For the love of bread…

06.07

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A   R E C I P E  .

One of my intentions for this summer has been to make more bread. Of course bread is, in my opinion, one of the easiest, tastiest, and most rewarding things you can make yourself at home, but setting that simple joy aside, I had just got sick of buying bread wrapped in plastic.

This year I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste our household produces, and I’m currently writing up a post all about the small changes I’ve made so far that’ve been a success for us as a family. I’ve found it so frustrating seeing how the vast majority of bread in the supermarket is wrapped in non-recyclable packaging, and figured I’d have a go at getting into a routine of making bread myself in an effort to cut down on that element of waste.

Surprisingly, it’s been such an easy change! I actually find bread to be such a low-input bake- aside from the initial 15 minutes or so of mixing and kneading, it’s all about  r e s t !

And that I can get on board with!

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I’m going to share with you now the honest truth behind these photos, which is that I was so busy making sure I got this shot of water pouring into the bowl completely in focus, I actually forgot to monitor the amount of water going into the bowl and so totally overdid it!

But it just goes to show how adaptable and imprecise bread-making can be, because I just heaped in a load more flour to bring the mix back to a kneadable consistency and added in a pinch more yeast, and all was well!

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I always abide by the ratio of 10% yeast, 20% salt when making my bread, as I find it gives the tastiest results. So, for 500 grams of strong white bread flour you’d add 5g yeast (I used dried fast action yeast) and 10g of salt. Generally I do 1kg flour, 10g yeast and 20g salt for a really big loaf that keeps us in toast for the best part of the week!

The downsides? Being made without preservatives and softeners and whatever else is added to sliced bread, it won’t keep soft for all that long, and so isn’t all that great for sandwiches beyond for the first 24-48 hours. We don’t really tend to eat sandwiches very often, but if we did, I’d probably go for making a smaller loaf more regularly that will keep fresh and be used up more quickly.

Amazingly though, no matter how tough it seems after a few days post-baking, it always toasts up to the most incredible texture!

And spread with some a slick of butter and some jam? It’s the most delicious breakfast imaginable.

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So, to the recipe…

I N G R E D I E N T S :

1 kilo strong white bread flour
10 grams fast action dried yeast
20 grams salt

M E T H O D :

1. Tip the flour into a large bowl, and add the yeast to one side of the flour and the salt to the other. I’ve read that if the salt and yeast mix straight off then it can kill the yeast, so it’s best to put them in separately.

2. Get a jug of warm water (it should be about body temperature, warm but not hot), and slowly pour the water in whilst mixing with your hand. When the dough has formed to a soft, sticky but not wet consistency, stop pouring! It will be of a consistency where it’ll stick to your hands, but don’t be tempted to add in lots more flour. A sticky dough makes delicious bread!

4. Stretch, pull, squidge, and work the dough between your hands along the work top, for at least 10 minutes or so. It’ll begin to homogenise and gradually stop being sticky, coming together to form a smooth, springy ball of dough. To check if the dough is ready for proving, poke it lightly with your finger- the dough should spring straight back out again. Stretch the dough out a little and pinch the edges together underneath to form a tight ball with a smooth top- this will help the rise!

5. Put the dough back into your mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave somewhere warm to rise. I find I usually give mine about an hour and a half to rise, but check it after an hour- it should have doubled in size and filled the bowl!

6. Press all the air out of the dough gently with your hands, and then form it back into a smooth ball. The dough should feel much lighter now, a sign of the lovely airy bread it’s to become!

7. Shape the dough into whatever takes your fancy and transfer it to a well-floured baking tray (you can leave it as a a round as I’ve done here, form little rolls, pop it into a loaf tin…) and then cover and leave to prove for another half hour.

8. Dust the top with top with flour, carefully cut a couple of shallow slashes into the dough to control its rise during baking, and put into an oven preheated to 200 degrees. I always add a small dish of water into the bottom of the oven at this stage to help create stream, which bread likes whilst baking!

9. My loaves always are done after about 1 hour, but check it after 50 minutes or so. When cooked, the top will be golden brown and the base will have a lovely hollow sound when tapped.

10. Resist the urge to slice is straight away! Let the steam inside cool for a good hour or so first, and then dig in!

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I can’t say I’m any great expert at bread making, but I hope that how relatively imprecise the recipe and method I’ve shared here is shows how adaptable and relatively failsafe bread making is!

And that first slice of warm, crusty bread will make it all so very worth it.

Let me know how the recipe works for you, if you give it a go!

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