The Bake of the Dough is in the Proving
Although there is nothing like the smell and taste of warm homemade bread straight from the oven, I admittedly don’t make my own bread enough. Maybe through apprehension, impatience or lack of practice, making bread never seems to be high on my priority list – the results when I do decide to take the plunge however, are always massively satisfying, and seemingly worth the time and effort invested.
When time is limited and I am looking for instant results, soda bread is my ‘go-to’ recipe. Eliminating long periods of kneading and proving, this ‘quick’ bread dough is the perfect leavened bread that achieves equally satisfying outcomes without the timely fermentation process. The combination of acidic ingredients of buttermilk and baking soda allows the dough to be ‘chemically’ leavened through the instant production of gas – all the hard work is done for you! However, with a little more time on my hands to dedicate to the proving process, there is nothing like nurturing a live dough as it grows into beautiful bread.
As one of the world’s oldest foods, and an universal staple in many diets and cuisines across the globe, the variety and versatility of bread is forever expanding. Experimenting with flavours and textures allows bakers to arrive at interesting and alternative bakes, with artisan bread making significant waves in the today’s food market.
Like other elements of cooking and baking, arriving at the ‘perfect’ loaf is something short of a scientific experiment. With that in mind (and knowing I am definitely no scientist!), I often shy away from diverging too far away from tried and tested methods. Instead I look to add my own stamp by introducing new and unique flavour combinations.
An accurate and timely fermentation process, otherwise known as proving is vital to the success of any leavened dough. As mentioned previously, this can be achieved instantly through a simple chemical reaction, however, it is more commonly achieved through the use of yeast. Whether fresh, dry or fast action yeast, the fermentation process is vital, and at times can be a labour of love. To accomplish a light, airy and fluffy bake, gluten needs to be encouraged to grow in the dough. A glutenous structure is only obtained through multiple stages, alternating between work and rest periods that allows vital gases to be produced.
However, be careful never to overproof your dough – this is easily done. Simply leaving your dough to its own devices will result in a poor gluten structure as excessive gases struggle to escape. Although recipes will vary, basic bread recipes will look to follow these simple steps;
- Combine ingredients
The success of any proof will also rely on its environment. Although it is a slow and steady process, dough is encouraged to rise in a warm environment. This does not speed the process up, but simply encourages fermentation to be more productive.
With a very sweet tooth and craving the nostalgic smells of a Saturday morning trip to the bakery, I decided to make a sweet dough – this works on exactly the same principals as any savoury bread. Although, with the addition of a small quantity of sugar and eggs, this is a slightly richer dough, and therefore fantastic for creating any ‘bakery style’ buns and cakes as well as fruit loaves.
With this in mind, I took two of my all-time favourite flavours of cinnamon and ginger and looked to deliver a recipe for a sticky, indulgent and sinful bakery bun. My Cinnamon and Stem Ginger Buns were created! To add texture and another level of flavour, I opted for a granary bread flour that packs this recipe with a variety of seeds and grains – a brilliant alternative to adding nuts. This is the perfect recipe to dedicate your time to at the weekend, and sit back and enjoy mid-morning with a large mug of coffee! Be sure to understand the simple etiquettes of the proving process, and you will be satisfied with the results time and time again.
- 100g Butter
- 50g Caster sugar
- 450g Granary bread flour
- 7g Dried yeast
- 2 Free range eggs
- 125ml Milk
- 100g Stem Ginger
- 85g Soft brown sugar
- 4tsp Cinnamon
- Orange zest
- 50g Melted butter
- 1tbsp Golden syrup
- 1tsp Cinnamon
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Using light fingertips, rub 85g butter into the flour to form bread crumbs. Add the yeast, beaten eggs and milk, mixing to form a soft dough. Knead the dough by hand for 10-15 minutes, or in a mixer with dough hook for half the time – the dough should appear elastic and and smooth once suitably kneaded.
- Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and allow to prove in a warm place for about 1 hour (or until the dough has doubled in size).
- Whilst the dough is proving, finely chop the ginger and combine with the remaining 15g butter (melted), cinnamon, a little orange zest and sugar to create a paste. When ready, knock out the air from the dough and place on a lightly oiled surface and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes.
- Divide the dough into two, rolling each portion in two large rectangles of 1-2cm thickness. Spread the paste onto the dough, before tightly rolling up along the long side before cutting into 8 equal pieces – repeat with the second portion of dough.
- In a well oiled tin, arrange the buns, being careful not to over pack the tin – look to leave 1-2cm between each roll to allow space for second proving (I used two round cake tins – 1 large and 1 small). Cover the tins and place in a warm place to prove for another 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4-5.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Whilst the buns are in the oven, make the glaze by combing the melted butter golden syrup and a little cinnamon. Remove the rolls from the oven and liberally brush with the glaze, and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Enjoy warm straight from the oven – this is when they are at their best!