Thursday, 7 July 2011

Homemade White Bread

Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt , Soya Flour, Vegetable Fat, Fermented Wheat Flour, Emulsifiers: E472e, E471, Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid.

That's the ingredients label from a well known bread manufacturer. I say manufacturer rather than bakery because that's what we generally eat: "manufactured" bread. Whereas homemade bread requires about two and a half hours or more from start to finish, bread manufacturers have managed to reduce that time to just 20 minutes by including scientific processes and treatments.

Ingredients for bread should read something like this:

Strong white flour, water, yeast, a little oil, salt

That's about a third as long as the list at the top of this post.

Making your own bread actually requires very little of your time. True enough the bread itself needs time but you can leave it alone for long periods of time and the mixing and kneading required by you will only take about twenty minutes.

Here's the magic recipe:

500g Strong flour,
1 sachet dried yeast,
a pint jug of warm water (warmer than lukewarm but not "hot")
pinch of salt
teaspoon of oil (your choice here... I use olive oil)
(you can put a pinch of sugar in as well. Think I heard somewhere that the yeast likes it!)

Put your dry ingredients into a bowl and give it a little mix up.

Add the oil to the dry mix.

Using a fork to mix, slowly add the water into the dry ingredients. Do this in stages as you will probably not need all of the water (it's handy to have more warm water to hand in case things go wrong. Once the dough becomes too thick for the fork, it's time to get stuck in with your hands (take any rings off first mind you!).

The mixture should start coming together as a dough. Once it's smooth but not sticky it's ready to knead. If it is sticky, add a little flour. If it's too dry, add a little water.

Knead for about ten minutes by pulling it, folding it back on itself and stretching it again. Some people knead on a floured work surface but if your bowl is big enough so you can really give the dough a workout, you can use that to save on mess.

Shape the dough into a ball with your hands and rub a little oil over it to stop it drying out.

Put it at the bottom of a floured bowl that's big enough to hold twice the amount of dough that you currently have.

Cover with cling film and leave for about an hour in a warm place.

When you return to the dough, it will have doubled in size. Remove the cling film and punch it right in the middle. 

The dough will deflate and return to a smaller size. Knead again for one or two minutes and then put the dough into a loaf tin. Stretch and mould the dough to fit the tin. Cover it, put the oven on at about 200C to heat up, and leave it again for another 45 mins to an hour. Sometimes I just pull the bread into a vague loaf shape and put it on a lightly greased baking tray. You get some funny looking shapes but I think that just makes it look more "homemade".

Once the dough has rested (proved) for 45 minutes, put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. You'll know it's done if the crust appears golden, the bread has risen and when you turn it upside down it sounds hollow when you tap it.

If your bread is done, put it on a wire rack to cool (or something where the air can get to all parts of it, I normally just prop it on top of the loaf tin as I don't have a wire rack).

Ta Dah!!! Homemade bread!!

I know that the above sounds like a pain in the arse but it's really not and you can just let it do it's thing for most of the time.

The picture at the top of this post is my first attempt at making bread at home. I've done it better since but I wanted to show just how easy it really is and believe me... it tastes loads better than bought bread.

Works out much more economical as well as the ingredients work out at £0.24p (on Ocado) for each loaf.


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