Monday, 18 February 2013

Vanilla bread

The finished loaf
There are only two sweet flavours that Dan likes. The first is chocolate - which led us to the chocolate teabread invention. The second, as you will have guessed, is vanilla. It's not a passion that I share - panettone is evil in baked form. But Dan is the ideas man on this blog, so time for me to just shush and get on with being the kitchen slave.

The recipe we came up with was a complete shot in the dark. I intended to adapt a recipe for buttermilk bread - yogurt being similar in character, I'm told - but the only recipes I liked the look of were for soda bread and I didn't want my first attempt with that style to be an invention. So I just made this up, using the usual quantities of butter, yeast and salt for a 500g basic white bread, and adding yogurt and milk until the dough felt about right.

Ingredients
Dan's Thumbometer
1. Double yum when fresh
2. Hmmmm after a day
500g strong white bread flour
30g butter, softened
10g salt
10g fast-action yeast
450g pot low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 vanilla pod
25ml semi-skimmed milk
1 egg, beaten

Method
Score the vanilla pod lengthways through into the middle. Open the skin and remove the seeds by scraping them out with a knife. Add the seeds to the yogurt in the pot, and give it a good stir.

Place the dry ingredients and the butter in a bowl, as for the basic white bread. Add the yogurt and mix the contents of the bowl with your hand, using a circular movement. (You'll see from the video of my hands going into the mix that I didn't relish the prospect, though it wasn't quite as icky as I expected. You'll also notice that I was already talking when Dan started the film, going on pointlessly about something - the modern equivalent of all those childhood photos I took of my mum in mid flow, her mouth open, her look intent.) If the mix is too dry, add some milk, a little at a time, until all the dry ingredients have been picked up.


From here, follow the kneading and rising instructions for the basic white bread. (At this stage I was a bit worried that I'd added too much milk, as there was a lot of cratering on the surface of the dough, see above left.) Once the dough has risen for two hours, knock the air out, shape the dough into a round and place it on a baking tray lined with lightly oiled greaseproof paper. (There was no more cratering at this stage, see above right.) Place the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave the dough to prove for an hour, then glaze with beaten egg and slash with a cross before baking in the oven set at 200C (400F, gas 6) for half an hour.

Cratered dough before first rise
Smooth dough ready for proving

Result
Fresh bread
Much to my surprise, given the cratering in the original dough, this worked incredibly well. The finished bread is a brioche-style loaf that is especially lovely toasted. The vanilla flavour is not overpowering but is definitely there. I agree with Dan's double yum.

A day or so later
Hmmm, as Dan says. I noticed that he wasn't asking to eat the bread at every possible moment - which has been the case with all the previous inventions. So I asked him what he thought again, and he gave it the lower rating. Again, I agree with him. Although it is not at all stale, the toasted bread had become rather cakey and heavy. When I make this again, it will be a smaller loaf for immediate eating.

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