I’ve always been a sucker for doing things the way it used to be done – ages ago. An electric oven is good but when I see the the kind of crusts flaunted by breads that come from traditional wood-fired brick-lined ovens, I always feel envious. So, last weekend Sudha and I trooped to an outlet close by that sells terracotta tiles and after some exploring, I walked away with 5 tiles that cost me virtually nothing (Rs.40/-). So, here’s the first of my experiments in baking hearth*-like breads in my electric oven.
This one is an enriched* Chiilli and Cheddar loaf.
Vegetable Oil 1 T*
Fresh Red / Green chillies 3 – 4 More if you want to say it’s hot in paradise. I used 3 de-seeded habaneros and was so, so disappointed with the lack of heat. This bread needs more punch as it has lots of cheese to offset the heat. More in learning’s below.
Water 200 ml
Milk 100 ml
All purpose flour / Maida 450 g*
Whole wheat flour / Atta 50 g
Cheddar cheese 100 g grated plus 25 g more for sprinkling
Salt 1 1/2 t*
Sugar 1 t
Instant Yeast 1 1/2 t
Egg yolk 1 (mixed with 1 T of water)
Heat oil in a small frying pan and saute chillies till they’re soft. Cool and add to the liquids. To this add the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and the grated cheese. Mix well using a wooden spoon till all of the flour is hydrated. Knead well till you get a smooth, silky and elastic dough. Here’s a video that you’ll find helpful.
You’re now ready to start the first rise or the ‘fermentation’ process of bread making. Your dough needs to be shaped so that it rises evenly. Here’s another video that you’ll find helpful.
Cover with cling film and let it rise to twice it’s size – about 60 to 90 minutes.This is what my dough looked like at the beginning of the fermentation process:
And here is what the dough looked like after an hour.
This is the gentle handling phase. We now need to gently de-gas the dough and gently knead the dough again so that the yeast is gently evenly distributed. The dough is now ready for the second rise. This step is called ‘proofing ‘ and is normally combined with shaping the dough to the desired form before it goes into the oven. Here’s a video that you’ll find helpful.
The ‘proofing’ phase normally takes lesser time that the ‘fermenting’ phase – around 30 to 40 minutes. I always transfer the dough to a baking parchment lined baking sheet / tray so that I don’t have to handle the dough again – just transfer the sheet / tray into the oven.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven for 230C. When the proofing phase is done, glaze the top and sides of the loaf with the egg yolk mixture. Here’s a link that shows the impact of glazing with different liquids.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with grated cheddar and transfer the dough to the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom. I played with terracotta tiles, so I turned on my oven to the max temperature 250C and preheated it for an hour. I dropped the temperature to 230C while baking. I also used a baking tray with hot water to ensure there was enough steam while the bread was baking. Steam transfers heat into the dough quicker than dry oven air and keeps the surface of the dough moist and elastic – allowing the dough to stretch and expand. The Terracotta tiles ensure even heating and absorption of moisture again resulting in a delightfully crisp crust.
Here is what the loaf looked like when I took it out of the oven.
Learning’s: I remember using the local green chillies when I baked this earlier and I found the flavour richer. If I’ve to bake this again, I would go for about 4-5 dark green chillies.
Transferring the dough from the parchment paper to the terracotta tiles was quite a challenge. The next time around, I’ll layer the parchment paper with semolina (rava) to help the dough slide off the paper onto the tiles.
In the last picture, you’ll see Ginger Sumitran walking off as I told her it hadn’t cooled enough for the crumb to set. She’s a big fan of home made bread and a good indicator that the bread is done – I always see her parked near the oven with her nose in the air.
Let me know how your adventures turned out. Ta for now.
* hearth bread = free form loaves, characterised by a crisp crust that are baked directly on a hot baking stone or the floor of a wood fired oven. enriched = breads that have butter, eggs, sugar, and/or oil in the recipe; they are therefore softer and richer than non-enriched breads (also called lean breads) that have only flour, water, salt and yeast. T = tablespoon. g = grams. t=teaspoon.