Bread is a fairly recent obsession of ours, we were a bit scared to try it, it seemed overly complicated – what type of yeast? How many times does it have to rise!?
Then, encouraged by Mr Hollywood’s baby blues, we gave it a bash and guess what? It’s. So. Easy! We very rarely buy bread now, we can knock a loaf up in an evening and it is just so much nicer than shop bought.
As part of a gift we got “Paul Hollywood’s Bread” so are going to be baking our way through that and will share any successes, failures and lessons learnt with you. I can’t wait for this as we tend to stick to either white loaves, wholemeal loaves or occasionally something slightly fancier like rye or spelt but we’re excited to branch out into breads from different countries and cultures.
Starting simple this is our (hopefully foolproof) method for making a basic white or wholemeal loaf:
Measure out 500g of flour. You want to use either strong white bread flour, or a mixture of strong white and a wholemeal/seeded bread flour. We tend to use Allinsons but that’s a personal preference. If you bake a whole loaf with wholemeal it can be a bit heavy which is fine for some things but for a good standard loaf that makes amazing toast you’ll want it to be a bit lighter and fluffier. A good mix we’ve found is 200g of wholemeal to 300g of white, or half and half.
To one side of your flour add 1 tsp of Easy Bake Yeast and to the other side of the bowl add 1 tsp of table salt. The reason for doing this is the salt will kill the yeast if it’s too concentrated so you’ll end up with a pancake, not a loaf.
Mix the salt and the yeast into the flour, and then rub in 1 tbsp of fat. This can be either butter or oil, we like to use butter for a wholemeal loaf and oil for a white loaf but again, try different combinations out and see what works for you!
Once you have a breadcrumb like texture and all of the fat is rubbed in make a well in the centre of the flour ready to add in the water. There is a lot of debate over warm water vs cold water – cold water works absolutely fine for us, if you are in a very cold environment (like our old flat….brrr!) then you might want to add the water warm just to encourage the yeast to start working their magic.
Measure out 300ml of water, and add most of this to your flour. Bring the mixture together either with a spoon, or if you’re anything like us and love to get mucky, with your hand. You’re looking for a smooth dough which comes together nicely and is as non-sticky as possible, 300ml usually is perfect for us but you might have to use a bit more/less.
Now comes the really good bit – the kneading. If you’ve used oil in your dough then lightly oil some of your kitchen surface, or if you’ve used butter then lightly flour it and bash that dough around! I believe it’s scientifically proven that the calories burnt during this upper body workout completely negate any from consuming the bread.
It needs kneading for about 10 minutes, technique isn’t too important, just bash it around and stretch it out to really get that gluten working. Once it is beautifully soft and elastic and springs back most of the way if you prod it with a finger it’s ready to rise.
Place it in a clean bowl which has been lightly oiled or floured and then cover with cling film and leave it until it’s doubled in size which should take about an hour.
Once this has happened we knock it back, so just a light punch or two to get rid of the big air bubbles and then back in the bowl to recover from it’s abuse for twenty minutes or so.
Now you get to shape it, you can either bake it in something (like a loaf tin for a traditional shape), or just shape into a round or whatever other shape you would like with your hands.
For a loaf tin grease and line a loaf tin and then flatten the dough out to a rectangle where the short side is the length of the loaf tin, fold in the sides like a book, flatten again and then roll up tightly and pop it in the tin.
For a round just shape it into a ball with your hands, tucking the sides under as you go to get a nice, tight shape. Then place this on a greased and lined baking sheet to rise.
For what we are using the bread for 2 flat-ish loaves were best so we cut the dough in half and then rolled it with both hands.
This then needs to rise again for another hour. I know this recipe sounds really time consuming, and to an extent it is, but it’s a lovely thing to have going on in the background and it is so worth it!
Once it’s nearly had it’s hour to rise whack the oven on to 220°C and, if you like a good crust on the bread, put an empty tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up. We slashed our bread and put a milk glaze on – olive oil also works nicely but you don’t have to put one on at all. Once the oven is hot and the bread is ready throw a glass of water in the hot tray in the bottom so it creates lots of steam and then put your bread in.
Leave it alone to bake for 30 minutes, don’t open the oven door for the first 20 minutes but you can have a peek quickly after this if the smell is just overwhelmingly sexy (it will be).
Take it out of the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes and then turn it out of the tin/slide off of the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack (please feel free to tap the bottom of it like they do on tv and grin like an idiot when it sounds hollow).
p.s. we are making this bread into bruschetta to have with baked camembert… hopefully we won’t dive in too quickly and forget to take photos!