In lots of cultures, bread is revered. In our culture we tend to spoil it by pumping it full of fat and chemicals… mmm. So here, dear reader, is my tried and tested to destruction, recipe for hand made bread, which is not only delicious, but also nourishing and great to slice, freeze and whatever else you can think of. Most importantly, it doesnt need fat!! Give your breadmaker away, stop buying supermarket loaves, and get hand baking baby…
Bread recipe – makes four good loaves, or three loaves and about a dozen bagels.
3 Tbs Yeast (I use the Allinson stuff, which you get in little orange tins)
3 Tsp sugar, or honey
2 pints tepid water (you may need a little more or slightly less depending upon your flour)
2 kg’s strong flour (I use half wholemeal, half white for a healthy, tasty, good slicing loaf)
1 1/2 Oz salt (worth trying slightly less, or slightly more, depending upon your taste.)
Bit of extra flour for dusting, kneading etc.
1) Dissolve the yeast and sugar/honey in 1 pint of warm water.
2) Put all the flour in a big bowl, if it is a mixture, or you’re putting oats in, make sure its well mixed. Mix in your salt too. Make a well in the centre. When your yeast mixture has risen so there’s a good inch or two of foam, mix it into your flour. I use a plastic spoon for this stage – give it a good mix. It can be quite hard work. When its all soaked up, add in your second pint of warm water, bit by bit, mixing it in.
I find that a very easy flour to use is Dove’s Farm organic flour, I use half wholemeal and half strong white. Allinsons also make pretty decent bread flour – its easy to get organic flours from supermarkets. When you’re confident – you can get specialist flours from small mills by mail order, or from small shops.
3) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and get kneading. If you do this right, it becomes a kind of meditiative activity, quite soothing and cathartic at the same time. Pressing down with the heel of your hands, squashing and folding your dough over and over again, a good kneed will take at least 10 minutes. This is when the gluten gets developed – and is vital to the end result. if your dough is too sticky, and is making a mess on your hands or the work top, dust it with flour, and rub it off.
4) Get the dough into a big ball, and put it back into the bowl. Leave it in a warm, place, away from draughts – I like a sunny windowsill, or above a warmish radiator. Cover the bowl with a dampish tea towel. You need to leave this for its FIRST PROVE which will take up to about an hour. During this time, the dough will rise, and you can expect it to double in size if its been made properly. If its a very warm place – the prove will be quicker – so keep an eye on it.
5) After the dough has proved, knead it again. This is the stage when you can add other ingredients or shape it (see below). Give it a good kneading – another ten minutes or so, maybe slightly less – the key is to knock all the air out. Then divide it up – you can just chop it into four pieces, then knead it into oblong shapes. Place the dough into greased loaf tins (if you are making standard loaves) or onto a greased baking sheet, if you are making bagels, rolls, or fancy shaped loaves. This should then be left for the SECOND PROVE during which time you must be careful not to knock the loaves. Leave it to prove for maybe another 40 mins – 1 hour.
6) Preheat your oven to 200 C. Gently transfer your loaves to the oven. If you’ve got a fan oven, you could get them all in ok. If it’s an old fashioned oven, cook two a time – in the centre of the oven. A good oven will cook the loaves well in 20 minutes, if your oven is older, you may need longer.
Look at the top of your loaf – if it looks nicely brown, take the loaf out. Remove it from the tin, and look at the bottom. If the bottom is pale, it may need more cooking. Bakers will tell you to tap the bottom, and if it sounds hollow – then its ready. Personally I cant tell if it sounds hollow, so I say that if its pale, put the loaf back in, out of its tin, upside down. Leave it for 5 to 10 more minutes, check it after five, after 10, I think it should definitely be ok.
7) Take the loaf out, and place it on a rack to cool. If you want a real soft crust, then wrap the loaf up in a tea towel as it cools. When it is cool, you can slice it up. You can either freeze your loaves whole, or presliced – either works. Use good quality polythene bags to freeze your loaves in.
This bread is really good stuff – the problem you will have is wanting to eat the stuff all the time.
To make multigrain bread, you need to add your extra seeds after the first prove. When you knead your proved dough, just add in the seeds you want to have in your bread, just keep chucking them in until you like the look of your dough. If you want to do something multigrain without it tasting to seedy – use sunflower seeds. They are very inoffensive – make sure you’ve got sunflower kernels though, and not seeds with shells on!
To make bread using oats, you can simply substitute oats for about 1/3 of your flour. It will make the dough a bit drier though, so you may need to use more water. I know it seems a bit odd, but the oats will simply blend right into your dough, and feel just like normal bread. Use porridge oats. They are good for you!!
To make bread which will get your kids interested, try plaiting three cylinders of dough together, or making a round, coil shape. Then simply bake on a flat baking sheet rather than in a loaf tin. You can also make bread rolls in interesting shapes – my daughter used to love heart shaped bread rolls.
To make bagels, use the recipe above, but after the first prove, cut the dough into rounds (like making scones). Then turn the rounds into balls, and stick your finger through the middle of the ball, making a doughnut shape.
Stretch it out until it looks like a bagel. Leave your dough bagels to prove for a second time. Once they’ve had a good prove, bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. Boil your dough bagels for about three minutes, turning them in the pan, so they get cooked on both sides. I do about two at a time in a normal pan.
Put them back on your baking tray and once they’ve all been boiled, cook them at about 200 for 15 minutes, or until they look a good colour.
To make cinamon and raisin bagels, after the first prove, add some cinamon, raisins, and a smidgeon of sugar to your dough. I have never made a full batch of cinamon and raisin, so I am not sure what amount you’d want for a full batch of dough. Best to experiment with a small batch, and multiply upwards afterwards.
If you want to do multiseed – add whatever seeds you like at that stage (after 1st prove) too. (I like pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds… mmm.)