|a simple white loaf|
Bread may be the stuff of life and the staple food for millions of people around the world, but not only has it become much more expensive during the recession, it is about to become even more so as a result of a combination of droughts and wet weather around the world affecting grain harvests. It is this that has kicked my ample behind to write a post about one of the easiest loaves you can make. This is one of the simplest -with just four ingredients, it is a good, plain white loaf that anyone can make.
Having said that, and I don't want to get all preachy on you (although I probably will!) there are some very good reasons to make your own bread and it is not just about the cost.
Firstly, you know exactly what is in your bread - the simplest of loaves contains just four ingredients - flour, water, salt and yeast. That's it. Unlike some commercially made loaves which contain all sorts of added ingredients that are easy for the industrial manufacturing process but that you just don't need. If you make your own, you will know exactly what you are eating. If you are using wholegrain flour then you will most certainly have more nutrients and fibre in your daily bread. These are all things that can actually help to reduce cholesterol.
Secondly, it is fun. Really it is. It is such a satisfying thing to do. You are making something that tastes fabulous and you can relax while making it at the same time. I find the process of kneading bread a really good stress reliever and it's a lot better than therapy!
I do like to give loaves of bread to friends and most of them are very pleased. Although one friend finely confessed that he actually prefers squishy processed supermarket white bread . . . but then he's weird!
I may not have children of my own to pass the skill on to, but I have spent several very satisfying baking sessions with my nephews, so hopefully I can pass the baking bug on to the next generation. They certainly love the end result, even if they don't yet have the patience. I live in hope!
So here is one of the easiest bread recipes that you can ever try. Even if you don't get it right first time, you will still make something that tastes good and hopefully, you will keep on trying and trying and trying.
Makes 1 loaf
Skill level: Easy
500g strong white bread flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 x sachet dried yeast (7g)
2 tsp salt
- Weigh out the flour and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the salt. Mix it in with your fingers so it is evenly distributed through the flour.
- Combine 100ml of boiling water with 200ml of cold water. (You will still have another 50ml of water to play around with. You may need it, but you may not. Different flours have different absorbency).
- Add the yeast to the water, whisk up with a hand whisk (or your fingers) until the yeast has dissolved.
- Add the liquid to the flour and mix it up well with your hands. (Of course you can do this in a mixer or using a hand-held mixer with dough hooks).
- When all the liquid has been absorbed, set aside for a few minutes, then start kneading again in the ball. If the dough seems very dry and crumbly, then you should add the remaining 50 millilitres of water. But you will not need any more water!
- Very lightly flour a wooden board or a clean work surface and tip the dough out onto it. Start kneading the dough. You will have to knead the dough until it is a smooth consistency. When you knead the dough by hand you can tell when the yeast has started to come alive under your hand. The dough is ready when it starts to feel smooth and almost (slightly springy) like a Reubensque woman's bottom! You can also tell when it is ready when you stretch the dough and it doesn't tear, and you can almost see through it. The kneading takes about 10 minutes.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl. Cover with a clean, dampened tea towel. Set aside to allow the dough to proof and to double in size. If you leave the dough in a warm kitchen (or airing cupboard), this will take an hour or so. A colder room means a slower rise. You can actually leave the dough overnight in the fridge. Again it just retards the rise but does improve the flavour of the baked bread.
- When the dough has doubled in size, tip it back out onto a floured board or clean work surface. Make sure that you have scraped any loose bits of sticky dough that may still be clinging to the bowl and add this to your mound of dough. Knead for a couple of minutes before either putting in a very lightly oiled loaf tin or form into a ball and place on a lightly greased and floured baking tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise again for about 1 hour. The dough needs to have doubled in size again.
- Pre-heat the oven to 230C / Gas Mark 9. Empty a kettle of boiling water into a roasting dish and place this on the bottom of the oven while it is heating up. This creates steam which gives you a better crust when the loaf is baking.
- If you are using a loaf tin, slash the loaf diagonally about 6 times on the diagonal with a very sharp knife (I use a Stanley knife) and lightly dust with a little flour before putting in a pre-heated oven - 230C / Gas Mark 9. If using the free form round version, then carefully form the loaf into a tight ball, by using your fingers to bring the base of the loaf underneath it. Slash a couple of times with the sharp knife and dust with flour.Bake the loaf for 10 minutes before turning the heat down to 200C / Gas Mark 6. Turn the loaf around carefully if it looks as if it looks as if it is cooking unevenly. Cook for another 25 minutes or so. The loaf is ready when you can tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow like a drum.
- Set the loaf to cool on a wire cooling rack. It needs to cool for about at least an hour.
- Don't ever slam the oven door while putting the loaf in the oven - it may deflate!