Welcome to Mise en Place, a column which takes its cue from the French tradition that literally translates to “everything in it’s place.” More than just the culinary process of prepping and assembling ingredients beforehand, Mise en Place is a state of mind. A philosophy of cooking, that will equip you will all the tips, tricks and hacks you need to embrace and elevate your inner chef!
The first edition of this column is contributed by Rachelle Andrade, a.k.a. Rach The Baker. Head Baker at Qualia Mumbai, Rachelle is credited with crafting some of the city’s finest artisanal breads, among other creative bakes including the Cruffin. Over to her, as she shares with us her bread-baking tips and recipe for a milk loaf.
Baking good bread does not require a huge list of ingredients or equipment. What you need for sure is time and patience, and in my experience a bit of a daredevil attitude. I have almost approached every new recipe or technique simply by saying aloud “what is the worst that could happen?” If you have always wanted to bake bread but have been afraid, here is a small list that will help you get through it.
Walk before you try to run
Don’t get knee deep in a recipe that will make you want to quit before you start. Pick a recipe that is EASY.
It will be a straight dough method, something requiring very few steps. I honestly believe that people want to rush the process which ends up in bread that is kind of blah. The amount of rest the dough is given, actually enhances the flavor while making the dough more easy to work with. So I suggest while the dough rests it out, kick up your feet and do the same!
Equipment and ingredients
Once you settle on a recipe that you want to try, make sure that you have all the basic equipment and the ingredients that it calls for. This will definitely ensure a smooth first bake. At a minimum, you will need:
- Digital weighing scale
- Dough Scraper/ Plastic Scraper
- Loaf Tin/ Baking Tray (Depending if you are making a loaf or rolls)
- 2 inch Flat brush to grease oil on the tin or egg washing the loaf
3. Follow the recipe
I have a mantra in my Kitchen: “The Recipe is God.”
Even with 18 years of active kitchen experience, I never change a recipe in the first go. I always make it as is and second attempt onwards, I change anything I did not like about it. Remember now more than ever, that you are the student and the recipe your teacher.
Just in case you fail, at least you know you attempted everything the recipe said. Only once you are more confident with basics, is it time to turn artist.
4. The day of the bake
Weigh out your recipe and work in an area that is not cluttered; that way there are fewer chances of feeling overwhelmed. Read the recipe and follow just as it says; be confident! Another secret; the dough knows when you are afraid, so just knead that dough and show her who is boss!
Rachelle’s Recipe for a Milk Loaf
Makes 2 loaves of 450 gm each | loaf tin dimensions: 3.5 in X 7.5 in
- 500 gms Flour
- 10 gms Yeast *
- 10 gms Salt
- 50 gms Honey
- 35 gms Oil
- 50 gms Butter
- 200 gms Milk
* Yeast mentioned is fresh yeast. If you will be using dry yeast, use half the quantity as it is more active.
- Weigh out all the wet ingredients including butter together in one bowl and weigh out all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Pour in the wet ingredients and combine with your hand until mixed well together and you can’t see the individual ingredients. This might look like a shaggy mass, but that’s what it is supposed to look like.
- Now place the dough on your work counter and get ready to knead it with your palm. Kneading bread dough is an action that looks like you are trying to smear it against the counter top! That dough scraper that I was talking about is going to come handy here. Use it to bring the dough back together into a clump before you smear it again. This will take a good 5 to 7 mins after which you will notice that the dough is getting smoother.
- If at this point you would like to check if the gluten is well developed, take a small piece of dough (about the size of a table tennis ball) and gently stretch it, little by little on all the sides. You will see that the dough is getting thinner without tearing. This is when you need to stop kneading the dough. In case the dough still tears, continue to knead the dough and test the gluten in a few minutes.
- Round up the dough into a big round ball and place it into a bowl and cover with cling wrap. This dough now needs to be left for about 45 mins to an hour depending on how warm your kitchen is. At the end of the first 45 mins, the dough would look much larger in size (almost 1.5 times its original size)
- Take the dough out from the bowl and divide it into two balls of 450 gms. Round these 450 gms dough balls and let them again rest for 30 to 45 mins. Make sure that the dough is covered well without any air drafts, as this would lead to a nasty skin formation on the dough.
- While your dough rests, grease your loaf tins and preheat your oven to 190° C.
- After 30 minutes, take the dough and flatten it with your palm to remove all the air from the dough. The dough should resemble a square. Roll it up like a log, making sure there isn’t too much of a gap between the rolls. Place in the greased baking tins with the seam on the bottom, cover with cling wrap and let it rise again for about 30 to 45 mins. Note that the dough just before loading into the oven, will be about an inch shorter than the top of the tin.
- Gently place in the oven and place a cube or two of ice inside the oven to replicate steam, so that the bread will have a good oven spring. The bread will take 25 mins to bake; please check half way through, how the loaf is baking.
- Once done, loosen the sides of the loaf with a palette knife or a butter knife. Place on a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing!
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