My next door neighbours are great people. She brought me some hand-made clothes; she said she loves knitting them and they are very useful. I was touched and decided to take advantage of being home early and bake a loaf of bread or two for them.
I am still not confident about baking bread. But it is a lot of fun! So, I decided to experiment to bake a loaf that can taste and look good. I prepared one dough and prepared 2 small loafs; one round, one baton (aka “francala”) shaped. The baton bread went to my neighbour and I kept the round one.
The crust of the round loaf was amazing (and crunch), so was the taste! I did not have large holes in the round bread but I hope there were some in the baton – it rose better than the round loaf:)
Recipe (1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon)
1. Warm up 200 ml of water and add 1 dessert spoon of sugar – mix well until all sugar dissolves. Add 1 dessert spoon of dry yeast. Do NOT mix yeast. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.
2. Add the yeast mixture to 3 cups of all purpose flour. Add 2/3 cups (150 ml) of water and mix with spoon or with your hands until it forms a somewhat sticky but coherent dough.
3. Cover the top of the container (I used a pot and its lid for this purpose), wrap with a kitchen towel and rest for 20 min to autolyse at room temperature.
4. Add 1 table spoon of salt and lightly knead the dough while still in the container (no flour is needed at this step as I aim it to be a soft and not a hearty bread). I noticed that dough become “fragmented” as soon as salt is added – but do not worry; it fixes itself during the process. Work on the dough and give it a round shape.
5. Add 1 table spoon of vegetable oil to a clean pot, spread it around, and put the dough in; then flip the dough over to make sure it gets oil on both sides (top and bottom). Close the lid and put in an oven warmed up to 100 F (I covered the pot with also a kitchen towel).
6. Let rise for 30 min and then stretch and fold 4-5 times and then turn the dough upside down and repeat stretching and folding. Let it rise in the warm oven for another 30 min and stretch and fold again. Put the dough back in the oven and let rise for an additional 30 min.
7. Cut the dough into two (only because I wanted to have two small loafs) on a flour-sprinkled surface. Try not to add more flour and gently shape. Gently press down the bubbles (I had some). Shape, cover with a bowl or kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.
8. Gently shape again and put in floured dishes for proofing upside-down. Sprinkle some flour on top, wrap loosely with cling film, and cover with a thick blanket on stove (I slightly warmed up the stove to help provide some warmth to dough). Let proof for 45 min
9. Apply egg wash – that is, whisk one egg and brush over the loafs. On one of them I also added sesame seeds. Score carefully using a sharp knife. Place in oven dishes sprinkled with corn meal.
11. boil 1.5 cups of water and place in the lower shelf of the oven in an oven-safe dish (to provide humidity during the bake)
10. bake at a pre-heated oven (400 F) for 45 min. At 30 min I took them out and sprinkled a generous amount of water on top. The round one needed to bake an additional 5 min (its bottom did not get brownish at 45 min)
11. Apply butter on the surface when taken out of the oven and enjoy!
Bon appetite! 🙂