Sunday, 20 October 2013

Our Daily Bread

It's said that man cannot live on bread alone; however, we are a house of women.

I've always eaten a lot of bread, and loved making it, but I hadn't done much over the last two years because gluten free bread is just so difficult. Now though, I'm back on full-baking-form, and between us Jamie and I are making a loaf of bread every few days. 

It's the easiest thing, and so cheap to make. Seriously - a 1.5kg bag of bread flour costs 80p, the 7g of yeast costs about 4p, and 1½ tsp of salt would be about 0.3p. Which brings the cost of a basic home-made loaf of bread to about 40.3p!

The thing that puts a lot of people off making bread is the time needed to make it, but that's one of the reasons I love it. Spend 15 minutes on the initial mixing and kneading, then go to campus for a few hours of lectures. By the time you get back you'll have a beautifully risen dough with minimal amounts of effort! 
So give it a go.

Basic White Loaf - Ingredients:
- 675g strong white bread flour
- 7g yeast
- 1½tsp salt
- 450ml warm water

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then make a well in the centre and pour in the water.
2. Using your hands, mix everything together until you get a dough. If it's too dry you can add a little more water, but if it's on the wet side try your best to work with it rather than adding flour as a wet dough often leads to a better loaf.
3. Sprinkle your worktop with flour, then turn out your dough and knead for 10-15 minutes, until it's silky smooth and elastickey. If you're not sure about your kneading technique I recommend youtube - there are thousands of videos with instructions and demonstrations.
4. Put your dough back in the original bowl and cover with cling film, then leave it alone. It needs at least an hour and a half to prove, but it can really be left for as long as you need it to be.

Before and after proving
5. Tip out the risen dough and knead for a couple more minutes, then shape and place on a greased baking tray. Cover with cling film and leave for another hour or so.
6. Heat your oven to 230°C. Take off the cling film and, using a sharp knife, cut a few slashes diagonally along the top of the dough (you can also dust it with a little bit of flour at this point to achieve a more rustic look), then stick it in the oven.
7. After 15 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 200°C, then bake for a further 20-25 minutes (the initial blast of heat will give you a better crust).
8. Remove your beautiful creation from the oven and transfer to a wire rack if you have one, or just a likely chopping board if you don't. You should leave it for at least 15 minutes before attacking it with mounds of butter, though in our house we can never wait that long.

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