Running low on bread, I thought it time to bake again, but didn’t want the hassle of waiting for starters to rise and long proving times. I just needed a simple, tasty recipe that I could throw together, rise, shape and cook.
So I hunted a bit and came up with Jamie Oliver’s Basic Bread Recipe, which looked just the ticket … quick and easy. I even read some of the comments at the end of the recipe and came to the conclusion that there must be many people out there convinced that bread should be like commercially made stuff. It’s not. It’s just not. It’s better, but if commercial, white and square is all you’ve known, home-made can take some getting used to.
I digress. Back to the task at hand. For a change I felt like making white bread. Mostly m loaves are usually dark and heavy, but every now and then I do appreciate a crusty white bread, and that’s what I set about preparing.
Half way through making the white loaf, however, I felt something was missing. Something dark and wholesome and heavy. I decided to make a second batch, based on the same recipe, but with 60% wholemeal, 40% white, using dark brown sugar instead of white and adding caraway seeds for flavour.
Next came the question of how to bake all the loaves together, rather than one batch followed by the other. Easy. I gave the white dough a second rise in the bowl just after making the wholemeal dough, which meant both doughs were ready to be shaped into loaves at the same time.
It worked a treat and minutes after I took the first loaves out of the oven, my daughter and granddaughter surprised me with a visit. We had a lovely lunch of the freshest possible warm bread and jam before heading to the beach for a play in the waves and making bread-shaped sandcastles.
The basic white recipe
1kg strong bread flour
625ml tepid water
3 x 7g sachets dried yeast (I have a tub of dried yeast in the fridge, so I used 1 and a half tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt (sounds like a lot, but considering it’s spread over two loaves, and you only eat a slice or two at at time, it’s not that much)
The wholemeal version
400g strong white bread flour
600g wholemeal flour
625ml tepid water
3 x 7g sachets dried yeast (see comment above re yeast)
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or molasses if you have it handy
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
The method (this differs slightly from Jamie Oliver’s method, but works for me)
Place the flour/s, sugar, salt, yeast and seeds (if using) in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Make a well in the centre and pour the water in all at once. Fit your mixer with a dough hook and mix for two minutes.
The flour should come together into a firm dough.
If not using an electric mixer, just bring it together with your hands (messy!!) or a mixing spoon. Add more water, just a dribble at a time, if the dough doesn’t appear to be coming together. But be careful, you don’t want it to be wet and sloppy.
Tip the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead by pushing with the heel of your hand, folding it over itself, turning 45 degrees and repeating.
Do this for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft and elastic. Try not to remove your hands from the dough as you want to keep it warm. Form the dough into a ball.
Lightly oil a large, clean bowl with a mild tasting oil and plop the dough in, smooth side down, to get a light coating of oil. Turn it over, cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until double its size. This should take about 30-40 minutes. Note: Jamie Oliver’s method calls for the dough to be dusted with flour. I’m sure this is fine and good if you don’t want oil added to the final dough, which my method will do.
As I was making two types of bread, I began my wholemeal batch when the white dough was half way through its first rise.
Make the dough as described above and set aside to rise in your warm, draft-free place.
Now it’s time to punch the wind out of the white dough. Take the bowl and remove the cling wrap, then make a fist and punch right into the dough. It will instantly deflate.
Do this until all the air has been punched out of it – a minute or so, then place it back in the bowl, cover and set aside to rise alongside the wholemeal dough.
Once your doughs have doubled in size, it’s time to form your loaves. Take the first batch and punch it down, as above. Turn it out of the bowl and onto a clean, floured surface.
For my white loaves, I cut the dough in half and with the first half, formed a simple long oval, which I placed on a clean tea towel, rolled up on two sides and supported by two rolling pins. Placing the dough inbetween the rolled up edges ensures it rises up instead of spreading out across the tray. You just need to be very gentle when removing it from the tea towel and onto the tray.
I also scored the top, although I’m never sure whether I should score my bread before or after is rise. Can someone offer any clues to this?
The second half of the white dough was rolled into a long sausage shape and folded over itself to form a knot.
I cut two thirds of the wholemeal dough for one loaf, which went into my one and only proper bread tin. I made a small spiral shape from the remaining third.
Once you’ve formed your loaves – and you can have some fun with this – set them aside, again in a warm, draft-free spot, to rise until doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 220C (210C if using fan forced). Prepare an egg wash by beating one egg with a dash of milk. Place a large tray of boiling water into the bottom of the oven – steam helps the crust form.
When your loaves have risen and you’ve carefully removed the rolling pins and tea towel supporting your white loaf, brush lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if you wish. I love sesame seeds on bread, so I did this to two of my loaves.
Gently place into the oven and set your timer for five minutes, after which time you’ll turn the oven down to 180C and reset the timer for 30 minutes.
Once the time has passed, test your loaves by tipping off or out of their tray/tin and holding in a clean oven mitt or tea towel so you don’t burn your hand. Knock lightly on the base of the loaf. If it sounds hollow and woody, it’s ready. If it sounds spongy and dull, then pop it back in for a while longer. Turn the oven down further to prevent burning if necessary.
Once the bread is all cooked, set the loaves aside to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. This is important. It is also a perfect time for friends or family to visit. Pop the kettle on ready.
When ready, serve slices with real butter and whatever else takes your fancy … sweet or savoury, it’s gonna be good.