The idea of making bread at home for most people is a daunting thought. About as difficult an idea as perfecting fresh home-made pasta, but not as unfathomable as baking your own croissant.
It seems things have become slightly complicated in the world of bread baking, with a huge emphasis on baking to perfection. You can almost see the panel of judges smirking, ready to criticise your humble crusty loaf as you remove it from the oven, and then send you packing from your own kitchen. Obviously the bread you make at home is not going to be the same as your £3.50 loaf from the local artisan bakery, but for everyday consumption is absolutely ideal.
People have been baking their own bread throughout history, long before supermarkets starting producing artificial perfectly packaged versions for mass consumption (not to mention using raising agents such a L-Cysteine, a non-essential amino acid produced from boiling down human hair and duck feathers. It is a fact which most bread consumers are unaware of. To learn more just google L-Cysteine or read more about what’s in the bread you eat here).
The thing about everyday bread is that it won’t always be perfect. The shape may be a little uneven, or you may think because you didn’t follow instructions as perfectly its not going to look or taste any good. Its much simpler than you think. Yes you have to be around to keep your eye on it during the raising process, but even if minor errors occur – dough a little wet after kneading, or you’ve forgotten about it and your dough has risen a little too much and started to collapse – 9 times out of 10 if you continue with the bake, your still going to get a tasty and entirely edible loaf of bread.
Here is a tried, tested and trusted recipe from my friend, the lovely Lynne. Over the years she has played with various recipes, adding her own ingredients and testing flavours and textures. Her kids love it, whether it be a fresh sandwich, toasted, or eaten on the weekend dipped in egg and fried for delicious eggy bread. It’s good bread that is easy to make and much better for you than the preservative-laden versions from the supermarkets.
Make it on the weekend during free time, while your working from home, when in and out of the house running errands, in the evening whilst watching tv, when friends are over, whatever – find a time that suits your schedule. Once you’ve completed the initial kneading process, the bread can be left to rise unattended, only needing your attention a couple of times to prepare for baking, and to supervise while in the oven. Here are 10 easy steps on how to make the perfect-imperfect fresh cooked bread at home.
Easy Everyday Bread
500gm White or wholemeal or seeded flour
300ml tepid water
1.5 tsp yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1. Mix ingredients: Add flour, yeast and salt in a bowl and mix together with your hands. Pour in your tepid water and stir until mixture turns into a soft dough. Lightly flour kneading surface, and tip dough out. You will be kneading for approx. 10 minutes so its best to put a timer on (don’t complain, its good for your arms!).
2. Kneading method: the most successful method is to stretch the dough out with the base of your hand, then fold back into a ball. Keep repeating this process until your dough becomes smooth and firm. Add small amounts of flour along the way if needed to prevent sticking to the work surface, but don’t over-do it as it will dry out your dough, and change the texture of your bread.
3. When to stop: Your dough is ready when it has a stretchy elasticity to it. That’s it – easy!
4. Raising: Now it’s time for your dough to rise. Add a small amount of olive oil to a large bowl, using a brush swirl it around and cover all sides.
5. Waiting time: Cover with cling film and leave to rise for approx. 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
6. Second Stage: When doubled in size punch the dough down and leave for 10 minutes to settle.
7. Preparation: Remove dough from bowl and shape nicely to fit inside your bread tin. A half loaf tin is used in this recipe to give the bread a higher rise. You can also use a round tin or regular loaf tin.
8. Final raising stage: Place your dough inside your paper-lined tin and cover with a tea-towl. Make sure to leave a little space at the top so when the dough rises it’s not restricted by fabric. This time leave to rise for 45 minutes. In the last 10 minutes preheat your oven to 240C / 475F / Gas mark 9.
9. Time to bake your bread! Place in oven and cook at 240C / 475F / Gas mark 9, for 20 minutes to form a nice crust, then turn temperature down to 220C / 425F / Gas mark 7, and bake a further 20 minutes.
*For fan forced ovens: 220C , then down to 200C
10. By this stage your bread should be golden brown. Remove from oven and baking tin and place on a rack to cool. To check bread is cooked, tip upside down and tap the base, it should sound hollow. Once cooled it will be ready to slice and eat, simple as that!
The lovely Lynne…
*Notes: Oven temperatures may vary depending on fan forced / gas / electric ovens. Your first loaf will be the test for what to regularly set your temperatures at for future