The completed bread
Here is the finished bread, with a slathering of butter and my homemade Damson Jam from Aug. 08.
I used -
a good teaspoon of dried yeast sprinkled in a third of a pint of tepid water with a sprinkle of sugar to give it something to eat. I stirred it vigorously too, to aerate the water so the yeast had some oxygen to use. Never forget that yeast is a living organism!
1lb of flour mixed 3 parts white to 1 part wholemeal (you could up it to about 50/50 though) with a good teaspoon of salt in it.
I put the flour mixture into a mixing bowl and poured in my yeasty water once it had started to foam and look lively.
I then stirred the two together to make a dough. It was a bit wet, so I added a sprinkle more flour. I then turned it out onto a floured worktop and kneaded it. The harder you knead, the better the bread because as you stretch it and pull it you’re helping the gluten to form into strong strands so that it can hold the bread up in a shape and support the pockets of air that makes a nice light loaf. Bread thrives on a bit of abuse so make bread when you’re in a bad mood and it will be delicious!
If your bread is still sticking to your hands, sprinkle more flour on, kneading as you go, until its smooth and a bit springy, but no longer sticky. Then pop it back in the bowl and cover it in cling film and leave it in a warm place like an airing cupboard, sometimes I even put it on top of a lukewarm hot water bottle in winter.
Your dough will rise and double in size hopefully, and this is when you can knock it back. This is simply re-kneading it, which adds more flavour. It will get smaller again as you knead but thats fine. Once you’ve kneaded for five minutes or your arms are feeling sore you can tidy the dough for baking by running your hands round and under the dough, pulling it in and under to tuck it all in neatly so that it won’t have cracks across the top. The quantities used should fit in a standard loaf tin or I used the lid of a pyrex casserole dish, with the base on top for the dough to rise into. Grease the tin or casserole dish and then plop it in, scoring the top with a sharp knife so that it looks pretty.
I put mine into a cold oven and then as the oven heats up, the bread rises, so that by the time the oven is at full temperature its risen properly, ready to bake. I put the oven to 200 C as its a fan oven, so thats Gas Mark 5 or 220 C for a “normal” oven. It took about 45 minutes, but keep an eye as it depends on your kneading, your oven, the vessel it’s in….
When it looks nice and bread-y take it out and if in doubt, turn it out and tap the bottom with your knuckle, if it sounds satisfyingly hollow it’s all done!
I try to resist the urge to eat it hot as once the crust’s been cut into it dries out inside and so becomes stale far more quickly. However, if you can’t wait for it to cool, guzzle the crust with some butter and jam, or just butter, or hell, just on its own! I couldn’t keep my flatmate off it so between her and the man, there’s only half a loaf left.
Good luck, happy baking!