A few years ago I had an urge to make bread. I’m not sure why! My mum often makes bread so I vaguely knew about it but I’d never attempted it. I had recently read ‘The Storyteller’ by Jodi Picoult, which describes bread making beautifully, so maybe that prompted me.
Anyway, I asked my mum to teach me her recipe. I’ve made it lots of times now and I like it because there isn’t much that can go wrong (so there’s not much possibility of failure, hmmmm….), it is always edible (unlike other breads I’ve attempted!) and each time I make it, it turns out a little bit better than the previous time, so it’s easy to see my progress!
This is the recipe:
- 3lb flour (2lb white bread flour, 1lb whole wheat flour)
- 2 level tbsp white sugar
- 1 level tbsp salt
- 1oz fast action dried yeast
- 1 oz vegetable oil
- 3 cups warm water (2 cups cold, 1 cup boiling)
And this is how I make it…
1. I weigh out the flours and mix them together in a bowl. I add the yeast to one side of the bowl. On the other side of the bowl I add the salt. Then I put the sugar to one side of the bowl and the oil in the middle. It’s important that the yeast and salt are separated because the salt can kill the yeast if they come into contact with each other before they are mixed with the other ingredients.
2. I fit my mixer with the dough hook and set it off on ‘stir’/the lowest setting. Then I slowly pour the warm water in as it is mixing. I often use more than 3 cups of water (about 4 cups in total) and the more times I’ve made it, the better I get at telling how much water it needs. It is easy to tell if the dough is too dry as it looks dry and there is still loose flour. I find it more difficult to tell if it has too much water, and by the time I have realized, it is too sticky. But I have learnt that if you keep kneading it even when it is too sticky, eventually it comes together as it should. And wetter dough rises better than dry dough.
3. I set a timer for five minutes and let the mixer knead. If you don’t have a mixer, just pour some of the water into the bowl and mix it with a spoon or your hands, adding more water gradually. Then turn it out onto an oiled surface and knead it for about ten minutes – you can do more, but don’t do less (often after the mixer has finished, I knead it for a bit more on the counter top, just because I like the feel of it!) As the dough comes together and is kneaded, it takes on a soft elastic feel, and this helps you to know that it has been kneaded enough.
4. Next I oil a big bowl and then put the dough in it. I put the bowl inside a huge plastic bag and clip it with a food clip, with lots of air inside the bag. I leave it to rise for an hour, or more.
I have experimented with leaving the dough to rise in different areas but I think as long as it isn’t in a draft, it is okay. I live in a Georgia, USA so it’s warm, but my mum lives in the UK and she leaves hers at room temperature, sometimes covering the bag with a towel, and it rises fine.
5. After it has risen, it often fills the bowl. I turn the bowl out onto a flour-covered counter top. Then I knead it for about five minutes again.
6. I weigh the dough and then divide it in half. I knead the two halves separately and then shape them into oblong shapes that fit the tins. I put the two halves into two oiled loaf tins and put them back into the bag, with lots of air, and clip it with the food clip, so it can rise for a second time.
I wait ten minutes and then turn the oven on to 400°F, because my oven takes twenty minutes to reach that temperature. So after the loaves have risen for thirty minutes in total, I take them out of the bag. They have normally risen up and over the loaf pan.
7. If I remember I sprinkle the top of the loaves with flour. I’m not sure why this is needed, but it makes the loaves look nice. I put them in the oven for twenty minutes at 400°F, and then turn the oven down to 350°F for another fifteen minutes.
8. After this time, the loaves have always been cooked, but to be sure, I turn them out of the loaf tin and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is cooked. Then I put them on the cooling rack. After about half an hour I cover them with a tea towel while they cool. Then I either freeze them or keep them out to eat.
I hope this was a helpful description and that it inspires you to have a go! Happy Baking!