bread for beginners…

Today as lunchtime loomed I was feeling both hungry and lazy, so, somewhat counter-intuitively, decided to make bread rather than go buy some. I’ve joyously made bread before (thanks Jamie Oliver) but it was a while ago so I thought best go back to basics!

Being lazy I used what was in the cupboard – normal plain flour. The recipe book (Knead by Carol Tennant) kindly described the differences between strong plain, plain and self-raising, but I didn’t bother to read them properly until too late. While my bread was baking my mother said the loaves would probably turn out more like cake because I didn’t use strong plain flour, the higher gluten content of which gives bread its springy texture. I can happily report, however, that using plain flour produced an excellent approximation of bread I would happily pass off as the real thing to guests!

Another lesson learnt is the value of a good recipe. I was just 75g short of the required quantity of flour, adjusted the liquid a little, but waddayano after the allocated kneading time it was not ‘no longer sticky’. So lazy me had to go to the shops after all. Surprisingly it only took that missing 75g to get it all together, a cute example of how it’s often the small stuff that really counts in life.

One final point to note, the recipe says to cook for 35 minutes, take the loaves out of the tins then put them back in the oven to ‘crisp’ for 5 minutes. My loaves were definitely crisp enough without the extra time, in fact the crust was a little thicker than I’d prefer. Use your own judgement, you know your oven.

BASIC WHITE LOAF

INGREDIENTS

  • 675g strong plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 15g butter
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp easy blend yeast (what the &*$^ is that? I just used one 7g sachet of dry yeast, added to the water)
  • 425ml lukewarm water
  • oil for greasing (use an oil mister if you don’t care about aerosols)

METHOD

Generously grease one 1kg loaf tin or two 500g loaf tins (I did two tins, resulting in two nice sized ‘snack slice’ loaves).

Sift the flour into the large bowl of your mixer. Rub in the butter until combined, stir through the salt.

Add the yeast to the warm water and stir until it’s dissolved. Make a well in the flour, pour in the water/yeast. Mix to a dough, starting off with a spoon then bringing the dough together with your hands (Huh? My hands? Ick. I managed to make the spoon do all the job thanks very much).

Now knead the dough in your mixer using the dough hook fitting for 6 to 8 minutes. It’s ready when very smooth and elastic and no longer sticky. Add small amounts of flour if it doesn’t seem to have worked by the 8 minute mark. (I see no point bothering to knead by hand unless you need the exercise. If that’s you then hand knead for 8 to 10 minutes).

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a neat ball (don’t over handle it!) and drop it carefully into the bowl. Rub a little oil over the surface, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in bulk. Don’t leave the bowl near an open window!

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface, which will ‘knock the dough back’. Knead it for a couple of minutes to make it smooth again.

Now carefully divide the dough in two if you want two loaves. Pat the dough into a large oblong, fold one end to the centre and the other end on top. Drop it into the prepared tin, seam side down. Put the tin in a plastic bag. Now for some more waiting. This time from 30 minutes to an hour, until the dough rises to the top of the tin. To reduce waiting time put the tin/s in a warmer place – I put mine on top of the water heater which lives in its own little cupboard, nice. Now’s also the time to preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Just before baking slash the loaves down the length of the dough with a sharp knife. Or use your scalpel (you know, the one you use for DIY plastic surgery 😉 ). Bake in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes for one large loaf or 35 to 40 minutes for two smaller loaves. And now the contentious instruction – remove from tin and put back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp the sides and base. If you’ve got to this point and not discarded the plastic bag you put the tin in (see previous paragraph), well, what can I say other than do yourself a favour and eat takeaway for the rest of your life.

Apparently a loaf is ready when it’s a lovely golden brown colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. I’d like someone to post an audio recording or video of the uncooked and cooked sounds so we can tell the difference please.

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5 Responses to “bread for beginners…”


  1. 1 ibdesignsusa March 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Sounds like a good recipe. Haven’t made bread in awhile but it sure is good especially warm from the oven.

  2. 2 An Ng. March 7, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    What a handsome loaf. Usually, to test for bread’s doneness, I just insert an instant-read thermometer into the loaf from the bottom. About 200°F is where most breads are done.

  3. 4 frugalfeeding March 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    What a great looking crust. I adore to make bread – I find it so therapeutic.


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