Thursday 14th April, The Bread of Life!
Well as promised I said I would provide the recipes pictured on this post. But before I do I want to give you a very quick background into how I arrived at this particular bread recipe. While on my cooking course last year we had a visiting guest chef who specialised in Artisan Breading Making, Rossa Crowe. We learned about different types of flour, yeast, the importance of each ingredient and the role each plays within the bread. The bread we produced over those two days was spectacular, Rossa’s passion for bread making certainly came through.
Before and since I did the course I have been trying out different bread recipes, the following being by far the easiest. This one comes from the Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking book. I really like Rachel’s approach to her recipes, they are concise, easy to follow and very much family focused. Yes, back to that ‘get the food on the table fast and make sure it’s tasty!!’ Anyway, this recipe is easy and I’ve been making it so long now I could do it in my sleep. And although I don’t use Rossa Crowe’s bread making technique I certainly came away with the knowledge that using inferior ingredients will result in inferior bread. So do source a good flour as it does make all the difference. I mentioned Allinson Flour previously, another good one is Dove’s Farm, they do a lovely organic bread flour, this can be bought in most health shops.
2 tsp caster sugar
425ml/15fl oz warm water
2.5 tsp dried yeast or 20g fresh yeast or 1.5 sachets fast-acting yeast
750g/1lb 10oz strong white flour
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing (or 40g/1.5oz butter as an alternative)
Optional – 1 egg, beaten and poppy or sesame seeds for top of bread rolls.
In a measuring jug, mix the sugar with 150ml/5fl oz of the warm water and the yeast. Allow to stand in a warm place for 5 minutes until frothy. If using fast-acting yeast, there is no need to let the mixture stand.
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. I use the olive oil instead of the butter as I think it is a healthier option, so this is the method I follow. Add the olive oil to the remaining warm water. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture and most of the remaining water with olive oil. Mix to a loose dough, adding the remaining water if needed. A good rule of thumb I use is, that the dough should remain slightly sticky in the centre, so don’t have it too dry.
Now for the fun part. While you are doing this, think of how you will be toning your upper arms for the following ten minutes :O) On a lightly dusted surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch. Put the dough into a large oiled bowl. Cover tightly with cling film and place somewhere warm, I usually use my airing cupboard (or hotpress as it’s known round this way!) for anything from an hour to 3 hours. However, ensure that the dough doubles in size. If it’s exploding out of the bowl, you’ll know it’s ready for the next stage.
So when the dough has more than doubled in size, knock back , punching the dough and knead for about 2 to 3 minutes. Leave to relax for 10 minutes before shaping into loaves or bread rolls.
Then divide the dough into two, (I cover one piece while I work on the other. It prevents a crust forming). Again on a lightly dusted surface, roll the dough into a long sausage shape and divide into about 6 to 7 pieces. You can weigh each piece if you want all your bread rolls about the same size, roughly about 100g each. Mould into a ball and flatten slightly, place on a floured baking sheet. I always score the top of each roll with a sharp knife at this point, as it helps with the rising process once the rolls go into the oven. Repeat this with the second half of the dough.
Once shaped, cover with a clean tea-towel and allow to rise in a warm place for a further 20 to 30 minutes until the shaped dough has once again doubled in size. I always pre heat my oven a this point to 220 c/425 f/gas mark 7
Carefully (as the bread is full of air at this stage and very fragile) brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if using or dust lightly with flour.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes of until golden brown. When cooked they will feel light and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
This may seem like a lot of work but believe me it’s worth it. I make this dough in the morning, it really only takes about 15 minutes and then I stick it in the airing cupboard and forget about it for a few hours. Sometimes I forget about it altogether until I smell the fermenting yeast around the house.
Anyway, please give it a try and let me know how you get on. Rx