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Breadmaking is one of life’s simple pleasures that I don’t get around to nearly often enough. The process is a brilliant combination of art and science – art in deciding on flavourings, toppings, loaf shape, and the skill of kneading and shaping. But the science-y bit really brings out my inner geek…. yeast activation, gluten development, proving times and temperatures.
My bread adventures have been totally transformed recently by the arrival of one of the slickest and niftiest gadgets in my kitchen, my SuperFast Thermapen thermometer, (yes, mine is a fabulous pink, but they do make lots of other colours if pink is not your thing!!).
At first I used my Thermapen for all the obvious things you might need a kitchen thermometer for – finding the setting point of jam, tempering chocolate, checking pies and pastries were cooked through or frozen food had fully defrosted. But then I had a revelation when I realised this could solve all my baking woes too.
I’ve had more than my fair share of breadmaking disasters – usually in one of two categories: either the bread that never rises, despite hours and hours and hours of proving, or bread so undercooked it is still dense and doughy in the middle, and there’s no way of knowing until you slice it and its too late.
All that has now changed. I use my Thermapen at two very crucial points in the process:
- Checking the temperature of the water/liquid when first adding it to the dough – it must be warm enough to bring the yeast to life, but if it is too warm it will kill the yeast. The ‘safe’ range is 41°C – 46°C – that’s really very specific, and if you guess wrong without a thermometer, your beloved bread might well end up ruined before you’ve started.
- Deciding when to remove bread from the oven – another crucial moment as a minute too long can leave it dry and overcooked, and a minute too soon leaves it claggy and doughy. The solution? Stick in your Thermapen, and check the temperature right in the middle of the loaf. The probe is long and super-sharp so there’s no danger of ruining your beautiful crust, but the moment the middle of the loaf reaches 88°C – 93°C it is ready and can come out of the oven.
A super-accurate thermometer like this really has revolutionised my baking – it takes all the guesswork out of the science-y bits of breadmaking, and hasn’t let me down yet. I also now use it to check cakes are cooked through – so much more accurate (and less destructive) than sticking in a knife, not a soggy bottom in sight!
Your Thermapen comes with a really handy little laminated ‘cheat sheet’ booklet of ideal temperatures for all sorts of baking, thawing, roasting, boiling, preserving, confectionery, sugar syrup and chocolate temperatures – I keep mine tucked in the cupboard next to the hob so it is always near to hand when I need it.
For your chance to win a SuperFast Thermapen Digital Kitchen Thermometer (RRP £50.00), see the giveaway at the end of this post. Good luck!
Here’s my recipe for this beautifully crusty Cider & Onion Loaf. The scrumpy cider gives a lovely tang to the flavour, almost a sourdough-like taste, and the pre-cooked onions add a lovely sweetness – you can chop them very finely so they disappear into the dough like I did, or leave them a bit chunkier if you prefer to have some oniony chunks in the crumb.
I boiled off some of the alcohol from the cider, as I was worried about the alcohol killing the yeast, but I’ve since found some bread recipes using ales and ciders straight from the bottle, so might give that a try sometime too.
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 250ml dry cider
- 300g strong white flour
- 200g wholemeal flour
- 7g sachet instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 40ml olive oil
- Gently fry the onion in a little cooking spray or oil for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add the cider to the pan and bubble for 2 minutes to reduce some of the alcohol. Tip the onions and cider into a measuring jug, and top up to 350ml with cold water. Set aside to cool until the mixture reaches 41°C - 46°C.
- Meanwhile, tip the flours, salt and sugar into a large bowl. mix together to combine, then add the yeast. When the cider mixture has cooled sufficiently, add this to the bowl and bring together into a dough. Remove to a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
- Return to the bowl, cover loosely with oiled cling film, and leave in a warm place to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Tip back onto the floured surface, knead for a further 2 minutes, then shape into a loaf or rolls as required. Cover with the oiled cling film once again, and leave in a warm place to rise. Preheat the oven to 220°C / 420°F / Gas Mark 8.
- After 30-45 minutes the loaf or rolls should have doubled in size once again. Sprinkle the top with flour, then slash a few times with a very sharp knife.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature of the oven to 170°c / 340°F / Gas Mark 5 and bake for a further 30 minutes. Test the middle of the loaf with your thermometer, and if it has reached 88°C - 93°C remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. If not, return to the oven and test at 5 minute intervals until ready.
- Camilla’s Wholemeal Cheddar and Apple Chutney Soda Bread with Cider from Fab Food 4 All
- Shaheen’s Winter Vegetable Stew with Parsley Dumplings from Allotment 2 Kitchen
Jac’s Pumpkin Fondue from Tinned Tomatoes
I have one of these fabulous Thermapen thermometers to give away to a lucky reader (in your choice of colour!), just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. UK entries only please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms & Conditions:
- There is 1 prize of a Thermapen digital kitchen thermometer.
- The winner will be announced on the Rafflecopter widget after the prize has been claimed.
- The prize will be delivered to the winner by Thermapen as soon as possible.
- There is no cash alternative and the prize is not transferable.
- This giveaway is open to UK entrants, (please see delivery resrtictions above), over the age of 18 only and runs until midnight on 28th February 2016.
- The Veg Space, as the promoter, reserves the right to cancel or amend the giveaway and these terms and conditions without notice.
- If the winner doesn’t respond to the email within 5 days, another winner will be picked.
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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Thermapen, who commissioned the recipe and are providing the Giveaway prize.