Bread!

Bread is a staple in some form across most of the globe, it plays such an important part in our everyday lives not only as a source of carbohydrate, but as a comforter. Hot toasted with butter and jam, cheese toasties, and the ubiquitous sandwich.

While artisan producers and local bakeries makes some wonderful loaves cost can be an issue for many, and in times when we are not supposed to be travelling around to much finding good bread can sometimes be difficult.

So why not make it at home?

We know many people blanche at the idea of making their own bread, and its not the easiest thing to get right but isn’t half the fun trying, and in these times we certainly have the time. Homemade bread can come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes we wonder how it ended up the way it did.

But through trial and error eventually it will come right. Even a poor loaf is usually edible in parts so nothing is wasted, you could always make bread pudding or crutons to hide the evidence of baking mishaps!

A homemade loaf costs around 75p in ingredients, about 50p in energy to cook, and fills the house with a wonderful baking smell (its a smell that can sell houses as it makes people feel homely, and supermarkets have been known to inject baking bread fragrances into the airconditioning to make you buy from their bakery). The main advantages though are that it tastes good, and is additive free as well!We make a couple of simple wheatflour doughs as the base to our breads, you could enrich it by adding milk and butter instead of water and olive oil, and a host of other ingredients to add flavours…

So whats needed?

Clean hands, a mixing bowl (or clean worktop if you are brave!) A wooden spoon or mixer with bread hook. Weighing scales a bread tin, baking sheet, or cake tin, and an oven.

Recipe 1 – The 50/50 loaf.

Ingredients:

  • 450g strong bread flour (we use 50/50 white and wholemeal)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey,
  • 7g dried yeast,
  • 1 teaspoons of salt,
  • one mug of hand warm water,
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Method:

  • Put the honey, yeast and water into the mug and stir.
  • Leave in the warm for 10-15 minutes until bubbles or foam starts to form on the surface.
  • Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (or mound up on a worktop) and mix together.

Dry ingredients in a bowl

  • Make a depression in the middle of the dry mix
  • add the olive oil,
  • start adding the yeast mixture a bit at a time,
  • stir the mixture until a rough dough starts to form.
  • Mix into a smooth moist dough that is not overly sticky. A moist flexible mixture is ok, if it is too wet add more flour.
  • When the dough is combined and flexible, place it on a floured worksurface and start to kneed. The idea is to make the dough flexible and stretchy rather than solid and crumbly. To kneed push forwards into the dough ball to stretch the ball out, fold it over and do it again. This can be hard work but worth it. Continue for 10 -15 minutes until the dough is stretchy, flexible, and not sticky. You can flour the kneeding surface to stop the dough sticking or as a way of adding extra flour if its too wet.

Dough

  • Round the dough off and place it in the mixing bowl to rise.
  • Place the bowl in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Kneed the risen dough briefly.
  • Form the dough into a sausage if using a bread tin, a round if using a 6 or 7 inch cake tin, or keep as a sausage shape if using a baking sheet. We have a range of tins we use for different sized loaves, we line with greaseproof, or silicon sheets as we have found over time even those that are supposed to be non-stick aren’t, and non-stick coatings are increasingly seen by some as potentially harmful.

Bread tins

If baking rolls a good quality baking sheet the won’t twist with heat is essential. You can slash the top of the dough to give some extra texture to the finished loaf but this is optional. Dust with flour (we use rye but wholemeal is fine) or for a browner top brush with milk or even egg if you want to.

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We sometimes cut the top to give a bit of ‘character’ or cut down the long center line for a classic ‘split tin’ look.

  • Cover and leave the dough to prove (grow), depending where you do this and the temperature this process could take a couple of hours. This is something that is trial and error, to warm and it will rise quickly giving large bubbles in the dough (holes in the finished loaf). Too slow and the surface may dry out.
  • When the dough has proved it will be up to double in size, and stand above the rim of the tin.

  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Gas mark 6) and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown, or darker if you prefer.
  • When cooked remove your loaf from the oven take it out of the tin.
  • To check it is cooked tap the bottom of the loaf, it should sound sort of hollow.
  • If further cooking time is needed protect the crust from burning with foil and return the loaf to the oven until it is ready (5minutes or so).

Cooked loaf

When cooked put the loaf on a cooling rack and allow to cool before slicing and devouring with butter or spread of your choice! This recipe makes a fairly densley textured loaf, using all white flour makes the loaf light and fluffy.

Recipe 2 – One in six loaf

Ingredients:

  • One cup white bread flour
  • Five cups wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 15g dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
  • 1/2 cup Omega 3 rich seeds
  • 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  • Mug and a half of warm water
  • One teaspoon salt.

Method:

  • As in recipe 1
  • We find warming the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl while the yeast/honey/water mix activates and froths speeds up the process.
  • We heat the oven to 100 degrees C and turn it off before putting the dry ingredients in there to warm.
  • We find doing the same with the dough improves rising times in winter.
  • Again it is trial and error, when kneeding for the second time (before shaping and putting in the tin) it is important to get the dough free of air pockets. Air pockets quickly become large holes in the finished loaf if left.
  • If making rolls we tend to only kneed once.
  • We find the higher the wholemeal flour content the more water we need to stop the dough / finished loaf from being dry.

We also make what we term a 3-2-1 loaf the method is the same we just change the flour proportions so we use 3 cups strong white bread flour, 2 cups wholemeal bread flour, and one cup Light / Dark Rye flour. This makes a denser loaf which does not rise as much but has a lovely nutty flavour from the rye.

The recipes as written are suitable for vegetarians as honey is used as the sweetening agent. It can be suitable for vegetarians and vegans if sugar derived from sugar beet is used to replace the honey (cane sugar is processed using bone char so is not vegan friendly).

We have experimented with just pitching the yeast into the dry mix but have found getting the yeast going first in a sweet warm water mix works better and gives better rising and texture to the finished loaf….

In these strange times flour can be hard to get, see a few words below which may help.

A few words about flour At the moment flour can be in short supply, it is easier to get bulk packs from producers and wholesalers than small bags from shops.Strong bread flours are suitable replacements for normal plain flour in many recipes, but plain flour will not work well in bread making unless you are making flatbreads. Italian 00 flour is available in many places and is a good replacement for strong white bread flour making delicious light bread, and pizza bases!There are numerous small scale artisan and craft flour millers across the UK, we would suggest going on-line and finding a local producer who may welcome your custom.Many suppliers sell through farm shops, and visiting those instead of supermarkets as part of your shopping, avoids crowds, supports your local community, british agriculture and puts money in local rather than corporate pockets.