Here are two secrets I’ve learned about how to make bread that’s crusty on the outside while soft and fluffy inside. Knead it for longer than you think, and use your moisture carefully: rise it in a dry, warm place and bake it with a steamy oven that has been preheated with a pan of water in it.
This crusty fluffy bread came out so tasty, my most particular eater asked for 4 helpings!
It’s a technical challenge set by Paul Hollywood for the first bread technical challenge of the first season of Bakeoff, but I made it vegan and shared my process below.
Great British Bakeoff Vegan: Season 1, Episode 3, Technical Challenge
- 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- 280-300 mL hot water (100-110F)
- 40 g vegan butter, melted
- 500 g flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Olive oil for kneading and flour for dusting
Make the dough for the first rise
In a small non-metal bowl, mix the yeast, sugar, and water. Stir gently and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom into a thick foam.
Add the rest of the ingredients and work it into a nice ball of dough.
Knead it for at least 10 minutes on a lightly oiled board (set a timer) until the dough is nice and smooth and soft.
Put it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set in a warm dry place for 1-2 hours to double in size.
Shape the dough for the second rise
Punch the dough down well and knead for 2 minutes to get out all the air.
Press it out into a rectangle and fold the ends in towards the middle, then roll it up across the fold to make a nice tight spiral. Turn and shape the rolled dough into a round loaf shape and put the seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Cover gently with a tea towel, and let it rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours to double in size.
After it’s risen, gently rub some flour over the surface. Cut a few nice diagonal gashes into the top of the dough with a sharp knife, being careful not to knock the air out of the dough.
Bake the bread
Put a shallow pan of water in the oven on the bottom rack while it’s preheating to 425F.
Bake the bread for 25 minutes in the hot steamy oven, then turn the temperature down to 400F for 5-10 more minutes without opening the oven door.
Cool the bread on a wire rack. It will be nice and dark and crusty outside, and soft and fluffy inside.
Serve warm with whatever toppings you like on fresh bread. If there’s any left over, it makes excellent toast the next day. ❤️
For today’s zen moment, I recently asked meditation teacher Susan Woods about the practice of lovingkindess, or metta, meditation, where you bring to mind people that are difficult in your life and imagine that they too want to be happy, and well, and at ease.
Her guidance was that at times, we are all difficult people to someone else. That’s part of being human, and if we can sit and breathe with our own limitations and shame around things we’ve done in the past, then maybe we can find just a little bit of space in our minds to ease the suffering we feel when we think about difficult people.
We’re all just messy, wonderful humans. And with diligent daily practice, we can achieve the stability of mind to accept ourselves and appreciate how amazing it is to be alive, no matter what chaos is going on around or inside us.