Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Recipe: Perfect French Bread

Walk into Gay Hussar and you will see that we always have fresh bread ready to serve with
all of our meals. Bread is an integral part of the Hungarian diet, most likely because we like
to mop up every last bit of goulash!

There are few simple pleasures in life that give the level of satisfaction, and heavenly smell,
that comes from baking bread. Here is a recipe, perfect to serve alongside salads and lighter
dishes as we enjoy the last moments of summer.

500g/1lb 1oz strong white bread flour, plus a little extra flour for finishing
 40g/1½oz soft butter
 12g/2 sachets fast action dried yeast
 10g/2tsp salt
 About 300ml tepid water (warm not cold - about body temperature)
 A little olive or sunflower oil
 Additional cold water, for creating steam in the oven

1. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Add the yeast to one side of the
bowl and add the salt to the other. Stir all the ingredients with a spoon to combine.
2. Add half of the water and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to add water a
little at a time, combining well, until you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the
bowl. Mix with your fingers to make sure all of the ingredients are combined and use the
mixture to clean the inside of the bowl. Keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
3. Use about a teaspoon of oil to lightly grease a clean work surface (using oil instead of flour
will keep the texture of the dough consistent). Put your dough onto the greased work surface.
Fold the far edge of the dough into the middle, then turn the dough by a quarter turn and
repeat. Do this several times until the dough is very lightly coated in olive oil.
4. Now use your hands to knead the dough. Push the dough out in one direction with the heel of
your hand, then fold it back on itself, turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Kneading in
this way stretches the gluten and makes the dough elastic. Do this for about 4 or 5 mins until
the dough is smooth and stretchy. Work quickly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your
hands. If it does get too sticky you can add a little flour to your hands.
5. Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl and put the dough back into it. Cover with a damp tea
towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave it on one side to prove. This gives the yeast time to
work and the dough will double in size. This should take about an hour, but will vary
depending on the temperature of your room. Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.
6. Once the dough has doubled in size you can scrape it out of the bowl to shape it. The texture
should be bouncy and shiny. Put it onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back - use your
hand to roll the dough up, then turn by a quarter turn and roll it up again. Repeat several
times. Then use your hands to gently turn and smooth it into a round loaf shape.
7. Place onto the lined baking tray, cover with a tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to
prove again until it’s doubled in size. This will take about an hour, but may be quicker or
slower depending on how warm your kitchen is.
8. Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan assisted)/425°F/gas mark 7. Put an old, empty
roasting tin into the bottom of the oven.
9. After an hour the loaf should have risen again. Sprinkle some flour on top and very gently
rub it in. Use a large, sharp knife to make shallow cuts about 1cm deep across the top of the
loaf to create a diamond pattern.
10. Put the loaf on the baking tray into the middle of the oven. Pour cold water into the empty
roasting tray at the bottom of the oven just before you shut the door - this creates steam
which helps the loaf develop a crisp and shiny crust. Bake the loaf for about 30 mins.
11. The loaf is cooked when it's risen and golden. To check, take it out of the oven and tap it
gently underneath - it should sound hollow. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

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