The Handmade Loaf: The mill loaf

Although I haven’t had a chance to blog about them, I have been baking most weekends since the new year. In anticipation of the Mellow Bakers: The Handmade Loaf group bake, this weekend I have tried out the mill loaf from Dan Lepard’s tome.

Two loaves resting on a bread board.

This is a sourdough bread; it relies on a wild yeast culture, to leaven the dough, instead of the more common commercial yeast.

In making this loaf, I have made an effort to follow Mr Lepard’s particular kneading technique. Whereas I would usually give the dough a good ten minute workout not long after mixing, Dan prescribes six short kneadings – each 10-15 seconds in length – separated by progressively longer rest periods.

I was initially sceptical about this approach, but I was happy to discover that it seems to work just as well as a traditional kneading.

But, as it doesn’t appear to be any more effective, I am not convinced that I will use this technique again. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort. Yes, on the face of it this is less effort than my normal technique; only kneading for 15 seconds at a time is less physically demanding. But I would much rather find 15 minutes early on instead of dragging myself away from other things every ten minutes just to turn the dough! And, surprising as this may sound to some, I actually enjoy kneading the dough.

Anyway, kneading technique aside, there is very little else to say about the process. I chose to follow the weights listed in the book, which yields two large loaves. I shaped one as a round loaf, proved in a spiral-patterned basket. The other I shaped as a bâtard which is a relatively new shape for me to use. Both loaves rose splendidly on my baking stone, and I am looking forward to eating them during the week ahead.

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