I have recently become really interested in baking bread at home. I have tried several recipes and watched countless videos online. I have gone so far as to pout when my husband suggests buying bread from the store like my bread isn’t good enough?! Despite all my experimentation and perseverance, I haven’t mastered bread. I think I have a problem with over-proofing or under-prooving? My loaves are always just a little flat and not as airy as store bought bread. And don’t even get me started on the crumb! But they are edible and my go-to recipe is the Paul Hollywood bloomer. That’s got to be a good sign. If I can kind of successfully make Paul Hollywood Bloomer bread, how different can the cob be?
So I started out with weighing everything as usual. I put everything out before I went to work so the water and butter would be the right temperature. I ever put the fancy little bowl scraper between the yeast and salt so there would be no funny business while I was gone.
When I got home it was time to get to work. Things were off to a rocky start, how does the butter get mixed in? There are no instructions on how to incorporate it so I just kind of broke it up with my fingers before putting the water in. My butter fears were calmed once the water went in, the butter just kind of disappeared into the mess of dough. I put in all the water, and a little extra because my baker’s intuition told me to (also there was still flour in the bowl and Paul said I could add extra water). This is what I got.
Success! I made dough! Paul says to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes and he then instructs you on how to properly knead. Now, I’ve YouTubed and googled enough Bake Off and Paul Hollywood tutorials to know Paul has a very specific kneading technique which does not come naturally to me. Since I was bound and determined to get things right I did the stretch a pull knead that Paul describes.
This is where a started to deviate from the recipe. And when I say deviate I mean I took the kneading time and quintupled it (math word care of Google). After 5 minutes of kneading, I still had a very tight kind of tough dough. So I kept going. This time instead of hearing Paul telling me not to “overwerk” the dough in my head it was my very real husband saying aren’t you overworking that? I ignored everyone (real and imaginary) and let my inner baker take over. So I kneaded….for 25 minutes. Until my arms suggested they had been overworked and I needed to stop. Trying to be very dramatic I did the window pane test and things were looking good.
Now to wait. I put the dough in the bowl to rest and tried my best not to over proof it. I set the timer for 50 minutes took before pics so I would know what doubled in size should actually look like and waited.
Side note: proof or prove? I don’t know. I think I say both whether I am saying it or imagining Paul saying it. Paul is more of a prove-er and I think I lean towards proof.
Back to waiting. After 50ish minutes I had a bigger ball of dough aka. prooving success (haha).
*right side is before, left is after
I knocked the air out of the dough, honestly the best past about all bread making, and got to work forming my loaf. Since I had just re-watched the episode with this challenge I knew that a couple of the bakers had flat loaves because they didn’t form their round tight enough so I pulled the whole thing together as tight as I could. Then let it rest again. 50 minutes later again and the ball looked great…..except from the back. There was a big tear on one side of the loaf. I think I might have pulled the loaf a little too tight, or not knocked enough air out, or overworked it or any of the other myriad of things that one can do wrong while making bread that are totally obvious to Paul Hollywood but a complete mystery to me. Either way. The loaf was bigger so I was happy.
I scored the top per instructions and popped it in the over. Traumatised by my Victoria Sandwich over baking I set the timer for 25 minutes and prayed. After 25 minutes the top looked great but the bottom wasn’t very golden so I gave it 5 more minutes. Still not hollow sounding I gave it 5 more. And….over baked again. Not too bad but there are some definite dark spots.
Now the most important question, the crumb. Well, it looked like bread, it tasted like bread, and there were definitely crumbs. It didn’t have any nice air pockets though, you could say it was a tight crumb. But I think it turned out better than most of my previous bread making endeavours. If I was being ranked in the technical I think I would be safely in the middle of the pack, not the worst but not the best. I’m still not a master at bread but I am improving bit by bit.
Next up souffle. Give me strength!