After watching the Fabulous Baker Brothers live, my wonderful other half felt inspired to make bread – which roughly translates to he wanted to eat some fresh homemade bread. As his enthusiasm appeared to be waning I decided to surprise him with a loaf last night after he gallantly returned from battle – came home after an interdepartmental five a side football match.
Incidentally it just so happens to be national bread week.
What I actually surprised him with was a rather sad looking lump of dough, that I was convinced would never become anything more than a heavy lump in the bottom of a cheap tin.
I am not a natural bread maker. I in no way possess the patience involved in carefully nurturing an inanimate lump that eventually rises. Cakes are easy, you cream together some ingredients chuck them in a tin and in under an hour, the whole house smells delicious and you are repeatedly burning your fingers snacking on fresh out of the oven treats.
By the time the bread had gone through kneading, two sessions of rising, and being baked in a steaming oven, I was done with the whole process. I was tired, stressed, and disappointed by how long it had taken to make. I slunk off to bed, preparing myself to get up early and photograph something else to blog about, and accepting that I just had to put the whole bread making idea behind me.
That was what I thought until I tried some of the bread this morning. One bite in and I understood the magic of it. Like the cakes I bake, you just can’t buy anything remotely as satisfying. It might be completely psychosomatic but I think you can taste and feel when food is mass produced and full of preservatives, even in the higher end brands.
My mistake was to want something instant, after a long day at work. Making bread doesn’t take much effort (especially with my trusty kitchen aid doing all the kneading for me) it just needs time.
280g strong white flour
5g sea salt
150ml tepid water
10ml rapeseed oil (I used sunflower as it’s what I had in the cupboard)
2.5g dried yeast (or 5g fresh yeast)
Weight the flour and salt into a bowl.
Mix the water and oil in a jug, stirring in the dried yeast to activate it.
Create a well in the flour and add the liquid.
Bring together with a wooden spoon, then knead for 15 minutes by hand or for 10 minutes using a dough hook on an electric mixer.
Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.
Well oil and flour your bread tin.
When the dough has risen (this is the tricky bit to explain!) stretch the dough out until you have formed a thin sheet about 1cm thick.
Fold into thirds – imagine you’re folding an A4 letter to go into a standard envelope.
Starting at one of the thinner ends, roll the dough towards you, using your thumbs to tightly tuck the roll so it stays taut, you don’t want any gaps in the roll.
Place the loaf in the tin, sprinkle with flour, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise a second time, for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size again.
About 30-40 minutes in, turn your oven on as high as it will go (mine was about 250C) you want it screaming hot. If you have a baking stone – I used my pizza stone – put this in the oven now too.
10 minutes before your dough is ready put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.
Remove the clingfilm and put the tin in the oven for and set a timer for 10 minutes.
When your alarm goes off, remove the water tray from the oven and let some of the steam out, and turn the oven down to 210C.
This is where my instructions differ from the cook book as my recipe is for a small tin rather than a 2lb tin. I found that my loaf was ready after 5 minutes cooking at a lower temperature – you can test this by removing the loaf and knocking on the bottom. If it sounds hollow it’s ready.
Leave to cool, if you can wait that long, and then enjoy!