Milk Loaf

Hello Dear Readers

Welcome to the new location of Philosophy and Madeleines. After much thought and contemplation I decided that I needed to move the site over to it’s own domain (I won’t lie when I say Blogger has been driving me insane) and the site is now hosted by WordPress. I’m still trying to work out all the chinks in the armour and to get things back up and running normally but hopefully that will all happen this week. Apologies if you run into any issues but bear with me, I am working on it!

And so to work! I am totally obsessed with this bread at the moment. I’ve made it once a week for the last three weeks, with various variations, depending on what was in the cupboard, so it seems only natural that I share it with you. This morning I started reading The Breakfast Bible, which I bought on a whim of fancy in the bookshop yesterday. I love good breakfast, particularly on the weekend, and so, by the time I’d read the opening pages and had gotten to the chapter on eggs, I was craving eggs and bacon. And eggs and bacon need toast so I thought I’d rassle this up and have eggs and bacon for breakfast. Sometimes you just need a book to tell you what to do.

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This loaf is super easy although it does take a bit of time to assemble. The milk has to be scalded and then cooled so as not to kill the yeast. And the plaiting takes some skill – obviously if you have ever plaited anything in your life you will already have this skill. It is adapted from Scandilicious Baking, which I bought after going to Finland at New Year. Finland is the most fantastical place – it is quite unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. We went during what is known as the ‘twilight’ period – where the sun never rises above the horizon. We were in the far north, right in the Arctic circle, where the temperature on the day we arrived was -24C. (It did get warmer, rising to -4C for most of the week, and it snowed a lot.) And on the last night we were there, it cleared and we saw the northern lights. I ate reindeer (melt-in-the-mouth fillet), spice cookies (another total obsession) and lots of rye bread. When I got home I knew I’d want to explore recreating some of the things I ate, hence the purchase of the book.

The only other thing I’ve made from the book was a chocolate marmalade loaf which I couldn’t decide whether I liked or not, although all the tasters reassured me it was fantastic. But this milk loaf is just really good bread. It’s like a treat bread, made with all-white flour and tastes it’s best warm, only slightly cooled from the oven, with a lot of butter and marmalade. It does also make fantastic toast, so don’t worry about eating it on day one.

Milk Loaf

Adapted From Scandilicious Baking

250g plain white flour (or 250g refined spelt flour)

250g white bread flour (or 250g wholewheat spelt flour)

50g golden caster sugar

2 tsp salt

12g dried active yeast

250ml whole milk

50g butter

1 egg

Heat half the milk with the butter until just before boiling point (scalding). Remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl, add the rest of the milk and allow to cool to just below body temperature.

Weigh the flours, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

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Once the milk has cooled, reactivate the yeast by stirring it into the mixture and letting it sit for about 10 minutes whilst it foams and gathers strength.

Make a well in the flours, beat the egg slightly and add in, followed by the milk/yeast mixture.

You can start off with a wooden spoon but you will need to use your hands to bring the dough together. The past few times I’ve made it I’ve also had to add in some extra water. Don’t be afraid to do so if your dough is dry. Knead the dough lightly and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm dry place to prove for an hour. (The inside of a cold oven works well – just make sure you don’t turn it on by accident whilst the dough is inside.)

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Knock back the dough and divide it into three equal portions. The easiest way to do this is to weigh the dough as a whole and then divide by three. I find it usually weighs somewhere in the region of 900g. Roll out each portion into a long sausage-like piece, all of equal length. Lie each length next to the other and press the tips that are furthest away from you together. Plait the lengths, keeping everything tight and then press the ends together to seal. Tuck both ends under the dough.

Place on a lined, flat baking tray and brush the whole loaf with some milk. Prove again for an hour, until the loaf has doubled in size.

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Heat the oven to 220C and bake the loaf for about 20 minutes, until it is dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped on it’s base.

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Cool and eat with lots of butter and marmalade.

I’ve made this with both regular flour and spelt flours. I like to put a little wholewheat spelt in, just because it adds a depth of flavour and makes the loaf more complex. I didn’t when I made it yesterday which is why the spelt flours are in brackets.