The last time I made a bread loaf was like, emm... at least a year ago? LOL. Yep... Only mummies with clingy tiny humans understand the agony of having a long "I-want-to-do-this-and-that" list, but simply cannot find some me-time to do any of it. With 13 months old lil' lady who only wants to self-feed, I figured it's time to start baking again so that she can enjoy some wholesome homemade bread.
Now why should you bother making bread at home? Well, because it's free from nasty stuffs like softeners, conditioners, preservatives, improvers, and so on. Having said that, I do understand that we don't really have the luxury of making bread from scratch all the time, so I will make it whenever possible (or rather when I feel adventurous, LOL). Anyway, I do prefer to have a bread maker if I were to bake regularly. :P It's not that complicated to make bread the old-fashion way, but it does require a little patience and effort. Haha.
Alright, let's cut long stories short. What's the key to soft fluffy bread if you where to hand-knead and oven-bake? Ferment part of the bread dough in the fridge overnight! Yep, as easy as that! If this is new to you, and like me, you don't have a bread maker just yet, read on! This recipe yields 1 big loaf of bread.
Ingredients for refrigerated overnight ferment (A):
200g high protein flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Ingredients for bread dough (B):
300g high protein flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
A dash of salt
1 teaspoon oil
- Mix all ingredients for the refrigerated overnight ferment (A) in a small bowl. Just stir it with a spoon until well combined. No kneading required.
- Cover the mixture with a cling wrap. Ensure that the cling wrap touches the entire surface so that the surface of the ferment doesn't dry up.
- Pop the bowl into the fridge and ferment for at least 8 hours. The yeast will do its job and you'll get a bubbly wet dough next day.
- Oil the surface of a bread pan and dust it with some flour.
- Combine the ferment with all ingredients for bread dough (B), excluding oil. Knead dough until it clears the side of the bowl. The dough should be an elastic ball that is no longer sticky.
- Add oil and continue kneading for a few more minutes. Pop the dough into the prepared bread pan and loosely cover it with a lightly oiled cling wrap (for easy removal of cling crap should the dough rise until it touches the cling wrap).
- Leave it on the counter top proof for an hour. The bread dough should now double in size.
- Remove cling wrap and carefully transfer the bread tin into the oven. Bake it at 200oC for 25-30 minutes.
- Let cool on a rack for an hour or so. Cut into slices and enjoy!
Not the best-looking bread (looks a little burnt on top thanks to the uneven heat of my oven) but it's really fluffy and springy. Look at the air pockets! I am beyond ecstatic with the outcome. So glad that my effort actually pays off. Haha.
Now if you prefer to make in into different shapes, do it by all means! I would love to make smaller buns but my tiny human was already screaming for me before I even manage to let the bread proof. So yeah, a big loaf of bread is all I manage to do. >.< You can totally make steamed buns with the exact same recipe by just replacing the high protein flour with pau flour.
Here's the thing with homemade bread, it doesn't keep as good as the commercial ones. In fact, it will most likely harden on the next day of baking. I give it a quick 5-10 minutes steam before serving to my little one so that it's all soft and fluffy again. Last but not least, if you are certain that you can't finish the entire loaf in say, 2 days, it's best to keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for maximum freshness. Just lightly steam or toast it before eating and it will be all nice and tasty again. Hehe.