Bread, I have always loved bread even as a child I never had to be encouraged to eat the crusts – I thought it was the best bit. As an adult I always thought there was a mystery around bread making that ordinary mortals could never achieve. Then during one of the chapters in my life I lived in a house with an Aga (well it was an Esse – Aga’s cheaper cousin but the same thing) so it would have been rude not to have a bash at making bread as that’s what people do in the country right? Ever since then I have dipped in and out of making the occasional loaf but still felt it was a bit hit and miss.
The highlight of my bread making was when I was at a cookery course at River Cottage and Gill Meller waltzed in and told me that the sough dough loaf I had made that day was beautiful and could he take a photo of it for his Instagram account! Well after I slightly swooned and turned the colour of a new season beetroot, I obviously agreed – I managed not to do a backflip and scream please take the loaf, but I cannot pretend to you that I was cool! Anyway, that was it, Mr Meller who I had watched on TV effortlessly making bread liked my loaf – OMG he unleashed that worry I had about making bread and my confidence grew.
Have I told you that I have recently retired? Well since then of course life has taken a different beat and now I make bread all the time. Now don’t get me wrong an Artisan Baker I ain’t but I can now knock out a decent loaf for the family. (I still have a love hate relationship with my sough dough starter but I am determined to ace it!)
So here it is the recipe for our daily bread.
350g Strong white bread flour.
150g Stoneground rye flour.
5 g dried yeast.
Glug of olive oil.
300ml blood heat water.
Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. Add a glug of olive oil and the water and bring everything together into a dough. When all combined, add a small amount of flour to your board and empty the dough onto it and knead for 10 minutes. Try not to add too much flour as it changes the texture of the bread. When you are happy that the dough is smooth and elasticated (it means the gluten is working) roll it into a ball, add a little olive oil into the cleaned out bowl, roll the ball of dough into the oil (so it won’t stick as it grows), cover the whole bowl (so no cold air can get in) with a plastic bag and leave it in a warm place to do its thing. Basically you don’t want it to grow too quickly so nowhere too warm and it will take around an hour and a half or more to double in size. Once it has doubled in size, remove it from the tin an knock it back (remove the air from it) by pressing your fingers into it as it flattens out like a plate.
Now you need to stretch it a little bit and fold it back onto itself – as if you are going around a clock face (check out Gill Mellor’s you tube video of how he does this). Then shape it into a ball, moving your hands underneath to tighten the seam. Within a few minutes you should have a lovely round ball of dough.
Now you can either pop it into a proving basket (face down) or just leave it on a floured T-towel on your work surface. Whichever you do cover it with a clean T-towel and leave it to prove once more (around an hour) it should double in size once more and be quite springy.
Whilst the second prove is underway, pop your oven on 220c / gas mark 6 and put a heavy duty baking tray in to get hot. When it is really hot, remove the tray and pop your dough onto it, make a few slashes to the top of the bread and gently put it into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Now I leave mine on 220c and turn the bread half way through cooking, but you may need to turn it down to 190c Gas mark 5 etc depending on your oven.
I like to put a roasting tin on the floor of the oven as I preheat it and as I put the bread in I put a kettle full of boiling water into the roasting tin as the steam adds to the wonderful crust you get. But please be careful whilst doing this – i don’t want you burning yourselves or blowing your electric oven up!
When the time is up, tap the bottom of the loaf for that hollow sound which shows its done. Now is the really difficult bit – you have to leave it to cool before you cut and spread it with Welsh salted butter and demolish!