Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bulgarian Festive Bread Kneaded and Beaten by Hand

Hand kneaded bread
This is a Bulgarian recipe for old-school tear and share bread, kneaded and beaten by hand. No electric mixer is used at any step. Dough is enriched with milk and eggs. The exact method of kneading includes a step, commonly known as the ‘French method of kneading bread’, which requires some more efforts than the traditional kneading way. 
The bread produced this way is heavier, has a denser texture and a ticker crust.
Dense bread with crust

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) bread flour
  • 125(4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 300 ml (10 oz) luke-warm milk
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 200 ml (6 oz) water at room temperature (preferably soda water)
  • One 42(1.5 oz) cube wrapped fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp sunflower oil

Dense bread with crust
Prepare and incorporate the ingredients:
Crumble yeast in a deep bowl and add 1/3 of the milk – about 100 ml (3 oz), the sugar and 3-4 Tbsp of flour. Stir slightly with a spoon and let rise for about half an hour.
Sieve the flour in a large bowl, make a hole in the middle and stir in salt, 1 egg, egg white of the second egg, the risen yeast-milk mixture, the remaining milk and the luke-warm water. Combine well until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer to your lightly floured working surface. Flour your hands and knead for about 10 minutes, pressing with the palm of your hands and turning dough slightly until it gets elastic, shiny and smooth.
Dense breadSlam the dough:
Now comes the interesting part – the so called beating or slamming the dough by hand. How to beat dough by hands?
Take the ball-shaped dough in your hands, raise hands above your arms and slap it down on your working surface as if you want to dribble a basket ball. Fold it back up into a ball again and repeat 100 times. This process makes the dough softer and little air pockets will form, which will expand during the baking process and make the dough rise beautifully. 
When ready with all this slamming, divide dough into three balls and set aside.
Place butter in a small pan and heat on medium on top of the oven until it starts sizzling but its color is still golden-yellow.
Roll the first ball of dough into a large rectangle about half centimeter (1/4 inch) thick using your rolling pin. Brush the top surface of the rectangle with the hot butter.
Repeat exactly the same process with the second piece of the dough. When you rolled the second rectangle, lift it and put it onto the first one which is already covered with butter. Brush second rectangle with butter as you did with the first one and proceed with the third ball - put third rectangle on top of the other two and cover again with butter.
Roll together the three layers, twisting them slightly until you get a long cigar-resembling shape. Divide with a sharp knife into seven or eight uniform pieces, take each piece and, turn it on 90 degrees and put into the buttered baking pan. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until double in size for about half an hour.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 190 C (380 F). Put the yolk of the second egg into a small bowl and add the sunflower oil. Mix well. Brush the top of the bread with the yolk. 
Put on the lowest rack of the oven and bake for an hour. Take out of the oven and allow to cool before dividing it into pieces.  

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