Baking Homemade Bread
For the past few years now I have been making bread – including this white bread recipe – completely by hand. Prior to that I had always liked a good white farmhouse or granary loaf from a bakery, rather than a packaged, sliced loaf from a supermarket. However I used to think making your own bread was too time consuming for a busy working woman. I think I also considered that breadmaking was a specialised art that had to be mastered over time, and not something that could be easily learnt by reading a book and having a go.
Then a couple of friends got bread-making machines and were very excited about having fresh bread in the mornings, even if only at weekends. I listened to their glee and pondered.
Baking my own bread has been a revelation for me. Its therapy, exercide, medittaion all in one with a tasty product at the end of it!
Commercially Produced Bread
I was also influenced by reading articles about excessive sugar in manufactured bread, along with ‘flour improvers’ and other ingredients which did not quite belong in bread. The excessive energy used in processing and distributing supermarket bread also became a concern. Many companies that mass produce bread are more interested in profit than the the flavour and quality of their loaf.
It Began With A Bread Machine
So I got a bread machine – from Freecycle – and began experimenting and turning out some pretty tasty bread. This was about seven years ago. I began to regularly set the machine to come on overnight to produce bread for the morning.
After a while though, I wondered what it would be like to make bread completely by hand. I found a great book and – well – just had a go.
Baking Bread – Not Time Consuming – Just Good Planning
Well wow! I was completely converted and am now a ‘making bread by hand’ evangalist!
Firstly it takes very little of your own time – 10 minutes doing the initial kneading and then a further 5 minutes ‘knocking back’ for the final ‘proving’. Don’t worry – terms will be explained!
The time is taken up by the bread doing its own thing – rising – while you are busy getting on with something else. Thus it can be made in an evening – it can even be left in the fridge overnight to rise slowly. It is possible to fit breadmaking in with a busy lifestyle.
And I love the process of kneading. It feels good – it gets your fingers and shoulders working – and you can feel the bread change from a slightly stick, craggy consistency, to a smooth elastic dough – as if by magic!
Then when the finished loaf comes out of the oven – I am just so proud – even after years of making my own bread!
It is fun experimenting with different flours and I love buying flour that has been grown and milled locally. Whenever I go on holiday, I bring a bag of local bread flour back!
- Make sure your flour is ‘strong flour’
- Use a measuring spoon as it is important to get the right quantities of sugar, salt, yeast and oil
- The warm water should be ‘hand hot’
- Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you put the loaf in the oven
White Bread Recipe
- 450g / 1 lb strong white flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon easy blend dried yeast
- 300ml warm water
- Put the flour in a large bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast
- Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly with a wooden spoon
- Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil
- Add the water, distributing it around the bowl
- Mix together with a wooden spoon
- With your hands, pull all the ingredients together
- Put the dough on your work surface and start to knead
- If it is slightly sticky use just your fingers to begin with
- Once the dough is easier to handle, use the heel of your hand to push the dough away, then pull back towards you.
- Keep doing this for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic
- Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a cloth
- Keep in a warm place until it has doubled in size
- When the dough has risen, you ‘knock it back’ – knock the air out of it and knead for a couple of minutes
- Shape it to go in a 2lb loaf tin
- Line the loaf tin with baking parchment
- Place the dough in the tin, cover and leave to ‘prove’ for 30-45 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C
- Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes
- The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom
- Allow to cool
For most enjoyment – serve slice when still warm!