Farmhouse White - BC20 Back to Basics
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To many, the basic Farmhouse white epitomises the 'perfect loaf'. It's also the perfect loaf to tackle at the start of your breadmaking journey.
Well, it's actually the perfect loaf - anytime.
It's soft, easy to cut and ideal for sandwiches and toast...right to the very last crumb.
But, first a word about the ingredients.
I always use strong bread flour. One that has a protein level of at least 12%. If you're in the UK, don't try making this with plain flour - it won't work. If you're in the US, you'll likely have a go-to all-purpose flour. Read the label carefully. There are many all-purpose flours that have a very low protein level - sometimes about 9% and many don't go much higher than 11%. If all you have is at the 11% end, it'll work...but keep shopping around. After all, all-purpose is soft wheat flour and bread is best suited to hard wheat bread flour / strong bread flour) I know that King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill both sell excellent white bread flour.
The Farmhouse is traditionally made using white flour. If you want to use another flour... I'd suggest that you start amending this formula when you're comfortable with the outcome using white strong bread flour.
If you have heavily chlorinated tap water, either draw it early and allow time for the chlorine to dissipate or use a supermarket's own-brand still water.
Ideally, use filtered water and, if you have your own spring...that's a treasure.
I use unsalted butter. Butter is added to soften the crust and also extend the life of the bread.
I never use iodised salt. Spend a little more and treat yourself to sea salt. Kosher salt and Himalayan salt are both good when ground.
For this bread, I use caster sugar. Otherwise, I always use dark brown or Demerara sugar.
The easiest yeast for this bread is the active instant dried yeast. It needs no preparation or activation and is easily absorbed into the bread. If you want to use dried yeast, draw a little water from the quantity below and activate it in that before adding to the mix.
What else will I need?
Traditionally, the Farmhouse was baked in 2lb tins....that's what I'm using today.
However, as with most generic bread, it's all in the shaping. You can bake this free form as a boule or batard on baking steel, pizza stone or baking sheet.
And, if you like your sandwiches in a conventional square slice form...why not buy a Pullman tin?
Ready? Let's go!
450 gms of strong white bread flour - I'm using Churchill White (Matthews Flour) 12.7% protein
300 gms of tepid water
25 gms softened unsalted butter - supermarket brand
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon of instant active yeast
1 teaspoon crushed sea salt - from Ynys Môn, the Isle of Anglesey, off the coast of North Wales.
If you want to double up these quantities to make more bread and maximise the space in your oven...
900 gms of strong white bread flour
600 gms tepid water
50 gms unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons crushed sea salt
1½ teaspoon instant active yeast.
flour for dusting
In a bread machine
Add the water and salt first. Then add the remainder of the ingredients and finally, the yeast.
Use a basic dough programme (afterwards move on to Stage 3) OR an instant start programme (e.g. pizza) and then remove the dough from the machine when it has become silky and smooth (8 minutes) and proceed to Stage 2 below.
In a stand mixer
Add the flour and dry ingredients (but not the yeast).
Slowly add the water and yeast on a low setting until all has been absorbed.
Switch to a medium setting and continue to mix until you have a soft and silky dough. Remove the dough and proceed to Stage 2 below
Add the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix them together.
Crumble in the butter and the yeast and then add the water to bring the dough together.
Tip onto an un-floured board and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft and silky dough.
Stage 2 (join here if you've been mixing by stand, instant start bread machine programme or by hand)
Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, ensuring all the dough is coated. Cover and place in a warm spot (19⁰C - 24⁰C) for about an hour or until it has doubled in volume.
WATCH THE DOUGH, NOT THE CLOCK
Stage 3 (join here if you've produced your dough by bread machine)
Prepare your baking tin(s).
Tip the dough out onto a floured board.
Knock back and flatten into a rough circle.
If you're shaping for a tin, bring in the sides so that you have a rough 'A' shape with the narrow end at the top and the bottom edge roughly the width of your tin. Bring over the top edge to a third and press down, start to roll the dough towards you until you have a compact shape that will transfer, smooth-side up into your prepared tin.
If you are shaping for a baking sheet, you can use the technique above and produce a 'batard' shape or, alternatively, bring all the edges into the middle, turn the dough over and roll the dough into a ball, or boule, draw it gently around the worktop towards you and then away from you to create some surface tension. Place it on the baking sheet.
If you're using a Pullman pan, fill the pan to halfway using the first technique but then do not replace the lid until the dough has risen to within an inch of the top of the tin. Keep an eye on the dough. If it goes too far, it doesn't matter - just bake it without the lid.
Place the dough, covered with a cloth or paper, in a warm spot until it doubles in volume. This might take 30 - 40 minutes, but it might take a little longer....or not.
WATCH THE DOUGH, NOT THE CLOCK
Preheat the oven to 190⁰C (fan) or 200⁰C (conventional) or Gas Mark 7.
Dust the top of the loaf with a little flour. Make one sharp slash with a knife or blade down the middle of the loaf from one end to the other.
If you want a crisper crust - mist the inside of the oven with water just before and immediately after adding the loaf. You can also mist the surface of the loaf.
Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes until it is golden brown and hollow when tapped on the underneath.
Remove from the baking sheet, tin or Pullman tin and cool on a rack.