Well all it took was a little courage and the acceptance that getting it wrong wasn’t the end of the world and finally I have joined that list of special folk who bake their own bread. And yes… I feel very smug.
So in the tradition of One and a half cooks… I’m going to share that secret with you. Don’t be scared, making bread is easy.
So you’ll need
· 500g white bread flour , plus extra for dusting
· 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
· 1tsp salt
· up to 350ml lukewarm water and a little sunflower oil , for greasing .
Ok firstly you make the dough by tipping the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and making a well in the middle so that you can add the water.
Pour in about half of the water and use your fingers to mix the flour and remaining water together until combined to a slightly wet, pillowy, workable dough. Ok this is messy work so don’t panic at having a sticky mess, you can always add a bit more flour or more water if you need to, you just need the courage to get your hands in and get gooey.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 mins until smooth and elastic, kneading is basically using the heel of your hand to push and stretch the dough away from you and then roll it back and do it again and again. You’ll be able to see and feel the change this makes to the dough, it will go from sticky to smooth and stretchy and no longer sticky.
Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise somewhere warm until it has doubled in size. ( I live in Scotland which is a cold country so I cheat, I put the oven on to the absolute lowest temperature and once it’s heated I switch it off and put the dough in there to rise).
Once the dough has risen to about twice it’s size, get ready to make the bread happen.
Heat the oven to 220C/ fan 200C/ gas mark 7.
Knock back the dough by tipping it back onto a floured surface and pushing the air out. (I know it seems mad after you went to all the effort to put all that air in there but trust me).
Mould the dough into a rugby ball shape or any other shape you want for the bread and then cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for a further 30 mins (it should rise again at least a bit).
Dust the top of the loaf with a little more flour and slash the top with a sharp knife if you want.
Bake the bread for 15 mins, then reduce the heat to 190C/ fan 170C/gas 5 and continue to bake for 30 mins until the loaf sounds hollow when removed from the tin and tapped on the base.
Leave the bread on a wire rack to cool completely before enjoying it with real butter or jam.