Tag Archives: white bread

A white loaf (again)

I think I may be becoming a little obsessed with bread and yeast cookery generally. I am really enjoying the challenge of getting a better loaf each time. It doesn’t always happen, I have to admit.  It is only relatively recently that I have had success with bread as you will see from one of my early posts on this site about white bread.  I now make bread at least two or three times a week and I have made lots of other yeast based cakey type things recently.  It may not be good for the waistline but it is very good for the soul.

The bread in this picture is a slight variation on my earlier white loaf post.  In this one I use half milk/ half water and a bit of butter to make a lovely soft crumb that is really tasty.  I love my spelt loaf but sometimes all you want is a soft loaf of white bread (with a good crust, of course) and this is for these moments.

I was reading A Wee Bit of Cooking‘s blog the other day, in which she cooks a loaf based on Dan Lepard’s recipe and he has a very interesting way of making bread; he mixes the dough, lets it rest, kneads very briefly, rests and repeats.  Visit A Wee Bit of Cooking for the link, it’s worth a look.  Anyway, I was inspired to try at least some of this method, so I now mix my dough and then leave it to rest for at least ten minutes before I go back to knead it (or at least switch on the mixer and let it do the hard work!). I can’t quite get my head around not needing to knead.  This resting seems to work well and does improve the crumb.

500g strong (or very strong) plain flour
7g sachet easy bake yeast
1½ tsp fine salt
150ml milk
150ml water
1 oz butter, diced

Method

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Heat the milk and water to hand hot in a small saucepan and add the diced butter.  Pour the liquid into the flour and, using your hands, combine well to a smooth dough (on the slightly sticky side rather than the dry side).  Leave to rest for about ten minutes in the bowl.  Turn the dough out on to a wooden surface and knead well for about ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Clean the bowl and grease with butter or oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a bin liner or cling film.  Leave the bowl in a draught-free place until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Deflate the dough by using your fingertips and lift out of the bowl.  Now you could reshape it into a ball and leave it to rise again, which if you have the time is well worth doing as it does improve the texture of the bread . Otherwise, shape the dough into a round by stretching it under itself or shape into a baton by  flattening the dough into a square, then roll the dough much like you would a swiss roll and then using your fingers seal the join very well. Stretch the dough lengthwise until twice as long.  Fold over one-third to the middle and then fold the remaining third on to the top. Flatten again into a square with your fingers and roll up again as before, sealing well and then rolling gently into an evenly shaped baton loaf (thanks again to Daniel Steven’s Bread book for his tips on making bread).

Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go and place a baking tray or stone in to heat up.

Place the shaped loaf onto a well-floured tray and sprinkle the top well with flour.  Cover again with the bin liner and leave to prove for about 20 minutes or until nicely risen, not quite doubled in size.  Don’t allow it to rise too much as you want the yeast to have some energy left.

Slash the tops and gently pick up the loaf and place directly onto the tray or stone in the oven.  Check after twenty minutes as you may need to turn the heat down for the last ten minutes of cooking.  It should take about 30 minutes for the loaf to cook, depending on how well cooked you like your crust. The loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the base when it’s cooked.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

A lovely loaf of white bread – at last

cooked loaf

I have been making bread for years but it is only recently that the finished bread has been enjoyable.  Most of my bread making has resulted in a lumpen dough that my husband has very kindly eaten. I think bread making takes practice.  I have, I think, improved because my kneading technique has improved with practice and I now know that you shouldn’t let the salt and the yeast come into contact with one another before you start to mix the dough. Apparently the salt begins to de-activate the yeast. Also I now add more water than I used to, a sticky dough works better than a slightly too dry dough. I made a loaf of bread yesterday to go with the ham and pea soup I made and it worked out quite well. I am very proud of that achievement after years of lumpen dough.

The recipe I use comes from my well used copy of The River Cottage Family Cookbook (2005, Hodder & Stoughton).  I can’t recommend this book enough, everything works and is really well explained.  It is aimed at younger members of the family but it is a book I turn to again and again. I am a fan of most things coming out of River Cottage.
The picture above shows a loaf that I made out of half this quantity of dough, as I split it and made two loaves.

500g strong white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp or a 7g sachet of fast-action bred yeast
2 tsps sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
300 ml warm water
Method
Measure the flour and place in a large bowl.  I like to warm this in a low oven (100°c, or lowest setting) for a few minutes whilst I get the rest of the ingredients ready.  I have a granite worktop which cools everything down too much otherwise.  Keep the salt and yeast away from one another until you are ready to mix.  When everything is prepared add the yeast, sugar and salt to the flour and mix to combine.  Add the olive oil and the water and work with your hands to a soft and, importantly, slightly sticky dough.  Take this out of the bowl and knead well for as long as you can bear, at least seven minutes if possible, it’s better if it’s ten minutes.  Do it until you feel your arms want to drop off.  To knead you hold the dough with one hand and then stretch some of the dough away from you with the heel of the other hand and then bring it back into a ball and repeat. It needs to be smooth and when you poke your index finger in and take it out the dough should bounce back.  Place it back into the bowl and cover with a clean damp tea towel or oiled cling film and place in a warm part of the kitchen for 1- 1½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.  Grease a loaf tin or a baking tray with a little olive oil.Give the dough a punch to knock the air out and knead for 30 seconds and shape into a ball if you are making a loaf on a baking tray or roll into a sausage shape and fold in half and place into the loaf tin.  Leave to prove for another 30 minutes, covered with a cloth or the oiled cling film, but don’t let it double in size again as it needs to continue to grow when it’s in the oven.  Bake in a preheated oven at 220° c (425°f, gas mark 7) for about 25-30 mins.  To check it’s cooked turn it out of its tin and give it a knock. If it sounds hollow it’s cooked.  If I cook it in a loaf tin, I like to put it back in the oven out of its tin for a further five minutes for the crust to get crisp. Leave to cool on a wire rack.