that the smooth side is underneath. Then roll that thing with a rolling pin into a rectangle, with the long side a little longer than the length of your loaf pan. Don’t forget to dust your rolling pin with some flour first, so that nothing sticks. Don’t be afraid to gently pull your dough into shape to help the rolling along. Also, every time your dough starts retracting when you roll it, let the dough rest for a few minutes under cloth or a clean plastic bag before you roll it again.
- When your dough is at the desired shape, roll it lengthwise into a tube, and pinch the edges closed as you do so. You can use a little water to seal the edges–and don’t forget to seal the ends of the dough, too!
- When the dough is all rolled up, it may look like a boa that had eaten an elephant. Or a hat, Little Prince-style. You can finesse the dough, even the width out on both ends. Then make sure that the SEAM of the dough is underneath. This is important.
- At this point, the rolled dough may have elongated to a bit more than the size of your loaf pan. In which case, tuck both ends underneath until it can fit inside your loaf pan just right.
- Grease your loaf pan with vegetable shortening. That way the bread can just slide out, and won’t stick, when it’s all done.
- Lift the entire dough–carefully!–into your loaf pan. You can use a handy dough scraper to help it along. Make sure that the seam and the folded sections are underneath.
- Paint the surface with some egg wash, then (if you want, it’s not required) you can sprinkle the surface with some granulated sugar, if you want a nicely sweet surface. (I’m not really a fan, so I don’t.)
- Let the dough proof some more by placing it inside a large plastic bag and, leaving lots of air inside and without the plastic touching the dough, knot the whole bag closed carefully. (See the slideshow.) Proof for 20 minutes.
- Place in the oven, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or if golden brown. Don’t forget to either a) spritz water into your oven occasionally, or b) pour water into the pan of your oven, if you have one in place, every once in a while. This is to create steam inside the oven, which crisps up the crust nicely.
- How do you know if your bread is done? If it looks golden brown, mainly. If you take your dough out of its loaf pan, turn it over and tap on the underside. If it sounds like a drum, then it’s done. Cool your bread on a cooling rack, then slice when ready.
Because my oven can be a bit…temperamental, I decided to play it safe and place the loaf at the front, nearest the door, where the heat is more stable. Then I fortunately remembered to pour water onto the pan I’d placed underneath, and left it alone.
And this is the part where I made a teeny mistake–I’d not taken note of the original baking time, so I’d assumed it would be another hour. This was already around 1:30 in the morning, and I was getting a bit antsy, so at the 30 minute mark I decided fork it, it’s done:
It was a bit…dark, underneath. But it gave a lovely hollow drum sound when I tapped its underside. Well, lesson learned: Baking time should be around 20-25 minutes, then.
Fortunately, when the bread finally cooled and I was able to check it at breakfast time, it was perfect:
And the crust toasts very well. Gives a lovely flake.
I might do this more often!
* I got a perm. It may have been the chemicals seeping through my scalp into my brain.