The baking and breaking of bread has been a part of domestic life more or less since the dawn of time. Bread has been baked certainly since the time of the pharaohs and probably well before that too.
Unfortunately modern life in the developed world puts a lot of pressure on us and we feel that it just isn’t worth the time and effort. Well I have to disagree and I am about to tell you how you can make fresh bread at home while you’re watching TV in the evening or at the weekend.
If there is one essential tool to have then it is a food processor with a dough hook attachment. It is possible to make bread without it but the machine does all the hard work for you.
Next you’ll need baking four. Flour suitable for baking bread is high in gluten, a vegetable protein that the yeast feeds on.
The next important ingredient is yeast. You can use dried yeast but fresh will make a better tasting final product.
Well here’s the basic recipe that I use.
900 grams/36 oz of strong/bakers white flour
60 grams/2 oz of vegetable fat
15 grams/ oz/3 teaspoons of salt
550ml/18 fl oz of warm water
5 grams/ oz/1 teaspoon of sugar
50 grams/2 oz of fresh yeast or 2 sachets of dried yeast
Measure out the water in a jug, add the yeast and sugar and mix together. As the yeast starts to work on the sugar it will start to froth, this will take between five and fifteen minutes. Meanwhile put the flour, fat and salt in the bowl of the food processor and mix together for five minutes.
When the yeast has completely dissolved add half of the water to the flour mix and work in until the flour looks crumbly. Add the remains of the yeast and water and knead for at least twenty minutes. This may sound like a long time but it is essential for the gluten to be worked properly with the yeast, fat and salt. This is why it is better to use a food processor. If you’re doing this by hand then knead the mixture for five minutes, leave it for five minutes, covered, knead for five minutes and repeat a couple of times. Getting the texture right is a matter of trial and error but be cautious when adding either flour or water.
Once the dough has been kneaded it needs to be left, covered, in a warm, place out of direct sunlight. Leave it to double in size, anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour. Place the dough on a working surface and knead it again for five minutes. After this then place it on a baking tray and cover it again and leave to rise until it has doubled in size, again this can take anything up to an hour.
Set the oven to gas mark 8 450F or 230C.
This is the important part.
Place a heatproof tray in the bottom of the oven and boil some water.
Place the dough in the oven and pour the scalding hot water, just a cup full, into the baking tray in the base of the oven and quickly close the oven door. The steam will make a lovely crust.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the crust is about to burn then remove from the oven and set the loaf on a cooling rack. It will smell wonderful and you will want to go on a feeding frenzy but give it a chance to cool completely.
This may sound like an arduous process but once you get into the routine you’ll love every minute of it.
Oh and a final tip, any bread you don’t manage to eat, slice and put in a bag in the freezer.