Beetroot Bread Loaf

Soft fluffy bread, with a natural light pink hue from beetroot powder, made with a starter dough!

I think I found the secret to making good bread. Something that I've been doing wrongly all this while. 

1) I haven't been kneading by bread long enough. 

Most soft fluffy bread of this style usually ask you to knead the bread dough "till it passes the windowpane test, which means that the dough is springy and stretchy enough such that you can stretch the dough so thin that you can see through it, and when you poke it with your finger, it forms a round hole. 

It's like this stretchy. 

Kneading your dough to develop its gluten and form those stringy bits of gluten strands in bread gives your bread a better rise and a softer, fluffier texture!! 

2) Don't add too much flour to your bread dough. 

Different flours have different absorbencies, so the amount of liquid may vary across different brands and in different places. The bread flour I use tends to be less absorbent than normal, so I always end up adding too much water than needed, and end up adding too much bread flour to the dough so it becomes less sticky and easier to work with. 

The trick is to add the water gradually, give the flour time to absorb the liquid, and experiment with different ratios and flours. You want the dough to be tacky, not dry and rough, but smooth, slightly sticky, pliable and stretchy. Don't be afraid to knead your dough for 20-30 minutes to get to this stage. Avoid adding too much flour because it makes the bread denser and drier, giving you a not so fluffy bread! That's what happened with my white sandwich loaf, which turned out to be way denser that it should be. 

3) Prove long and slow. 

When I first started baking bread I always wanted to find ways to prove my bread faster so I could eat it sooner. While I'm still kinda impatient when baking, I've learnt that all good things take time. Especially bread. And trust me, it's worth the wait.

Making an overnight starter dough or making your dough the day before and letting the dough rise slowly in the fridge overnight produces a bread with much more flavour and a softer texture. In this recipe, I used both. The starter dough I used was leftover from another recipe, and after mixing and kneading the dough, I placed it to prove in the fridge slowly overnight, giving the bread time to let the flavours develop and the gluten to relax. 

4) Preheat your oven well! 

A nice warm oven will give your bread a nice oven spring. While a soft, fluffy style of bread like this doesn't get as much oven spring as a high liquid ratio European style boule, it does get a better rise when it sits in a nice warm oven where heat has been circulated around well.  

Hope these tips will give you a better bread! Happy baking :) 

Beetroot Bread Loaf 
Makes a small 18 x 6 x 7cm tin 
Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled to fit a standard size loaf tin 

Overnight sponge dough 
100g bread flour 
60g water
1/4 tsp yeast 

Mix the ingredients for the sponge dough together, and prove at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge overnight. 
You will not need all the sponge dough for this recipe.

Main dough 
110g bread flour 
16g sugar 
1/8 tsp salt 
4g milk powder 
1/2 tsp yeast 
50g sponge dough 
10g egg 
40-50g water 
1 tablespoon beetroot powder (optional) 
15g softened butter 

In a small bowl, mix together the beetroot powder and water until it is completely dissolved. 
In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the water and butter, adding the water gradually until the dough is tacky but not very sticky. You may not need all the water. 
Mix in the butter and knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test, about 20-30 minutes. 
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 12-48 hours. 
Before baking the bread, let the dough sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. 
Lightly grease the baking tin. 
On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 5 equal portions and roll into balls. Place the balls of dough in the baking tin. 
Cover with plastic wrap and prove for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. 
15 minutes before the bread has completed the prove, preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius. 
Lightly brush the bread with egg wash and bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. 

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