From The Straits Times    |

Tip 1: For faster proofing for the yeast to react, place your dough covered in a warm place. I usually put it near the stove as there is always something cooking there.

Tip 2: The exact amount of water depends a lot on your flour. Unlike pastries, it is better to have too much than too little for bread.

Tip 3: If you find spraying water too tedious, you may leave a pan of boiling water inside the oven before popping the dough inside. This would also help in creating steam.

Tip 4: Professional bakers have steam injectors inside their ovens. Right after placing their loaves inside they give the loaves a good blast of steam. The steam keeps the outside of the loaves moist and supple so that the bread can spring for as long as possible. Once the outside of the loaf begins to dry out it hardens, preventing further spring. Then the crust begins to form. We just have to be creative at home to get the same effect.

Tip 5: A warning – steam is hot. Really, really hot. Steam is also wet and many electronic ovens do not like wet. Please use the utmost caution when trying any of these techniques.

Serves 10

570 grams 100% Wholemeal Organic Flour , plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
3 teaspoons Dry Yeast , equivalent to 1 packet, or 11 grams
3 teaspoons Honey
400 millitres Warm Water
Olive Oil , for coating

Start by coating 2 large bowls with olive oil and set aside.

In a clean mising bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together. Mix well with a whisk or wooden spoon.

Make a well in the centre and add the water and honey. Using the wooden spoon, gently mix until combined.

Finish mixing the dough with your hands until you have a smooth dough with your hands that leaves the bowl almost clean. There should be no bits of flour or dough remaining
Transfer to a slightly floured surface and gently knead for 5 minutes.

Stretch the dough by pulling it outwards and folding over while rotating the dough. Do this for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Finish by forming a ball and tucking under with your hands turned up in a circular motion.

Put the dough into one of the oiled bowls, dusting the top generously with flour. Cover with a teacloth and let it rise, proof, for 30 minutes in a warm place.

After the dough has more than doubled in size, turn out the dough on a slightly floured surface and stretch the dough with the pull and fold technique for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Tuck the dough in the same rotation method to form a smooth and tight surface over the dough.

Place the dough upside down (bottom facing up) in the other prepared oiled bowl for the second and final proofing. Cover again with the teacloth and let rest for another 20 to 30 min.

Preheat oven to 230°C.

After the dough has again more than doubled in size, dust a flat non-stick tray generously with flour and turn the dough gently but swiftly on it without deflating the dough.

Using a sharp serrated knife (usually a steak knife but can also use a razor blade), do a criss-cross pattern over the surface and it’s ready to go into the oven to bake for 40 minutes.

Using a squirt bottle, open the oven door slightly and spray water on to the sides of the oven wall. You will hear a hissing sound when you do that.

Do the above step about 10 times with intervals of between 2 to 3 minutes. This hot spurt of steam will help create a nice crust on your finished bread.

Remove from oven when cooked and turn over onto a wire rack immediately. Check that your bread is fully cooked by rapping the base with your knuckle or a wooden spoon. You will hear a hollow sound when it’s cooked.

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