I love making bread. This is kind of handy when I make it every few days. Although I suppose that if I didn’t enjoy if I wouldn’t do it! I started making bread back in July when I was bored out of my mind and bread was the first thing I could think of that would take hours to cook. I haven’t looked back. I’ve made bread loaves, cottage loaves, bread buns, pita breads, focaccia, and the usual free form round loaf to my heart’s content! There is something so theraputic about making bread. I enjoy the all of the kneading, rising and shaping. It all adds up to make something so satisfying and delicious.
I started out using an overnight rising technique with my easy overnight white bread recipe but now I’ve had practice I can make bread from start to finish in 3 hours. It really breaks down into 4 stages, mixing, rising, second rising and baking. I think that I can get everything together, measured out, mixed and kneaded in 30 minutes. It then needs an hour to rise, then shaping takes anything up to 30 minutes when making rolls, then another 30 minute rise, then 25 minutes cooking. If I start at 5pm then I have freshly cooked bread on the table for dinner at 8pm.
I thought it was about time to post about all of the little tricks I’ve learnt to make the process go a little quicker and make my bread a little better. I use the same basic white bread recipe I started with but it’s the techniques I’ve developed that have really made the difference to the quality of the bread that I produce.
White Bread Recipe
Makes 1 large loaf, 12 small rolls
500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water
– Heat your oven up to the lowest setting it has. Mine has Slow Cook. This isn’t to do any cooking, it’s just to create a warm, draft free environment for yor dough to rise in. In the summer I was leaving the dough in a basket in the conservatory as it was very warm but now that winter is approaching the oven is the best place I’ve found.
– Put the flour, yeast and salt in a very large bowl and mix it about a bit.
– Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and then add the oil and water. To get warm water I use 200ml cold water and 100ml boiling mixed together.
– Use a spoon to mix together the ingredients until it forms into a ball of dough.
– Get in there with your hands, floured, to gather it all together and then turn it out onto a floured work surface.
– Dust the dough with flour on top as well and start kneading. Squish it out ahead of you, then fold it back and rotate 90*, squish, fold, rotate. So long as you work the dough and move it all about a lot then it doesn’t really matter how you do it. You should be picking up the lose flour and working it in to the dough as you go. If the dough starts to get too sticky just dust a little more flour and keep working it.
– Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You’ll notice the difference in textures, it wants to be soft and smooth feeling, no dust or lumps.
– I then turn off the oven and wash out the bowl I mixed the dough in (it’s the only very large bowl I have) and then put about 1 tbsp olive oil in, a small glug, I use my hands to spread the oil all over the inside of the bowl then use my oily hands to knead the dough again for another minute until my hands are no longer oily. (I think this could be the key step for excellent bread)
– Shape the dough into a ball and then put it in the oiled bowl, turn it over thereby coating all of the dough in oil.
– Cover the bowl with a tea towel and then place it in the oven, or other warm, draft free place, for one hour or until doubled in size.
– Take the dough out, dust the top of your risen dough lightly with flour and then plunge your fist into the middle of the dough.
– Gather the dought together, wiping it around the bowl to pick up the bits then turn out and knead for another minute or two to knock out all of the air and mix in the small amount of flour used.
– Prepare a baking tray, or two, with a dusting of flour or a sheet of baking paper.
– Now you shape your dough into whatever you are making.
– If you’re making a free form loaf then pull the edges of the ball underneath it and sort of pinch together so you have a smooth top then place it seam down on the baking tray and just shape it into the rough shape you’re after, remembering to keep height as it will spread out.
– If you’re making a loaf in a tin then squish the dough into a rectangle, fold one third over then the other third over than and place seam down into a large greased loaf tin. You’re probably better off only using 2/3 of the dough in a loaf tin otherwise it’ll be a really massive loaf!
– If you’re making buns then cut off portions of the dough, keeping the dough you’re not using covered int he bowl, and either pinch the sides of the ball to the bottom to make a smooth ball, roll into a line then tie in a knot for a knotted bun (I think they look like snails!), or divide into 3, roll into lines then plait together pinching the ends together and tucking them tidily under for plaited rolls.
– Leave to rise again in a warm, draft free place for 30 minutes. Fortunately I have a top oven/grill above the main oven where I can place the bread and pick up some of the heat from the bottom oven. Unfortunately you may not.
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 with some boiling water in an oven proof dish in the bottom.
– If making a free form loaf dust the top with flour and slash a few times with a very sharp knife.
– Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25 minutes for a loaf, 12 minutes for rolls. Once the top is golden brown and the base of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped your bread is cooked. Rolls cooked on the bottom shelf may need a few minutes more on the top shelf to brown. Cool on a wire rack.
– Leave the bread to stand for at least 15 minutes before eating to develop a good texture.