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Excellent Suffolk Bread

This is a lovely regional bread recipe from Suffolk, just north-east of London. The recipe is taken from Eliza Acton’s “The English Bread-Book For Domestic Use”, Published in 1857.

Excellent Suffolk Bread Recipe

If it is at all possible us a Suffolk Stone-Ground Flour which is still made by the small artisan millers in Suffolk.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 650g strong white bread flour
  • 15g dried active yeast – or 30g fresh live yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 250ml warm milk
  • 150ml warm water
  • 1 egg, beaten for glaze

Recipe Method:

In a small bowl or jug pour in the warm water and warm milk – sprinkle in the yeast and stir it thoroughly with a plastic or wooden spoon. Leave it to sit for 7 to 10 minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Check occasionally to see if the yeast is rising and frothing.

After about 4–5 minutes give it another stir, it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top. Do not allow the yeast (barm) to sit longer than 12 minutes before using, leaving it too long will exhaust the yeast before it is in the dough.

Into a large mixing bowl sieve in the flour and sprinkle in the ground sea salt – then with your fingers make sure you mix the ground sea salt in with the flour, so that it does not interfere with the yeast when added. Make a well in the centre of the flour.

When the yeast is fully activated (7 to 10 minutes) add the yeast, milk and water (barm) into the well made in the flour and bring the flour and water together into a dough with a wooden spoon.

Add some more plain white bread flour (if needed) until you form a firm dough which you can knead, it should still be on the ’sticky’ side, but not so that it is difficult to remove from the bowl. You are looking for it to be springy and elastic. Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a flat floured work surface.

Start kneading the dough to make your Excellent Suffolk Bread for about 10 minutes. Kneading dough is a ‘push-pull’ technique to break the gluten and starches down in the flour.

Kneading Technique: Hold one end of the dough with one hand and then with the palm of your other hand push the dough away from you, gently stretching it out. Once stretched (without breaking the dough) pull the dough back in and over with your fingers into a bigger lump once more. Give the dough a quarter turn then repeat. Giving the dough a quarter turn before stretching it back out works all of the dough over the 10 minutes and stretches the gluten out in different directions.

If sticking to the work surface or the dough is a little wet sprinkle over a little extra flour, it will probably need a few casts of extra flour over the 7 minutes, but do not over do it as too much extra flour will make the bread tough.

When ready it will become satiny and elastic, and when pressed with a finger tip the indentation in the dough will rise back out. Form the dough into a large ball, place it back in the floured bowl, cover with a clean, light cloth in a warm room for Eliza Acton’s recommended 4 to 5 hours.

After the dough has risen for 4 to 5 hours (almost doubling in size) knock it back, this means to punch it once to remove most of the air out of it. Remove the dough, and on a lightly floured work surface knead it once more for five minutes – Eliza Acton recommends the dough be once again “well” kneaded at this stage.

Grease a large loaf / bread tin with a little butter

Shape the dough into a short rectangle and place it in the bottom of a greased (non-stick) bread baking tin. Important: Leave this dough in the tin to rise once more for a further 35 to 45 minutes (this is called the second rise).

Preheat the oven to 230C

After the second rise use a sharp knife to cut a 6 cm line into the top (down the centre) of the dough. Then use half of the beaten egg to brush over the top of the dough to make a glaze – reserve the other half of the beaten egg.

Place the bread tin in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C and cook for a further 30min – after 40 minutes in total remove the bread from the oven and once more brush the remaining beaten egg over the top of the loaf to put a second glaze on it.

Place the bread tin back in the oven for a further 10 to 20 minutes – or until your bread looks nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove the Excellent Suffolk Bread from the oven – turn it out of the bread tin – and leave to cool for an hour. Eat within 36 hours and keep the bread covered or in a bread tin.

***

This recipe is taken from Eliza Acton’s “The English Bread-Book For Domestic Use”, Published in 1857.

EXCELLENT SUFFOLK BREAD

It is scarcely possible to have bread superior to that made by the receipt which I insert here, and which I give to show how perfectly the plan of slow fermentation answers when it is well conducted, as it was in the following instance. The bread, I must observe, was sent to me from a distance, and was made by a servant who a few months before knew little or nothing of the art of preparing it, but who had the good sense to profit by the instructions which were offered to her, and who is now an excellent bread maker, much to her own advantage, as well as to that of her employers.

Cook mixed a tablespoonful and a half of good yeast, fresh from the brewery, with nearly three pints of warm milk and water, and made up a gallon of flour with it into a firm dough at once, after she had stirred in a dessertspoonful of salt. It was then left to rise from two to three hours, turned on to a pasteboard and well kneaded, and again left in the pan until it was ready to send to the oven. It was rising altogether between four and five hours, and was baked in two large tins at the baker’s. The tops of the loaves were glazed with beaten egg.

Good and quite fresh brewers’ yeast, one tablespoonful and a half; best Suffolk flour, one gallon; salt, one dessertspoonful; warm milk and water, nearly three pints: rising altogether between four and five hours. Baked in two loaves at baker’s oven from one hour and a half to two hours. Observations:—Very lately I have received another equally good specimen with the above, of bread made by the same servant. A larger weight of flour was perfectly leavened with nearly the same quantity of yeast; and not the finest London bread, artificially whitened, could surpass it in appearance or in texture. The purity of all the ingredients used was doubtless one cause of its excellence. The yeast, as well as the flour, must have been extremely good.