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DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread

By Richard Bertinet

DOUGH by Richard BertinetThis award-winning book is an invaluable guide to making simple, contemporary bread. Richard Bertinet brings back the fun to bread-making with his practical and easy approach so you will never want to buy a supermarket loaf again.

Not unexpectedly for a French Master Baker he uses the traditional French style method of ‘working’ the dough method rather than the British method of kneading it. This gets more air into the dough producing a lighter bread and hopefully not that dreaded home-made “brick”

The five chapters each focus on a different basic (or simple) dough – White, Olive Oil, Brown, Rye and Sweet and an easy loaf to start off on for each of the doughs. From this ‘parent’ dough you can bake a vast variety of breads really easily. There are breads for every occasion, bake a pile of scones for tea, make a pizza dough with the kids or friends, knock up an oh-so-simple fougasse or puff balls to impress your guests for supper, or treat yourself to a focaccia for your lunchbox or a honey and lavender loaf for breakfast. The choices are endless once you’ve mastered the ‘parent’ dough.

FougasseWe baked the fun and very continental Fougasse (pictured right) from the very first chapter using a simple white dough. It couldn’t have been more simple and yet produced a stunning and flavoursome bread that was great to tear and share and dunk into soup.

This is a book of simple recipes to get you started with home-bread-making. Opening with bread tools, ingredients, bread talk and a section on “The Dough” Richard also includes an introduction on his philosophy towards baking bread. It does not contain the more complex sourdoughs which follow in his subsequent book “Crust”. This was a deliberate decision by Richard. “Everyone wants to start with sourdough”, he says. “But unless you learn about simple doughs first, the chances are your sourdoughs will be a complete failure”. Richard urges you to learn the basic techniques, get stuck in, learn to feel how dough reacts to temperature, humidity, hydration and the addition of other ingredients, and then learn how to “show the dough who’s boss!”. Once you’ve mastered the basics you can go on to experiment with more complex breads.

Older print-runs of the book have a great DVD (if your copy doesn't, there are a selection online if you do a search) so you can watch the master at work and learn the French method of working the dough, . Be warned, clear small children and animals from the kitchen before you try it for the first time, it’s fantastic fun but you may well end up with dough on the ceiling! Better still put an apron on the kids and get them to join in. They’ll have a great time! Once you’ve mastered the technique you’ll find it a very therapeutic activity, guaranteed to relieve stress.

Reader’s Recipe Reviews

Somerset Cider Bread by Adam Keightley

This recipe is one of my favourites providing a bread whose flavour benefits from the long fermentation, the inclusion of rye flour and the cider. Perfect for a cheese or ham sandwich, or better still both! The smell of the kitchen during baking is amazing as is the taste of the tangy, chewy, golden crust.

somerset-cider-bread-img_9319-medium - Samantha Livy - TortepaneI discovered 'DOUGH' after floundering about trying various recipes as my bread-making ambitions graduated from the bread machine to hand-made loaves. It was not until I watched Richard's DVD with clear instructions and explanations about techniques, such as working the dough and the importance of shaping and giving it structure, that I gained the confidence to take control of the dough, try more recipes and graduate further to making even more tasty bread using pre-ferments and natural leavens - fermented dough (as in this recipe), sourdough or a poolish.

Somerset Cider BreadRichard's recipes come with an explanation of the background or the inspiration for the ideas which make them interesting as well as tasty. They also come with practical tips such as to use the larger quantities when using ferments, at the same time explaining how loaves can be frozen and how surplus ferment or 'old dough' can be saved and used to enhance later baking. This makes for efficient use of time and effort as well as successful baking. As well as providing two loaves for lunches this week this recipe give me two to freeze or give away, plus another 'ferment' to use in the future. Talking of time, each recipe comes with a clear estimate of the timings which beginners should not be put off by. For example approximately 10 hours in total to make this recipe might seem a bit daunting but very little of this time is taken up by activity, almost all this time is spent leaving the dough or more specifically the yeast to do its thing, leaving you to get on with other things.

It may be going too far to say that this book changed my life but it has certainly transformed my lunchtimes!

Somerset Cider Bread

Fruited Tea Loaf by Sandra Benet

Bertinet Fruited LoafWith Easter approaching I was looking forward to trying out this 'nice and light' take on a traditional recipe, with the added Bertinet touch of rum soaked fruit! The fruit needs to be soaked the night before, which I hadn't initially spotted as the prep time is given as 30 minutes, so baking ended up a day later than planned. Duly reminded of the importance of reading the recipe thoroughly before baking! I sat down to flick back and forth between the various sections, as this clearly written and easy to follow book requires a thorough reading in order to understand the Bertinet approach working with the dough.

