It’s an ancient and simple art that’s immensely satisfying. Learn how to make bread at home and you’ll find the shop bought stuff no longer makes the grade.
Making bread in a machine
Bread machines are increasingly popular – for a very good reason. They take an awful lot of the work out of making bread by kneading, proving and baking automatically. Many can even be set on a timer so that you can wake up to a freshly baked loaf rather than get up super early to knead before the sun comes up!
As useful as a bread machine is, they are still not quite as flexible as making bread yourself.
Making bread from scratch
Once you’ve mastered making bread from a basic recipe, you can graduate to flavoured or shaped breads and more complex recipes. For a basic white loaf, you’ll need:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 sachet easy bake yeast
- 50g butter, melted
- 400ml tepid water
Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast together in a large bowl. Gently stir in the butter, then about a third of the water. As the dough starts to come together, add another third of the water and stir in. At this stage, carefully add a little more water as you need it, working it into the dough with your hands. You may find you don’t need all of the water – you’re looking for a soft and workable consistency that’s not too sticky.
Flour a clean work surface and tip your dough onto it. Knead the dough to release the gluten, by pushing it away from you and folding it back upon itself. Add a little more flour to the worktop if necessary so that the dough doesn’t stick. After about five minutes, your dough should have a smooth, almost shiny texture and a very elastic consistency.
Put the dough into a bread tin of some kind – Wares of Knutsford do an attractive unglazed terracotta bread form that’s easy to clean. Spread the dough a little so it fits the pan nicely and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place – if you don’t have a sunny windowsill, an airing cupboard is ideal.
After about an hour the dough should have doubled in size and is ready to bake. Cook for 30-35 minutes at 180ºC – when the bread is cooked it should be golden brown on top. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes before turning out of the tin and slicing.