A Big Softie

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

I think anyone that’s made their own bread will have experienced baking a brick! A dense, heavy, gummy loaf, that comes out of the oven the same size as it went in…just a bit darker. If you haven’t, you’re either very lucky or very skilled, or maybe both. Now, if that disappointment doesn’t dissuade you from continuing your bread odyssey, you will move on to what I like to call ‘good for toast’ loaves. A little lighter than a brick, but still on the dense side, these loaves can either be used to make a jaw ache inducing sandwich or can be transformed into something quite palatable with the aid of a toaster. In fact, I wonder how many other bakers are tired of hearing the back handed complement ‘It makes fantastic toast’? Nonetheless, toasted and slathered in butter, a lot of the short falls are disguised and even if the texture’s not quite there, you can start to appreciate the flavour benefits of baking your own bread. Spurred on by this ‘success’, you continue to practice; honing your skills and baker's intuition, and finally understanding the process enough to create a light, airy, well risen loaf. Bingo! You’ve done it. You’re now churning out quality bread that the family genuinely enjoys. No need for toasting, the children even ditch the Nutella (or cut back a bit!) and you all tuck into bread-based meals with gusto. You shun commercially produced supermarket bread and pity those around you who still have to rely on that cr@p!


Mission accomplished...or is it?! Maybe it could be even softer and lighter, even more tender. But how? Well one simple way is to introduce some fat into your dough, which could come in the form of oil, butter or milk, or even a combination of butter and milk, which is what I do here to maximise the softness of these wholemeal rolls.



INGREDIENTS (Makes approx. 18 rolls)


500g Wholemeal Flour

500g Strong White Bread Flour

20g Salt

15g Instant Yeast

650g Whole Milk

30g Unsalted Butter

Flour/Rice Flour for dusting


METHOD

  1. Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a pan, then remove from the heat and add the milk. This will cool the butter and simultaneously warm the milk slightly.

  2. Put all the ingredients together in a KitchenAid or a large bowl and mix on a low speed (1-2) for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should look smooth, stretchy and well homogenised. Wholemeal flour does absorb more liquid than white flour, so if your dough is looking very thick and dry just add a splash more milk during the mixing process.

  3. Scrape any dough off the dough hook, cover the bowl with a plate or sheet of Clingfilm and allow to proof at room temperature for an hour or until the dough is lifting the cover off the bowl.

  4. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface being careful not to tear or deflate it too much.

  5. Using a dough scraper or a large knife divide the dough into 90g pieces. Try to do this using as few cuts as possible. The more pieces of dough you have to squash back together, the more damage you are doing to the structure, which can lead to a denser crumb.

  6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, locate a smooth flat side and lay that down on your work surface. This side will eventually become the top of the bun once you have shaped it.

  7. Using the thumb of your left hand to hold the dough still, use your right hand to gently pinch and stretch each side up and over it into the middle. Repeat the process a few times, turning the dough as you go to create a taught ball. Flip the ball over so the seams are underneath and give it a gentle squeeze to flatten it slightly. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

  8. Arrange the dough balls on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, leaving a gap of approximately 1cm between them on all sides. They will proof into each other for you to tear apart after baking. Cover with a tea towel and leave to proof at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

  9. Pre-heat your oven to 200c with an empty roasting tin on the bottom shelf. When you are ready to bake, put the tray of buns in the oven and then pour a cup of cold water into the hot roasting tin and quickly close the oven door. The water in the roasting tin will produce steam for the first few minutes of cooking which will help your buns 'spring' and gain maximum volume before the crust sets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the tray half way through to ensure an even bake.

  10. Once cooked, transfer them to a wire rack to cool.


You can use this recipe to make loaves too.


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