Sunday 6 October 2013

A Loaf of Bread In Calmer Weather

Today was the last of our heavy weather sailing adventure for the moment. We had been sailing in stormy seas with twenty five to thirty knots of wind for the past almost two full days.

We were sailing with the headsail only, doing seven and a half to eight knots average. But in surfing down the swells we were doing close on eleven knots. Needless to say, we had the sail reefed overnight when the wind picked up substantially. We are not in a race and certainly don't need anybody overboard.

The day dawned on yet another steely, overcast sky and large swells, now on our quarter, now from astern. Not comfortable sailing at all. We motored a few hours while the seas settled and the winds abated.

No fishing yet as conditions are not suitable. Safety first and we were doing very good distance in any case. The fishing will come when the weather is calmer.

Today was baking day again. I made a coarse brown loaf off the cuff. No fancy ingredients, just flour water, yeast, salt and some vegetable fat. The dough was mixed to a consistency on the drier side, probably due to the coarseness of the flour. Two cups of water to four cups of brown bread flour and one half cup of white bread flour.

I am paying a lot more attention to the flour/water mix, as I find that this makes a huge difference to the end result. It is also what the words of the prophets say.

The words of the prophets are written in the instruction manuals, which thy should commit to thy memory, for they giveth thee the straight dope and steereth thee away from error.

The process also warrants extra attention. It is of no use to let the dough rise, then knead the fermentation bubbles out before baking. So I made a little experiment today by having a first rise only, then shaping the loaf and letting it rest for twenty minutes while the oven heats up.

I know that artisan bakers will balk at this, Next time I shall have an overnight rise using sourdough.

Here on the boat you have absolutely no control over the temperature of the dough, except that you can keep it at some constant temperature. Which is basically ambient for that time of day. When we get to the tropics I shall mix dough in the early hours of the morning so that I have at least the lowest temperature of the day for the rise time. I also put the dough in the bottom of the cupboard which gives me the constant temperature. More or less.

The regulation cuts was made on the top of the loaf to assist with even oven spring and the loaf popped into the oven set at 200ยบC.

Turn the loaf after half an hour in the oven to help with even baking all round. This one was baked for forty five minutes, then turned out to rest on a cooling rack. This is our braai grid on the stove, but cooling rack sounds better.

Allow the loaf about twenty minutes of rest to let the steam off and cool before slicing and munching away. This one came out with a beautiful crispy crust and a spongy crumb.


4 cups stone ground unbleached brown bread flour

½ cup stone ground unbleached white bread flour

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

10g instant yeast

1 dessert spoon vegetable fat

2 dessert spoons cooking oil


Rub the vegetable fat into the mixed flour. Add the salt and yeast and mix thoroughly, then add the water. Mix until the dough is consistent, then turn it out onto a floured kneaading board and knead for ten minutes. The dough should be nice and silky, with some elasticity. Pat the dough ball with oil to prevent drying, cover and allow to rise for an hour or so until the dough hs doubled in volume. Our cheap plastic mixing bowl has a lid, which is quite helpful.

Now comes the tricky part. Shape the dough into a loaf without pressing the fermentation bubbles out of the dough. I stretch the dough around the side to the bottom in the shaping process. This gives a nice smooth shape to the top of the loaf.

Allow the loaf to rest for twenty minutes before popping it into the heated oven. Make some cuts on top to facilitate even oven spring. I am having good success in this part since I started paying attention to the shaping and resting part of the process.

Enjoy your loaf!

And use real butter...

This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-09-29






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