Lockdown lunches: how to bake the best bread during coronavirus
The coronavirus crisis has left cities around the world in lockdown. With restaurants closed and millions indoors, we are going to have to get back to home-cooking. Food writer Tim Hayward shows the FT's Daniel Garrahan how to bake the perfect loaf
Filmed by Lauren Juliff and Liberty Wright. Produced by Daniel Garrahan and Tim Hayward. Edited by Daniel Garrahan
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Want me to get it? Oh man, that's beautiful! Now I've got butter running down my arm, and that's always a good thing. This bread is delicious.
So Tim, we're all going to be spending a lot more time at home, it's fair to say, over the coming weeks and months. It's now the time to get back to proper home cooking.
It's important to have a few basic things that might be useful. I thought today we'd start off by doing a really simple loaf of bread. Have you got your gear?
I've got a mixing bowl, yeast.
Real yeast, right? Proper yeast?
This is fresh yeast.
All I've got is dried yeast, but they're roughly the same thing. So get your bowl on your scale...
...and then just weigh into that 500 grammes of flour.
I've often heard people say baking is a science. You have to really be precise.
Oh yes, absolutely. All that stove top nonsense with flame and fire, that's easy. This stuff is serious science. I'm using strong bread flour.
I had to hunt high and low for this strong bread flour. It's not everywhere at the moment. People have emptied the shelves in a lot of places. If I had another type of flour, could I do something similar, or does it have to be the bread flour?
You can do this with general purpose regular flour, not self-raising, but regular flour. You can do it. You probably won't get as nice a crust or as nice a crumb, but you'll be able to get a perfectly working, serviceable loaf.
I want to measure 7 grammes of the yeast in my case, 15 grammes in your case.
15 because I'm using the fresh yeast.
...onto one side of the flour. Now, where I'm pouring mine, you crumble yours onto the other side, pour in 10 grammes of salt, and weigh 350 grammes of a tepid water right into the middle of that flour. Now, you are going to get really floury and messy. You're going to use your fingers. Mix it and blend it. This is where it gets therapeutic there.
This is still feeling quite wet in my fingers. Is that all right?
This does stay wet. Don't worry about that. Now, here's a really weird question. Do you travel much with work?
Well, not at the moment. In the past, I used to, yes.
Are you one of those people that nicks the shower caps?
I don't think I've ever done that.
See, I'm the only bald man in the world who nicks the shower caps, but the shower caps in hotels are really, really good for covering dough. Then you can see inside how the dough's rising, but listen, don't worry about that. I've just admitted that. At least my stockpiles are of something relatively benign.
Cover it up with the a piece of damp cloth. Over the next hour or so, come down and check it, and see if it's sort of starting to move and puff up.
Just having a look at this thing, it looks kind of gelatinous. Should I be worried about that?
No, that's really, really good. You know, when people think about bread usually, they think about kneading it a lot. This gelatinous quality means that the gluten's breaking down without having to be beaten up.
What you need to do now is get your hands wet. Turn it, and kind of fold it on itself a few times, stretching the dough and lifting it into the middle and making a little tight ball. And then put the cover back on to leave it for a couple more hours.
The more times you stretch and fold, the stronger the gluten becomes, and therefore, when it puffs up, it's really going to go like a rocket. Think about it as a sort of a day-long process.
How is your dough looking?
It's looking pretty firm.
Oh, don't shake it! Don't shake it! No, no. That's looking pretty good.
Is that looking good?
That's good. Stop joggling it about!
You'll let all the air out!
I'm being a little bit too enthusiastic there.
Be gentle, gentle with it. Now watch. Here we go. Take the lid off, and check it. My lord, that looks beautiful. Yes. You need to create some enclosed environment in which it can cook hot and hard and quickly. So we're going to do it inside one of these pots.
Why one of these pots and not kind of a more conventional bread tin?
A bread tin would work. You could easily put it into a bread tin, but it won't be so pretty.
Put a squirt of oil into it. We're going to put a little bit of flour on the table in front of us. Pour the dough out, the kind of crusty top of the dough goes down onto the flour, and the wet underside stays upright. Reach it onto the far side.
You put your fingers underneath the dough, kind of lift it and fold in like little rabbit ears, then you turn it round and pull in rabbit ears on the other two corners. So you're pulling these little things into the centre. And if it sticks a bit, put a bit more flour dough. Do you see how it's sort of tightening up into a ball?
Once you've got it reasonably tight, and it's kind of holding together, chuck a bit flour in it, flip it over so the neat side is upwards. Watch this movement.
So you're kind of getting your fingers under it and turning it.
You're tightening it. And you can probably already see in the surface of it that there's little bubbles forming and stuff happening underneath. But that stretchy skin you're making is what's going to hold the bugger together.
Finally, put your hands right underneath it, pick it up like that, move it over the top of your Le Creuset and gently drop it inside just like putting a baby in the bath.
And shall I push it out a little bit so it fits there, or just leave it?
No! Don't you dare! No. Quite the opposite. No. Let it do that by itself. Let it expand against the outside, do you see what I mean? And when it's doubled, we slash it and put it in a hot oven.
The bread has risen beautifully. Yours looks great. It looks better than mine actually.
Mine's still quite flat, yeah, but I've used a bigger pan than yours. So mine's probably too large a one. Cut a big slash in the top so the bread opens up and the cross comes up through it.
I'm a bit nervous doing this because it's kind of stretching and deflating the dough somewhat.
That's fine. Don't worry. Take your glass of water, open the oven door, put this inside right at the centre, and then throw the half glass of water into the oven, not into the pot.
Steam transmits the heat a lot faster than just dry air. Also the steam gelatinises is the outside. It gives it that lovely sort of rubbery finish which then crisps off as it bakes.
OK, it's the moment of truth.
And it smells fantastic.
Oh man, that's beautiful.
Yeah? How does that look?
That is staggeringly good. OK, so shake it a bit. Is it loose in the pot?
Just basically turn your loaf out onto it. There goes mine.
Out it goes.
Oh yes! Oh mate, that is just superb!
It's making a satisfying noise.
That's a fabulous sound. Now mine's actually come out with a more sort of foccacia-like crumb. Mine would have been good in a smaller tin, so it would have raised higher. That's not bad. There's a good distribution in that, so all the little air bubbles have gone through it. What do you reckon? Pretty good.
Salty butter or unsalted butter are you using?
Salty of course. Has to be.
I also find it incredibly rewarding as well as delicious. Oh, now I've got butter running down my arm, and that's always a good thing.