Like many, the thought of bread baking was beyond my capability…or so I thought. And, looking back I don’t know why? I had mastered some pretty good skills on fairy cakes and cheese scones from the age of 7 or 8, so why did I think I couldn’t master bread? It wasn’t until years, probably 25 years later that I even tried it. And I only tried it because I bought a bread making machine from the car boot for a fiver! For a while the machine worked for me. So I moved up a gear and bought bread packet mixes and ditched the £5 bread machine. These worked pretty well too. I didn’t move on to actual bread making until my late thirties and again, this was because I bought myself a Kitchen Aid (electric blue) and the Kitchen Aid gave me the confidence to make bread from scratch. Totally and utterly weird thought-pattern, but I’m sure I’m not alone.
Yes, there’s a knack to it, but I think it’s all in the proofing. You know if you’re going to get a good bake before it goes in the oven…and sometimes my bread still fails. I’m sure there’s some science to it, but I can’t figure out what it is. However, if my bread hasn’t doubled in size when proofing, I throw it away and start again. I don’t get disheartened.
What I Use:
500g strong bread flour, one packet (7g) of fast-acting yeast, 10g of salt, 15ml of olive oil and 320ml of water (from the warm tap).
What I do:
I place the flour in my basin, the yeast one side and the salt, the other side. Never let the two meet (apparently this is key). I pour in the olive oil and half of the water, with my dough attachment I mix the dough for about five minutes, slowly adding the water. The dough needs to be almost-sticky-like-texture. I know when the dough is ready because it envelops itself around the dough hook. Once this happens, I place the dough in a well oiled bowl, put over a fresh teacloth and leave to proof until it doubles in size. Sometimes, this takes 90 minutes, sometimes it takes two and even three hours. Once it doubles in size, I flour my surface and and knead the air out of the dough – this takes about five minutes. I then place on a baking tray, with parchment paper and put in a large bag (the Lidl ones work perfectly). I then let it rest again for 30 minutes, meanwhile I heat up the oven to 220 and boil the kettle. After 30 minutes, I add one litre of water to a roasting tray and put this on the bottom shelf of the oven (this gives a crisp edge to the bread) I take my bread from the plastic bag, spray (or sprinkle) with water and add three or four slashes with a sharp knife. I then put the bread in the oven for 25 minutes, I turn the heat down to 200 and bake for a further 10 minutes on the lower heat. Once baked, I leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, before moving to a wire rack.
If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again…(or so my Mother would say!).