Although there are much easier ways of making bread, there is a great satisfaction from making it yourself, right from scratch! Of course you can use your breadmaker and get excellent results but, it isn’t half as rewarding, honestly!
To make one medium sized loaf you will need:
12 oz, 350 g, or 3 cups of strong white bread flour.
Alternatively, if you like brown bread,
use half plain and half wheatmeal bread flour.
9 or 10 fl.oz, about half a pt, or just over 1 cup of luke warm water.
The amount will vary slightly according to the type of flour used.
- 1 and a half level tbsps of butter or margarine.
- 1 level tsp of salt.
- 1 and a half level tsps of granulated sugar.
- 1 sachet of easy blend fast acting dried yeast.
- Begin by sifting the flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Rub the butter or margarine into the flour between your thumbs and fingertips until no cool lumps of fat can be felt. This won’t take very long as you only have a small amount of fat.
See glossary, pastry rubbing in method for more information.
- Sprinkle over the sachet of yeast and stir it in.
Pour in the lukewarm water and, using a round bladed knife, combine the engredients until they begin to come together in the bottom of the bowl.
Try to form the dough into a ball with your hands, but if it doesn’t combine easily, and dry bits can still be felt, drop the mixture back into the bowl and add a couple more tablespoons of water, then try bringing it together again.
You are aiming for a smooth dough that is a little softer and more pliable than pastry.
- Now, lightly flour a clean worktop and transfer the dough on to it.
- Flour your hands slightly and make the dough into a ball and gently flatten the top surface. Your bread dough now has to be kneaded so that it becomes smooth and elastic before being put to rise for the first time.
- If you are feeling a bit fed up or cross with someone, get ready to begin to feel better by taking it out on the dough!
- Make both hands into fists, place them on top of the dough and press your knuckles down firmly into it, really squash that dough. Repeat the process by lifting your knuckles up out of the dough and pushing them down firmly into it once again.
- Unclench your hands, push the dough back into a ball, with the palms of your hands, then lift it up, give it a quarter turn and repeat the knuckle kneading process again.
- Push the dough back into a ball, give the dough another quarter turn and knead it again. Now carry on “knocking back” the dough so that you are kneading twice then turning, kneading then turning, for about ten minutes.
- As you knead you will feel the dough become more pliable, much more elastic and stretchy. You might even hear the bubbles of air popping as the glutin in the flour begins to do its work by stretching the dough.
- After you have finished kneading, you’ll know when that is because you will be exhausted, smile, place the ball of dough in a clean bowl that has been lightly sprinkled with a little flour, to prevent it from sticking as it rises.
- Cover the bowl with a clean plastic bag or tea towel and put it somewhere warm to rise for about an hour and a half.
If you have an airing cupboard, this would be ideal, but a warm room would be fine. The dough needs to be left until it has doubled in size. You will be able to tell quite easily as it will have spread out in the bowl, risen and become softer as the air that’s trapped in the flour as the yeast acts and does its work.
Don’t be tempted to put it somewhere too warm though, such as on top of a radiator or in a low oven as this will kill the yeast and stop it from working, if this should happen the bread won’t rise at all.
- While you are waiting, lightly grease the base and sides of a one and a half to two pound, or medium sized 900 g, loaf tin, with a little butter or margarine.
- Now the hard work starts again. Flour your worktop once more, tip out the dough, and knead it for the second time, Knocking back the dough for a further five minutes or so, before it is put to rise again.
- This time, transfer it carefully into the greased loaf tin and gently pat it down so that it takes on the shape of the tin.
- Cover with a plastic bag or teacloth, and put it to rise in a warm place again for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
- By removing the cover and touching the top gently, you’ll notice that the dough will have risen quite a way up the sides of the tin. Don’t worry, it will rise even more while it’s cooking.
- About a quarter of an hour before your bread has finished rising, pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 425 f, 220c, 180 fan.
- Now, remove the bag or tea towel, and Carefully transfer the tin in to the top of the pre-heated oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf feels firm and crisp on top.
- If you are not sure whether the loaf is cooked or not, using oven gloves to protect your hands, put one hand on top of the loaf in the tin, and the other hand under the base of the tin and carefully tip the bread out so that the top of the loaf is resting in one hand.
- Discard the tin and remove one oven glove, then tap the bread on its base.
- If it sounds hollow and doesn’t feel sticky, it is cooked, if not, put the oven glove back on, put the bread back into the tin and cook for a further five minutes.
- Repeat the tapping process until you are satisfied that your bread is cooked.
There is nothing more wonderful than the smell of home made bread as it is cooking, and what a tremendous achievement to have made it yourself.
Now, slice it while it is still warm, spread with plenty of butter and add some sliced strongly flavoured cheddar or other hard cheese of your choice. Alternatively, spread with home-made strawberry jam or conserve.
The loaf is best eaten now while it is still hot or within a couple of days, as it does not contain the preservatives that shop-bought bread has.