Sometimes things turn out perfectly and with me it's usually an accident. The same can be said for bread which is a moody beast at the best of times. It seems to be affected by the weather and humidity and the temperature of the room and the position of the moon in pisces. Actually I made that last one up, but I might be right!
Anyway I made a batch of bread on Sunday having been shamed into it by Pipany who, besides making pretty hand sewn and embroidered things also bakes bread almost every day. I used to, but then I went back to work and a few daily habits (bread making, dusting, tidying up, mowing the lawn) have been lost on the way.
The basic recipe I use for bread is in Bread: River Cottage Handbook Number three by Dan Stevens, which is such a brilliant book. He explains exactly how to make excellent bread and my breadmaking has improved since I got it.
His basic recipe is for a kilo of flour with 10g of yeast, 20g of salt, a handful or two of extras (like oats and seeds), 600ml of warm water, maybe a glug of oil or a knob of butter and then the magic of kneading.
For Sunday's rolls I use white flour and 10g of dried yeast which I start in the warm water with a teaspoon of golden caster sugar. I leave that in a warm place to froth up while I add the other bits to the flour: salt (but I only use 15g, not Dan's 20g), one tablespoon (or so) of runny lavender honey, a good big glug of sunflower oil and two handfuls of porridge oats. I then pour in the water and yeast and leave it in the Kenwood mixer to knead for ten minutes.
I then put the dough to rise until it reaches the top of the bowl, then let the mixer gently knead it again - and you must be gentle with the dough. Dan Stevens has got me out of my kneading and pounding at dough frame of mind and into a much gentler one. I then leave it to rise for a second time, again to the top of the bowl. I think it's the double rising that really develops the gluten and makes good bread. It can't be rushed.
Next it's time for shaping (again gently) and I cut this dough up into 16 pieces and shape into rolls. Then you need bowls - I use wide soup bowls. The first is for milk and the others for whichever coatings you want on your rolls. I use porridge oats and poppyseeds. What you do is submerge the rolls in the milk and then into the coatings, patting it in all over. Then put the rolls onto a baking tray and leave them to rise for a third time until - as Dan Stevens puts it - they're absolutely bursting to be baked.
They then go into a pre-heated oven at it's hottest temperature (I manage Gas mark 9, but hotter is better) for ten minutes. Then you turn the oven down to Gas 4 to 5 for another 10 to 15 minutes and they're done.