The list ingredients on a shop-bought loaf of bread can be as long as your arm, with several lengthy and unpronounceable components. Basic bread should be the very definition of Simplicity, this week’s Sunday Post theme.
This recipe is great because you only need to know the percentages and can alter the amounts depending on how much you want to make.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE BASIC BREAD
- 1kg strong flour (bread or pasta flour with as much protein content as possible)
- 10g (1% w/w) powdered dry yeast (or I just use one 7g sachet per batch)
- 20g (2% w/w) fine salt
- 600mL (60% w/w) warm liquid (I use water but you could use milk, cider, beer or a combination of any other liquids to taste)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- 1 piece of old dough / starter dough (optional)
METHOD TO MAKE BASIC BREAD
- Combine the dry ingredients
- Add the liquid and oil if you are using it, and mix into a rough dough.
- Add the old dough and knead well for about 10 minutes.
- Shape the dough into a round and lightly cover it with a very thin layer of oil so the dough doesn’t dry out while rising, nor stick to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag, allowing space above for the dough to rise into.
- Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Have a cup of tea and read a blog or two,
- Knock back the dough to its previous size, you can do a second rise if you want to but I don’t find it necessary.
- Shape the bread into rolls or loaves, I use a loaf tin to make life easier. This time cover the dough in a layer of flour (regular flour is fine rather than strong flour) and leave undisturbed to rise until the size has doubled again. Note that if you are making rolls the dough should be split into identical sized lumps for even baking.
- Preheat your oven to 220ºC and boil the kettle.
- Although I didn’t in the picture above, the loaves can be slashed with a knife to allow even more rising in the oven, do this right before baking.
- Spray water over the dough.
- Put the bread in the middle of the oven. I like to put a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven so that my bread can’t dry out while baking. Leave it at 220ºC without opening the door for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes check how well the bread is browning up, reduce the temperature to 200ºC if the crust is still pale, 180ºC if the crust is browning or 170ºC if the crust is already too brown.
- Bake it well, 10 minutes too long won’t matter but if you don’t bake for long enough you’ve wasted a loaf. Total baking time will vary with your oven and the size of loaf. I generally bake for a total of 40 minutes for a regular sized loaf, 20-25 minutes for rolls. You can check if it is done using the tap test, tap the base and the loaf sounds hollow.
- Leave to cool on a cooling rack. I like to then slice and freeze the bread so it is always fresh.