Take some flour, add a little salt, yeast, oil and water. Mix thoroughly and knead for about 10 minutes, let it rise, punch it down, let it rise again, put it in the oven, drench yourself in the lovely aromas wafting around in the kitchen while it bakes and then take out a warm, beautifully golden brown loaf of deliciousness, cut a slice, slather with butter and take a bite and lose yourself in that first taste of heaven.
A staple of the human diet. People have been eating bread since 4000 BC where archeological evidence confirms yeast was used in Egypt. Bread has come a long way since then, unfortunately, due to commercial mass production, not in a good way. Have you ever really looked at the list of ingredients on a store-bought loaf of bread? Here’s a list of some of the additives you may find in that loaf of Wonder or Warburton’s.
Mono & Di-glycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (SSL), and Diacetyl Esters of Tartaric Acid (DATEM), Ascorbic acid, Azodicarbonamide, Calcium propionate, Ammonium sulfate and Monocalcium phosphate.
My goodness! Why are you eating foods containing things you can’t pronounce, let alone spell? Some of these additives prevent the bread going stale too quickly, act as an emulsifier, strengthen or condition the dough, inhibit the growth of molds and microorganisms or keep the yeast happy. (after all, who wants sad yeast?)
Granted, yes, these things are necessary for the bread to be baked, packaged, delivered and purchased by you, the consumer and taken home to be eaten without going stale or moldy the day after you get it home. Artisan bread may be simple, tasty, and local, but it is not a practical choice for most people. We no longer shop every day as a culture, and the bread we buy has adapted to our changing shopping and eating preferences. If not wasting food is the key, then perhaps some additives make sense.
However, in this day and age and the state of the economy throughout the world, wouldn’t it be nice to get back to basics? Why not bake your own bread? You’ll know what’s in it and it costs less than buying a loaf from the store. Now I can hear some of you saying ‘Oh, who has time for that?’ but in reality, you are only using about 30 minutes of your actual time; the rest is rising/proving and baking. So while the dough is rising, you could be doing other things as you’ll need about 45-60 min. per rising time (2) plus about 30 minutes for baking.
I know for most of you, this would be a bit difficult to make during the week, but if you’re not doing anything on a Sunday, especially during this time of year, what better way to spend a Sunday than baking bread?
Here’s a basic loaf that I make all the time, in fact, I’ll be making one as soon as I’m done ironing so that I can include pictures. You can use all white flour or a mixture of white and whole wheat. I tend to use a higher ratio of whole wheat to white, because whole wheat is healthier but I want the strong white bread flour for its high gluten content.
Off to finish the ironing….
455g/1lb strong white bread flour or a mixture with whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast (I use yeast that doesn’t have to be ‘awakened’ in warm water)
9 fl oz/250ml tepid water (between 100-105f / 38-40c)
1 Tbsp oil (I use EV olive oil)
Measure the flour into a bowl (or onto your work surface if you feel daring). Add the salt and yeast and stir to distribute. Make a well in the center.
Add the oil into the well and start adding the water slowly and mix after each addition.
Continue to add and mix until all the water is added.
Gather all the dough together and get it into a ball and start kneading.
Knead for about 10 minutes, then put into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes. I have a plate warmer on my stove so I sit it on a cookie rack over the top and it works perfectly. In the Summer I just sit it out in the conservatory as it gets pretty warm in there.
While the dough is in its first rising, get your loaf pan and grease really well. I have lard in the fridge just for this purpose. Even though it’s a non-stick pan, I still grease it up.
Once it has risen, punch it down, remove from the bowl and roll it up and put into the loaf pan and return it to the warm spot.
Once risen, carefully slash the bread (optional), brush with egg wash (I have a can of egg glaze spray – very handy) and sprinkle some poppy or sesame seeds on top or even some oats!
Bake at 190c/375f for 24-26 minutes. Remove from pan when done and cool on a rack.