Thursday, 7 January 2010

Fresh Bread

You really can't beat the smell, taste or texture of fresh bread, straight from the oven. It's something I really miss about not being able to eat wheat. However my SO and my son are both good with wheat, and if they're going to eat it then I'd rather they were eating good quality ingredients made with care so, when I have the time, I bake bread for them.

I've heard a lot of talk over the years about baking bread being hard, or time consuming or generally too much trouble. I don't agree. The result that you get is so far removed from a loaf of supermarket polystyrene pap that you can't really compare the two things at all! Real bread is crusty on the outside, soft in the middle and packed with flavour. Yes it takes a couple of hours from starting the loaf to finishing it, but you don't need to stand over it all the time! You can just set it to rise and go do something else.

My basic loaf recipe, for a 2lb loaf tin is:

8 ounces of flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 pint warm water

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl then add the water gradually, depending on the flour you're using you may need more or less than the 1/2 pint. Stir some of the water in and mix with a knife until you have a craggy dough, then add the oil, mix some more and start trying to work it into a ball. Stop adding water when the dough comes together into a ball. Knead in the bowl for a while, then transfer to a well floured worksurface and knead for a few minutes before returning to the bowl and leaving in a warm place to rise for an hour.

Take the risen dough (it should have about doubled in size) out of the bowl and knead it well again, then shape it or pop it into the tin and leave it to rise again for about another half an hour. When that's done, it goes in the oven at Gas mark 7 until its brown and crusty (about 45 minutes). To test if its done, turn it upside down and tap the bottom, if it doesn't sound hollow them pop it back in the oven upside down for a few minutes until it does.

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