Let’s be honest, there is nothing quite a comforting and lovely as a slice of fresh, home baked bread with butter.
I love making bread. I don’t use a bread machine, but I do use a food processor for the messy mixing of ingredients – although you could just as easily not.
You need a good few hours to make bread from scratch, but a lot of the time is waiting for it to rise. I tend to make bread on a Sunday afternoon, while I am cooking other bits and pieces for the week.
This is a recipe for a seeded loaf, but you can cut out the seeds and it will work just as well for a plain loaf.
Ingredients (makes 3 loaves)
600 ml warm water
2 flat tsps quick-yeast
2 flat tsps salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp seed mix (I make this mix myself using sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, pine nuts and poppy seeds – just put them in the food processor in any quantities you like, and pulse a few times to chop)
Here’s a step-by-step guide to baking the perfect loaf:
Step 1 – the dough
Put your flour and yeast in the food processer.
Dissolve the salt and honey in your water, and pour into the flour mix with the processor running.
Feed the olive oil through the feeder, and mix for around 30 seconds until the dough is well mixed.
Put the seed mix in your mixing bowl, and tip the dough in from the food processor. It will be sticky so you’ll need to use your fingers or a silicone spoon to get it all out! Combine the seeds into the dough mix.
Step 2 – Kneading the dough
This is the fun part! The more effort you put in here, the better the bread – and it’s a great destresser too! Use both your hands to knead the dough. You want firm actions to push and pull the dough – after about 10 minutes you should see that the dough becomes smoother and more flexible.
Step 3 – Prepare the dough to rise
When you’re done kneading, form a smooth round shape with your dough and slick on a little olive oil. Place in a large bowel, and cover with a plastic bag. Put it in a warm place.
The time it takes to rise will depend on the warmth of the room – it usually takes between 30 and 90 minutes to double in size.
Step 4 – Knocking down the dough
It might seem a bit self-defeating after waiting patiently for your dough to rise, but you now need to knock out the air to form the loaves. Don’t worry, all the work the yeast has put in to making your dough nice and airy isn’t lost.
Tip out your risen dough onto the work surface and poke your fingers into until it’s about its original size.
Step 5 – Form your loaves
Give your dough a little bit more of a knead to form a round again, then cut into three even pieces with a sharp knife.
Knead each of your loaves into your desired shape – it could be a round shape, or a longer baton shape from french-style sticks. You can put the finished loaves on baking trays or into tins (I use both!).
Leave to rise for another half an hour or so. When risen, you can make little knife slashes across the surface of the loaves with a bread knife if you want to – it will give it a ridged effect.
Step 6 – Cook your loaves
Pre-heat your oven to its highest setting, and put in a roasting tray at the bottom of the over. Boil a third of a kettle of water. Slide in your loaves and very quickly pour the water into the baking tray, and close the door. This will produce steam to help your loaves cook, but you don’t want to lose the heat of your oven!
Cook for 10 minutes or less – until you see the loaves turning golden – then reduce to 180 degrees for another 20 minutes. When the loaves are ready, tip out onto a rack to cool.
Recipe adapted from the bloomin’ marvelous River Cottage Handbook on Bread.