Basic Bread

Freshly baked bread. More than 50 batches in and I am still in love. With the loaf, and the magical process of seeing it rise. Bread is one of the main reasons behind the blog’s title. Obviously, not everything you see on this blog takes a large amount of time, but home made bread does. However, fear not for the young loaf when rising is not selfish and can fend for itself – it does not require constant supervision, allowing for coffee breaks and the like.

Serves: Makes two loaves
Cooking Time: Total time – around 2 hours. Preparation and kneading 15 minutes, resting 1 1/2 hours (minimum), cooking 20-40 minutes


Ingredients

+ 1 kg strong white bread flour
+ 12 g dry yeast
+ 15 g fine salt
+ 1-2 tablespoons sunflower oil (plus a little extra to line the bowl)
+ 600 ml warm water


Method

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir or mix with hands to create quite a sticky dough (add extra water if it is needed). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for ten minutes, adding extra flour if needed. Form the dough into a ball, by tucking the sides under and rotating. Place the dough into a clean bowl, which has been lightly oiled. Cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hours.

After resting, the dough should have at least doubled in size (as a general rule). The important thing during the final proof is to stop before the gluten network in your dough collapses. The best way to test this is to gently poke the bread with a floured finger:

  • If the hole disappears completely: under-proofed;
  • If the hole dent pops half way back out: proofing is just right; and
  • If the hole stays entirely dented in: over-proofed.

Once satisfied it has risen sufficiently, gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Deflate the dough a little by prodding with your fingertips. Divide the dough into half, before reforming into the shape you wish to bake it in. Place in a floured banneton (a bread basket), a floured tin to make a loaf. Or shape into individual rolls or mini bread sticks and place on a floured board and cover with a tea towel for 30 minutes. At this stage, preheat the oven to 250°C and place the baking trays in to heat up.

When ready to bake, remove the trays from the oven and sprinkle with a touch of flour. Gently place the loaves onto the preheated baking trays, and with a serrated knife cut some shallow lines in the top. Bake at 250°C for ten minutes. If you have a spare tray underneath the loaves, place half a dozen ice cubes in as well. The steam will help to create a nice crust. After the initial ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 180°C and bake for 10-30 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. When ready, remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.

  • An alternative method of cooking it to use a Dutch oven. For this method, preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat a large Dutch oven in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently place the dough in, and cutting the top. Sprinkle the top of your loaf with a touch of water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 20 minutes. The bread is done when the base sounds hollow when tapped.

Our bread lasts around a week, just wrapped in newspaper and in a bread bin. This allows it to breathe, whilst keeping it fresh. If you do not own a bread bin, just in the newspaper and in the pantry is more than fine.

OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS:

  • If you are confident with a plain white loaf try experimenting with other flours – such as wholemeal and rye. We normally use a combination of flours, with at least 40% white to maintain the gluten content required.
  • We also use a wide variety of seeds, including: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and pepitas. We also have a jar of mixed wholemeal grains we bought from our local markets. These can be added to the dough in the first step, and with a touch of water used to put on the crust once you have formed the dough into its final shape.
  • When making a full batch, you can separate out the dough prior to kneading to create a raisin toast variation. For our raisin toast variation we simply add a cup of raisins (soaked in warm water), as well as some cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice. To be sure, this is not as sweet as the store bought variety but it is just as delicious.
  • If you are wanting a longer coffee break, then the time to do it is when the bread is set to rest for the first time. If absenting yourself from the house for more time than is stated, simply place the bowl with the dough in the fridge to slow the rising. However, be sure upon your return to allow it to return to room temperature before recommencing your work.
  • If your winters are long and cold, as ours can be, we place our dough to rise on top of a hot water bottle which has been wrapped in tea towel. The extra warmth will give your loaf a little extra lift!

Original recipe sourced from the  Family Archives.

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