Invisible Crust Bread: Attempt #1

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Blossom and dark clouds

I love a challenge, me. When I started baking for The Roleplayers, a request – well, more of a plea, really – was passed back for something that didn’t crumble, collapse and end up making a mess all over their games. (I had been sending rather crumb-y cakes and friable biscuits if I’m honest. I was baking for flavour and not really considering the logistics.) My response was to rustle up some Rocky Road which met the brief but had a tendency to  leave chocolate-y fingers. Hey ho, can’t win them all.

Today’s post takes on two challenges: firstly, the creation of a loaf with as soft a crust as possible, and secondly, a research related query! Yes, despite the hiatus in proceedings I’m trying to keep on top of my write-up as much as I can and a question in a recent comment has prompted me to start delving back into my data.

So, this is going to get long…

Bread first. I’ve mentioned Jef on here before – he’s my husband, the love of my life and the hard-pressed expert taster for all of my baking efforts. And he used to love the invisible crust bread that Hovis made for a few years but which is now sadly discontinued. My challenge for today was to see if I can re-create it at home. Now, you’d think that given all the hype in the press when they announced IC, (as it shall be referred to from now on) there would be copycat recipes a-plenty online but I’ve not managed to turn up a single one. This could be because it was made using an evil industrial process requiring buckets of chemicals, massive smoke-belching factories and child labour or it could be that home-made, artisanal loaves should really have a decent crunch to them. Who knows? The upshot is, I’m going to make this up as I go along.

I’ve started with this basic bread recipe:

Ingredients

  • 500 grams Strong White Bread Flour (Allinson)
  • One and a half tsps salt
  • 1 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 15 grams softened butter
  • 7 grams Easy Bake Yeast (Allinson) (one sachet)
  • 300 ml Water (warm)

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, stir in the sugar and yeast, then rub in the butter. Add enough water and mix to form a soft dough.
  2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for up to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  3. Shape the dough on a baking tray or place in a tin, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size for 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 230°C, fan 210°C, gas 8.
  4. Bake the loaf for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 200°C, 180°C, gas 6 and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the bread is risen and golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

However, from a bit of reading online, I’ve discovered the following hints that should help with a very soft loaf:

  1. Eggs. Lecithin, naturally found in eggs, acts as a softener and should help keep the crust soft. (Apparently it’s a common additive in its processed form.) 
  2. Milk. Milk apparently helps to soften bread. No problem.
  3. Fat. More fat makes for a softer crust. I’m drawing the line at adding shortening i.e. actual lard, but I can up the butter content.
  4. Temperature. Cooking the bread at a lower temperature will stop the formation of a hard brown crust. Of course, there’s going to be a trade-off where it might not actually cook at all so I can’t go too low!
  5. Time. Lower temperature = longer cooking. I’m not sure how much longer – this is going to be an experiment.
  6. Steam. Steam in the oven while baking and then a final dose of closer steam after baking by cooling in an enclosed space – damp tea-towels were mentioned but that makes me a little queasy so I’ll try a ziploc bag. Now, I thought that adding steam to the oven might make the crust crispier a la French baguettes, but it’s also recommended as a way to keep the crust tender. Let’s give it a go…

Here’s the final version of the recipe that I went with:

Ingredients

IMG_1883

  • 500 grams Strong White Bread Flour (Allinson)
  • One tsp salt
  • 3 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 45 grams softened butter
  • 7 grams Easy Bake Yeast (Allinson) (one sachet)
  • 250ml milk

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, stir in the sugar and yeast. Melt the butter and add the milk, then add to the flour mixture. Mix to a soft dough.
  2. Knead the dough for five minutes until elastic.
  3. Clean the bowl, melt a little butter so the dough won’t stick when returned.
  4. Return to the bowl, cover with cling-film and leave to rise. It’s cold today, so took half of The Archers and all of The Reunion on Radio 4. That’s about an hour.IMG_1889
  5. Punch down the dough, shape into a round and leave to rise again for another hour. (It probably didn’t need all this time, but the oven was in use for lunch.)
  6. Set the oven to 170°C, fill a baking tray with boiling water and place at the bottom of the oven. This will make steam. (Might help clean the oven later too, maybe?)
  7. Bake the loaf in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.
  8. When it smells and looked cooked enough, remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes so it’s not too fearsomely hot, then pop into a ziploc bag to cool thoroughly.
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The finished loaf

So – not an invisible crust at all. A very visible crust! It’s soft so it meets that part of the requirement set but, hmm. There’s work to do here. I’ll give it some thought and perhaps try another version later in the week. One slightly mad idea was to try cooking a loaf in the silicon loaf tin from last week, maybe even microwaving it? Ponder, ponder.

Now, on to challenge 2 – gender and the uncanny valley. In the comments on the drunken chocolate cake post, me and Catherine started talking about whether there’s a difference in how eerie we find male and female faces: we both felt that we found female faces had a greater potential for creepiness than male ones. I wondered if this was because we were both, well, female ourselves and whether there’s any relationship between the gender of the viewer, the gender of the face they’re looking at and how eerie they find different faces. I’ve got a nice recent dataset which I’ve been analysing for different effects but hadn’t looked at that particular aspect. So, to explore that, I’ve done some analysis. Here’s the result:

Photos of men were slightly eerier overall

The graph shows the mean eeriness (on a scale of 1-9) of a set of photographs of faces. As you’d expect, some of the photos were male and some female. The graph shows how eerie participants found the male and female faces, broken down by the gender of the participant. The findings actually run counter to what we thought: female participants found the male photos slightly eerier than they find the female photos – male participants also found the male photos eerier than the female photos. However, the differences really are very tiny: there’s no statistical significance at all. Still – interesting, and a good way of doing more with my dataset while I waited for the bread to bake.

Looks rather tasty...

Looks rather tasty…

Oh, and to say thank you for all the baking, look what’s appeared! 🙂

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I have the best husband in the world.

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One Response to Invisible Crust Bread: Attempt #1

  1. Pingback: Invisible Crust Bread: Attempt #2 | Procrastination Recipes

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