Hi everyone, I'm Filippo from Italy!
In my opinion, handmade food is usually better than supermarket one.
In particular, handmade bread is completely different from the packed one that you buy from the store. And it's also pretty easy to make.
When I say to my coworkers, friends or family that I make my bread at home, they are often surprised. Bread is seen as something difficult and long to bake. That's not completely true.
There are a lot different baking techniques and yes, some of them require a day-long leavening.
In this Ible, I'll show how to make a delicious and soft bread that requires 3 hours of leavening but an actual work time of less than 20 minutes.
Also, this fresh bread has a life of 5-7 days, or even more, depending on your house humidity.
What is Manitoba flour?
Manitoba flour it's not the most popular one in Italy, but you can find it in almost any market. It's a high gluten flour, with a percentage of gluten higher than 14%. It's made from soft wheat of the Manitoba area (Canada). It's a strong flour, rich of insoluble proteins which contain the gas of the leavening, resulting in noticeable enlargements of the baking product. Thanks to this enlargements, the resulting product will also be softer than classic bread. For this reason, Manitoba is often used in confectionery industry.
Step 1: Ingredients
Another big pro is that bread is extremely cheap!
Here's what you need:
- 500gr of Manitoba flour
- 280ml of warm water
- 10gr of dry brewer's yeast
- 20gr of salt
- 10gr of sugar
- olive oil
That's less than 2€ in ingredients.
It's a handmade recipe, so no power tools involved!
You'll just need a bowl and your oven.
And your hands, of course! :)
Step 2: Making the Dough
Take a large bowl, actually the largest bowl you have. Having a lot of space helps avoiding the flour to go everywhere.
Pour all of the flour (500gr), the salt (20gr) and the sugar (10gr) in your bowl, and mix it well with a fork.
You can use any sugar you prefer, I personally like brown one.
Why the sugar, you may ask? Well, the sugar acts as an assistant to the yeast, improving the leavening process. It's a widely used technique in bakery, also in non-sweet recipe like this bread.
Pour the warm water (280ml) over the mixed flour and also pour dry brewer's yeast (10gr).
Now it's time for brute force.
Step 3: Working the Dough
Handmade means... well, hand made :)
No tools or, worse, power tools are intended here for mixing the dough.
So, rub a good amount of olive oil between your hands and start mixing everything. At the beginning, you may want to be slow and careful, because the wet and dry parts are not mixed and it's easy to pour out a lot of flour.
After a few minutes, the dough will be more homogeneous and sticky, and you can start to apply more strength.
Continue for a few minutes more, until all the flour and water will be completely mixed. You'll end up with a compact dough that will no longer stick between your fingers.
Now, you can put a small amount of flour on your cutting board and start kneading there. You'll soon notice that working the dough is a muscular job! But food is more delicious if seasoned with effort (not really, but it's a nice poetic image).
I usually knead for about 5 minutes, it may sounds like a no-time, but trust me... kneading a strong flour like Manitoba for 5 minutes straight is no joke at all. You can knead for more time if you want, but more than 10 minutes is an overkill.
Note: use palms instead of fingers. You'll apply more pressure and your hands won't hurt after the hard work.
Step 4: Leavening
It's time for the yeast to do its magic, with a little help from sugar.
Take your dough ball and put it on a large baking tin. If you have a nonstick tin, you're ready to go. Otherwise, a quick rub of olive oil will help you to take out the bread after baking.
Now a little trick: take you sharpest knife and make some parallel cuts on the top of the dough. It will help the leavening (creating more surface on the dough) and also gives the classic "bread shape". You can also use a razor blade, it's perfect for this job.
Now, put the baking tin inside the oven (NOT turned on).
After different tests, I've found out that 3 hours is a good rest time for the yeast to produce a satisfactory leavening.
You may let it rests for more time, but 3 hours is enough.
We are using the oven like a "safe place" for the dough, because it protects it from temperature changes that can be armful for the yeast.
After that time, you'll have a beautiful, bread shaped and ready for baking dough!
Step 5: Baking
We are ready for the real baking.
But before that, pour 2/3 small spoons of olive oil onto the dough and spread them lightly with a kitchen brush (I use a silicon one). Don't put too much pressure and don't use too much oil.
Oil will help to convoy the heat more homogeneously on the surface while also soften the crust.
Pre-heat the oven to 175° Celsius, and put in a very small pot with not more than a glass of water in it. This is a common trick for bread baking: water will evaporate during cooking process, creating a very humid atmosphere that will help to mantain a soft crumb and crust.
I've tried with and without water, and I have to say that it really makes the difference.
Note: absolutely AVOID convection bake, it will dry the bread to the core!
Now, bake at 175° Celsius for 25-30 minutes, depending on how you like it. I personally prefer the bread a little "wet" on the inside, so I bake for 25 minutes.
Step 6: Enjoy Your Homemade Bread!
Aaaaand... you're done!
Your delicious Manitoba bread is ready.
You just have to wait 10-15 minutes to let it cool, but if you are like me then you love hot bread! It's difficult to resist.
After some tests, you'll find out the perfect temperature with your oven. On mine, 175°C is just right, on my parents one I have to lower to 165°C for a flawless result.
Now you are cursed: you can't eat shop bread anymore because this one tastes a lot better :)
Enjoy, cheers from Italy!