I have a confession to make. I’m British! Whew… I’m glad that’s out in the open now. About a year ago I learned I was born both American and British. This may account for much of my culinary confusion growing up in California. In all honesty, it was a bit of a shock when I found out about my newly identified citizenship. It was a cultural “identity crises” of sorts. I had always know my family was from England and had close ties with family in the homeland but I never knew how closely “I” was tied. It was like finding out I had an entirely “other” culture and history I belonged to but had never explored. Well, part of my exploration of that identity is through food. I LOVE British food! Some of you may find that hard to believe or even sad, but it’s the truth. And this bread brings me closer to the commonwealth with every slice.
This bread is identified as “Batch Bread” and became prevalent in England with the introduction of refined white flour and sugar. It was quite popular among the aristocrats due to its sweetness but was seldom found among the commoners because of the cost of refined sugar and flour in the early 18th century. It is made with 4 cups of white bread flour (again…I did not have any so I used all purpose flour. One of these days I will buy some bread flour), 1 1/2 tsp salt, 30 g yeast, “Scant” 2/3 stick of softened butter, “Scant” 1/2 cup of superfine sugar (I used regular sugar), and 1 1/4 cups water.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl (or kitchen aid) and mix. When all the crumbs have been incorporated, place the dough on a floured counter and knead. Here I must change my tune from previous post. Up until this bread I have been using the kitchen aid to knead the dough for me, but with this one I took the time to really get my hands into it. It was quite satisfying and help me to reconnect with my British roots a little more. After kneading you put the dough back in the bowl and let rest for 1 hour. I would recommend you do likewise.
Put dough back onto the counter and roll into a ball, then press down, gently flattening until you have around (flat) about 8-10 inches across. Dust the top with flour and place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet (or a well oiled one). Allow to rise 1-2 hours. I recommend 2 to get let the yeast do its work. Preheat the oven to 400 and bake the loaf for 15-20 minutes (closer to 20). Transfer to wire rack and cool.
One thing I found, which I will need to investigate further is that the center of my loaf was doughy. I don’t know if this had to do with the rising time, the temperature of the oven, or something I did horribly wrong! What ever the case, it was amazing and I look forward to making another loaf to prove (to myself) that I can do it write!Adapted From: Hollywood, Paul. 100 Great Breads. Edited by Victoria Alers-Hankey and Barbara Dixon. New York: Cassell Illustrated, 2004.