Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Really Easy Bread

I used to think that making bread would be too difficult and time consuming so it wasn't until earlier this year that I really gave it a go. In the past I had made a couple of attempts that didn't go so well but now I'm really on to it and it turns out that it is so easy! That is why today I am posting the most basic bread recipe I have (I actually thought I had already put it in here but I guess not!), which is made even easier and completely foolproof by using instant yeast. The recipe came from another blog (which I actually still have the details of for once, it's called Farmgirl Fare), but I have changed it slightly since then. I have only just started using the instant yeast because the only store at which I could find the fresh stuff in the city centre has closed down. It seems to work so much better that I think I will stick to it. Sure, maybe it has improvers in it but why should that matter? I often add my own improvers, like vitamin C, so I don't mind that it is already in there. The dough of this bread is amazing to knead, it is so soft that you could just keep going all day (only you shouldn't because that is not so good for the texture of the final product!). Everybody should have a go at baking bread so I hope my recipe might inspire somebody at some point!

The recipe below is for the simplest bread that you could make, and it will make enough for two small loaves or one large one (I think my large loaf tin is 1 kilo/2 pounds). If you want to add a little something special this recipe is perfect for adding to - like replace some of the flour with brown flour or some other grain. Or kneading in seeds, or rolling it out and spreading it with something yummy like pesto, then rolling it up into a tight loaf - which is my new favourite thing. The bread below has sundried tomato and parmesan and it was really yummy, but I didn't roll it tight enough so it's a bit holey.

Plain White Bread

450 grams strong flour
5 grams dry or instant/fast action yeast or 10 grams fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 mL warm milk (or water, or a mixture of both)
1 tablespoon sugar (only really necessary if you are using fresh yeast)
1 tablespoon oil

There are two different ways to do this, depending on whether you have fresh yeast or dry yeast granules or instant/fast yeast. If you have fresh or dry you need to make sure that the yeast is active by placing it in a small bowl with the warm milk, sugar and oil. The milk needs to be about body temperature, 37 degrees celsius, not too hot to put your finger into. Leave this to sit for 5 minutes and you should see blooms of yeast appear at the surface.

Take a large bowl and sift the flour and salt into it. If you are using instant yeast you ignore the above directions and just stir it directly into the flour. Now you are ready to combine the two mixtures by pouring the liquid slowly into the flour, bit by bit, mixing as you go with a wooden spoon, until the dough is too stiff to be mixed.

Sprinkle some flour onto the clean kitchen bench and turn the dough out of the bowl, along with all the bits of flour that were not incorporated into the dough. Begin to knead the dough and continue for 5 to 10 minutes. It should be really soft and maybe slightly tacky, but not sticky. If dough is sticking to your hands you can powder them lightly with flour, but don't add flour to the dough or it will become too dry.

The rising of the dough will depend on the type of yeast that you have used. If you have used fresh or dry granules then you need to rise it twice, but instant yeast works much faster. So for the fresh or granule yeast, place your dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm, then leave it for an hour or so until it is doubled in size. Then you gently press the air out of the dough, take it out and shape it into a loaf and place it in the loaf tin (if you are using a tin that is, you could make it free form on a tray or make it into rolls). Leave it to rise again for about half an hour, during which time you should get the oven heated.

If you have used instant yeast you can skip the first rise. Just shape it and put it directly into the loaf tin, turn the oven on to heat and leave the dough to rise for 30 minutes or so. The oven should be hot, about 200 degrees celsius. When the oven is hot and the bread risen you can pop the loaf into the oven and leave it to bake for about 40 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf (for which you will need to tip the loaf out of the tin). I find it really impossible to hear if it sounds hollow, but my bread always turns out OK so if you bake it for 40 minutes you should be right.


For the bread above, all I did was throw some sundried tomato and parmesan in the food processor and chop it up fine. I rolled the dough out, spread the tomatoes on (you should spread it really thin) and then rolled the dough up into a loaf shape. If you spread too much and don't roll tight enough you will get holey bread like mine. It still tasted good though.

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