Today, I’m going to do something unspeakable. Against all my research training I am going to put my experimental principles to one side and mess with the scientific method. Yes, I’m going to change several variables all at once and see what happens! (Just imagine the evil cackling noises that I’m making as I type that.)
OK. The first attempt at invisible crust bread produced a very nice loaf – or so I’m reliably informed by Jef – but it most certainly did not have an invisible crust. I’m determined to give this another go: eventually we’ll crack it or die of carbohydrate overdoses.
In my last post I made a long list of things to try to get a nice soft crust. I’m going to supplement my arsenal of ideas and techniques with a few chemicals: specifically, dough improver. I first came across Claybrooke Mill’s dough conditioners a few years ago via Lakeland: we’d just started making breadmaker-bread but the loaves were a bit brick-y. A couple of spoonfuls of dough improver and they were much more like the ones you’d buy. (We think of this as a good thing, generally. Rustic, artisinal bread is lovely but not when you bend knives trying to cut it.) There’s an historical/personal connection too – CM are based Leicester, where I grew up, and not far away from Woodhouse where I got married. They even have a flour mix named “Woodhouse” which I will write about some other time. Today, it’s all about the plain, white bread. Hopefully nice and soft.
The asterisks indicate changes to the ingredients from Attempt #1
- 500 grams Strong White Bread Flour (Allinson)
- Half* a teaspoon of salt
- 3 tsps* caster sugar
- 30 grams* softened butter
- 1 egg*
- 2 tsps dough softener*
- 7 grams Easy Bake Yeast (Allinson) (one sachet)
- 300 ml Water (cold*)
- Sift the flour, dough softener and salt into a large bowl, stir in the sugar and yeast, then rub in the butter.
- Mix the egg into the water and mix to form a soft dough.
- Knead the dough on non-floured surface for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
- Clean and oil the bowl, return the dough to it, cover with cling-film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size: around an hour.
- Knock back and shape the dough into a rough loaf shape. Place in a silicon loaf tin, cover again and leave to rise once more until doubled in size
- Preheat the oven to 170°C.
- Place the silicon tin on a baking sheet and turn a metal loaf tin upside down and place it over the top. (The idea here is to create a micro-climate mini-oven to stop the top from browning too much.)
- Add a tray full of boiling water to the oven to produce steam.
- Bake the loaf for 45 minutes until the bread is risen and very lightly golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
- Turn out and cool inside a ziplock bag, on a wire rack.
So, to sum up, the changes were:
- Less salt
- More sugar and butter
- Added an egg
- Water rather than milk
- Cold liquid rather than warm
- Added dough softener
- Shorter kneading
- No extra flour added when kneading
- Silicon loaf tin rather than straight onto a baking tray
- Another loaf tin over the top to help keep loaf from browning
- Lower temperature still
- Longer cooking still
See? The only constants across the two recipes are the flour and the yeast. Useless from an experimental point of view. But how did the bread turn out?
Oh dear. It’s a nice soft crust, I’ll grant you, but shares several traits in common with a brick. I’m really rather disappointed. Next time, if there is one, I’m going to zap the little… darling.