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Friday 11 November 2011

7 Days Months of Baking: Day 5 - Wright's Parmesan & Sun Dried Tomato Bread

When I set out of my 7 Days of Baking challenge, a little voice in the back of my head was telling me "It's going to turn into 7 Months of Baking, you know... you won't keep at it, you're too lazy." And so, here we are, almost six months to the day after starting the challenge, just over two months after my last posting here, and with three Wright's mixes still to bake.

I'd like to say I've been positively rushed off my feet with other stuff and, while I can certainly say I have other things on the go right now, none of it has been consuming a particularly large portion of my time. I've just been very, very lazy.

But I mentioned that I'm lazy, right?

There's plenty of other stuff to be written up, but for the moment, let's get another stage of my baking challenge out of the way.

  • Wrights Parmesan & Sun Dried Tomato Bread Mix
  • Water
  • Butter or Oil (for greasing the baking tin/tray, or just use a tin liner)
  • Flour (only for the kneading part!)
Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (1 hour 15 if baking rolls rather than a loaf)

Tools Required:
  • Medium/Large Bowl
  • Sturdy Mixing Impliment (a whisk is not appropriate for dough!)
  • Baking Tin (2lb loaf size) or Baking Tray (enough to accommodate 10 rolls)
  • Jug
  • An Area of Clear, Flat Kitchen Surface (for the kneading)
  • Cling Film or Cloth
  • Cooling Rack
The Process:
As usual, Wright's on-package instructions are pretty much all you need. It's a very simple process, and almost impossible to screw up as long as the supplied instructions are followed. I must admit that this, my second Wright's bread mix, left me pining for a food mixer, because mixing 500g of this ready-prepared wonder with 315ml of lukewarm water by hand rapidly turns into an exercise in frustration. Once the water was basically mixed in, there was still a fair amount of the dry mixture lurking in the bowl, so I had to work it in by hand. What with that and the kneading, I must have washed my hands about half a dozen times (probably an exaggeration).

After the kneading stage comes the 'cover it with cling film/damp cloth and leave it somewhere warm for about half an hour' stage, to allow the dough to rise and ideally, according to the instructions, 'double in size'.

When I first started this challenge, I imagined that I'd do impressive things with the bread mixes... While plaiting is probably well beyond my level of skill (and patience), there was the possibility of turning the dough into something other than a basic loaf (Baguette? Pretzel? A single, large, round bun?) but, I confess, I just didn't feel up to doing anything particularly whizzy with the Parmesan & Sun Dried Tomato version. Still, there's always the Cheese & Onion mix...

Once the dough has done its time and is ready to go, an oven preheated to 210C (230C if not fan-assisted) is its next port of call. A mere 30 minutes baking time is recommended by the instructions.

The Results:
As I've come to expect from Wrights, the bread produced by this mix is fantastic. I did a couple of things different, compared to baking the Mixed Grain variety. Firstly, while the instructions suggest 30-40 minutes dough rising time, I ended up leaving it for 50 minutes, just to see how much further it might rise. The answer is "quite a lot". It easily doubled in size, and I only put it in the oven when I did because I was afraid the rising dough might actually spill out of the loaf tin. And I hadn't even left it somewhere especially warm.

The 30 minute cooking time, much like the hour recommended for Wright's cakes, might actually be a bit excessive for my oven. The crust was very thick and tough (not that I dislike crusty bread and, frankly, I'm only comparing it to yer-average Supermarket loaf, most of which can barely be said to have a crust), and just a touch bitter. The bread within, though, is light, moist, and bursting with chunks of sun dried tomato.

Given that one of the components of the mix is Parmesan (1.4% according to the ingredients list), I'm surprised by how little it flavours the finished loaf. While, obviously, the pieces of tomato are rather larger (and less inclined to melt during the baking process), I would have expected a stronger note of cheese. Strangely, though, most of the flavour in the bread comes from the tomato, so perhaps this would have been a good opportunity to add some savoury embellishments. That said, I have no Parmesan in my cupboards or fridge because I'm not that big a fan of cheese.

Had I been hoping for a better balance between the tomato and the parmesan, or just a more flavourful bread, I'd probably have been disappointed by this loaf but, as a savoury bread that is not overloaded by its strong, Italian cheese component, I'm quite happy with the results. I do wonder what proportion of Parmesan would be required to increase its presence in the flavour of the bread...

For future Wright's breads, I suspect I'll be leaving it longer to rise, but cutting the baking time, just to see how that affects the crust and the interior of the loaf.

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