Bread!

Bread plays such an important part in our everyday lives, 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 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 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, plus it tastes good, and is additive free as well!We make a simple vegan friendly wheatflour dough as the base to our bread, you could enrich it by adding milk and butter instead of water and olive oil.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.Ingredients: 450g strong bread flour (we use 50/50 white and wholemeal) 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, 7g dried yeast, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, one mug of hand warm water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 30g mixed seeds, we use seeds rich in omega3 but seeds are optional).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 bowlMake a depression in the middle of the dry mix and add the olive oil, then 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 does 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 atart to kneed. The idea is to make the dough flexible and stretchy rather than solid and crumbly. 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 5 -10 minutes until the dough is stretchy, flexible, and not sticky.DoughRound 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.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 increasingly seen by some as potentially harmful.Bread tinsIf 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 for this but wholemeal is fine) or for a browner top brush with milk or even egg if you want to.20190731_2104304571376807603984920.jpgWe sometimes cut the top to give a bit of ‘character’ or cut down the long ceter 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.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.
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 loafWhen 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.The recipe as written is 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 (cane sugar is processed using bone char so is not vegan friendly).Following our summer break the breadmaking continues to save us money, ensure we know whats in our food, and develop our baking skills.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 flourAt the moment flour is 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 in bread making.Italian 00 flour is available in many places and is a good replacement for strong white 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.