Hands up, who’s afraid of making bread?
DON’T PANIC. Four days ago I was one of you. Turns out bread is really simple. Even if it doesn’t come out absolutely perfect bread is bread and this recipe really is easy.
The really convenient part for me is that you can do the hard work the night before, chuck it in the fridge then the next day a couple of hours before you want the bread you do the last few bits and chuck it in the oven. Simple. I would say that the active time it takes to make this bread is no more than 25 minutes, the rest is simply doing something else while the dough does the hard work.
I’ve tried to put an explaination for techniques at the bottom, four days ago I didn’t know what they meant and google will provide you with dozens of diferent answers, these are mine others may disagree. If you know what you’re doing, great, if you don’t I hope this will help.
Makes 1 loaf
500g strong white flour plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
1 sachet fast action yeast (usually 6 or 7g)
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water
– Mix together the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl.
– Make a well in the centre then add the oil and water.
– Mix well until a dough is formed and all the ingredients are well combined.
– When it’s too hard to continue with the spoon tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead* with your hands, use a little flour on them too, until it is satiny smooth (about 10 mins).
– Place the dough in a lighty oiled bowl, cover with cling film and then place in the fridge overnight. Or leave for approx. 1 hour in a warm, draft free environment or until doubled in size. Slower rising in the fridge is said to improve the flavour of your bread.
– When the bread has risen take it out of the fridge and ‘knock it down’.**
– Place your dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and gently shape it as you want.
– Leave covered in a warm draft free area for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
– Heat your oven to Gas Mark 7 and place an oven proof dish with about 1/2″ of hot water in the bottom of the oven to provide steam during baking.
– Dust the loaf with flour and slash a few strokes in the top with a very sharp knife.
– Place in the oven and bake for half an hour. To test if your loaf is done check that it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
– Place on a wire rack to cool. The longer you can resist eating it the better as it allows the bread to settle.
*Do a sort of very concentrated breast stroke using the heels of your hands to push the dough forwards, stretch to the sides and pull the dough back round then repeat.
**Punch the centre of the dough with your fist then gather in the dough from the sides, knead lightly for a minute or so. This is to remove the air and redistribute the yeast so it can continue to rise.