Thankfully there is a DVD as well as detailed photographs but I'd recommend practicing with the white and brown doughs first. The tea loaf is based on the sweet dough recipe, which with its additions of eggs and butter is the stickiest dough in the book to handle and isn't quite as easy as the photographs make it look! However at this point I should admit that I've long used the Bertinet method, since being converted to it on one of the Bertinet bread making courses and having baked many of the recipes from Dough I've had great results every time .. and this was no exception.

Bertinet Fruited LoafDespite having to flick between a master dough recipe, working and shaping instructions and the fruited tea loaf recipe itself, everything was easy to follow. After five minutes of wondering if I'd got the quantities right the dough came together as a satisfyingly bouncy and shiny ball but was much softer and sticker than I thought it would be, so a scraper is essential if you don't want dough stuck to everything.

The recipe is for three loaves, but before adding the fruit I took out a third to try the doughnut recipe, which turned out deliciously light and fluffy. I wasn't convinced that the seemingly tiny amount of dough left would rise and fill two loaf tins (20cm) but I was proved wrong with a surprising amount of oven spring.

When it came to making the cut along the top, the dough was so soft that it was tricky with a knife, so I decided to make a zigzag of snips long the length using sharp scissors, which worked a treat. The finished loaves were as nice and light as the introduction described, the rum and peel added delicious citrus and spice flavours and the relatively low amounts of eggs and butter make this a fantastic alternative to a richer brioche dough loaf. A straightforwardly foolproof recipe that lends itself to many adaptations, lovely!

Parmesan, Parma Ham & Pine Nut Slices
by Martin Cook

Parmesan, Parma Ham & Pine Nut Slices Firstly I have to declare that I am big fan of ‘Dough’ and its author, Richard Bertinet. I had started home baking about six months before I received this book and straight away my bread changed from being the stodgy bit around the filling of a sandwich to the centre piece of meals.

In the years since I got this book I have baked most of the recipes and regularly bake several favourites. I wanted to try something new for this review so that I had to follow the book, and therefore give a more accurate report, rather than bake from memory.

The recipe was easy to follow, as I have found most of them to be. In this case add all the dry ingredients, followed by the wet and combine them in the bowl.

Then turn out on to the work surface – DO NOT FLOUR IT FIRST. As Dough explains, you weigh out the exact quantities you need to produce a perfect loaf and if you start flouring the work surface you can end up drying out the dough. Now begin to knead. Richard has a unique method of kneading involving lifting and stretching the dough then throwing it back down on to the work surface before folding it in on itself. Then pick up, stretch, throw, fold and repeat… for 10 minutes.

I find this approach works particularly well with very wet doughs or large quantities of dough and it also worked perfectly well with this single-loaf quantity. You can tell when you have done enough kneading because the dough will stop sticking to the work surface and most of it will also have come off your hands. It will also have an almost silky sheen.

Now leave the dough to rest for about an hour in a covered bowl. Contrary to popular belief, it does not have to stored in an airing cupboard. Anywhere room temperature that is out of draughts will be fine.

While you are waiting, grill the pine nuts and grate the parmesan. After the hour is up, dust the work surface with flour and get everything laid out and ready.

Now turn the dough out and stretch in to a rough rectangular shape before pressing gently in to the dough to flatten it out.

Next pour on some olive oil and brush it all over the dough.

Combine the parmesan and pine nuts and put half of that mixture on to the dough.

Now top the mixture with Parma ham…

…before brushing the ham with olive oil and putting the rest of the cheese and nut mixture on top…

Roll the dough up like a swiss roll and then cut 2cm slices out and lay them on greased baking trays. Finally cover and leave for another 45 minutes to prove and double in volume.

Then Dough says to bake for 12-15 minutes, I found 14 was fine.

When they have cooled down, brush with olive oil and then serve (I recommend spinach, watercress, rocket and halved cherry tomatos to accompany the slices).

So to summarise this particular recipe in Dough:

The olive dough was easy to make: every technique required is explained in detail earlier in the book.

The recipe has pictures for each stage of making the slices and it’s always reassuring to see that you have understood the written instructions correctly.

The whole process took about two and a half hours but this was about 45 minutes of work and the rest of the time was spent waiting for the dough to rest, prove and bake.

Best of all these parmesan, parma ham and pine nut slices turned out to be delicious and will, I suspect, become another firm favourite from this book.

I recommend Dough to all home bakers. From the simple and quick fougasse, to breads that have additional flavours such as this one or the Gruyere cheese and cumin loaf, to the many resting and rising cycles of my personal favourite, the Pain de Campagne.

There are five basic doughs used (white, olive, brown, rye, sweet) and each section finishes with a slightly more involved recipe so there is a sense of progression and learning as you work through it. The results are usually fantastic but have always been acceptable. As I said before, I have tried most of the recipes in Dough and not had a single inedible failure.

When I read of people who say they “can’t” make bread I am confident they have never used this book as their guide: Dough + Shipton Mill flour = delicious success.

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