Recipe: Better White Bread

Based on the tips on The Fresh Loaf and his recipe for white batard, here is an improved recipe for white bread.

For 2 loaves of white bread

2 tsp dry yeast (~14gr)
1/2 cup warm water + 2 cups of warm water
6 cups of flour + 1 cup
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil

The evening before (about 12 hours before the next step)
Mix 1/4 tsp dry yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1 cup flour
Cover bowl, leave out at room temperature

The next day 
Mix 5 cups of flour and 2 cups of water. cover bowl with damp towel. wait for 30min (autolyze)
Mix in the 2 tsp salt, 4 tbsp honey, 3 tbsp olive oil, the preferment (mix from the day before), and rest of the yeast (1 3/4 tsp) — note: if you have the type of yeast that needs activating, put the yeast in a separate bowl with 1 cup of the warm water and a bit of the flour, for about 10 min. This is also a good way to test if your yeast still works.
Stretch and fold –– it is so sticky that I just do the best I can with a spoon. Let rise for 30min.
Stretch and fold — it is still very sticky, but I add about half a cup of flour just try. Let rise for 30min.
Stretch and fold — still sticky. Again adding half a cup of flour . Let rise for 30min.
Divide into 2 loaves, shape into the form you like or put in bread form, seam down — do not punch it down totally, but leave some gas in. Carve the dough in at the top, at least 1cm deep  Let rise for 1h.
Note: because I let one loaf rise in a form, but the other not, it was difficult to cover them during the rising process. Instead I wetted the bread tops every now and then to prevent dehydration.
Wet the top with a bit of water. Bake at 230 degrees Celsius for 25 min.


The verdict
The final bread looks nice. The internal structure is great. Love the holes. But it does seem a bit too oily to me. During the process, it smelled a lot like oliebollen, which are oily, sweet dumplings Dutch people eat at new Year’s eve. One other thing I did not like about this recipe compared to my previous recipe, is that it takes a lot more effort, as you knead the dough four times, with only thirty minutes in between! Less work is definitely better.

Next time?
My recommendations for adjusting this recipe for even better bread are:  less water (2 cups?), less oil (1 tbsp?), less honey (1 tbsp?). Let’s keep the preferment and autolyzing. They require little effort, just more waiting. As there is a lot less sugar then, remove one kneeding down, and add a little more time in between the rises. Keep the high temperature baking. The recipe now seems to move more into the direction of French baguette. When I try this next week, I will post the results again.


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