Baking Basics – Bread
Like everyone else in COVID-19 lockdown, getting basic food is challenging. My teenager is fragile (both emotionally and physically) and so to protect them we are trying not to leave the flat. As my teenager is also autistic, they also have a limited diet (due to sensory issues) and, as if life wasn’t fun already, is also lactose intolerant.
One of the things that is a staple part of my teenager’s diet is basic white bread with a soft, non-floury, crust. But getting bread is difficult. Especially when you can’t get weekly food deliveries and you are trying really hard not to leave the flat (17 days and counting).
So I’ve taken to trying to bake my own bread. The first one I made didn’t work, it “tasted weird”. But the second one got a thumbs up. So here is my recipe for the most basic of white bread. With a (hopefully) soft crust and absolutely no floury top!
It helps to have an (optional) boyfriend on hand, who really enjoys kneading!
The bread is simply strong flour, salt, sugar, yeast and water (specific quantities below) and a lot of patience and time – something I seem to have a lot of at the moment.
After your ingredients are mixed well and you have a dough, you need to knead it. This works the gluten in the bread making it soft, warm and stretchy. You are aiming for dough you can stretch until it is translucent without breaking (the windowpane test).
Once it is soft, warm and stretchy, scoop it into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 2 hours to double in size (this is called proving). Don’t do what I did and mix up your proving times and leave it only to prove for 1 hour before working it.
After the first proving, it will have doubled in size. Knock it back, something that is very satisfying, and knead again. For the uninitiated, knocking back is when you gently punch the air out of your dough before scooping the now floppy dough out of the bowl again.
Then roll it into a sausage shape and pop into a loaf tin (you don’t have to use a loaf tin, but I am aiming for as uniform and simple a bread as possible – remember I have a teenager who needs to eat this!). Cover it with the tea towel again and leave for an hour (not 2 hours as I did – sigh!).
Once again it will have doubled in size. Now you just need to slash the top of the bread with a serrated knife and pop it in the oven.
All being well, after 30mins in the oven you’ll have a lovely, incredibly simple-looking, loaf of bread. Due to my ahem tiny proving error, mine collapsed in the oven a bit. But it is still bread and still tastes good.
Most importantly, my teenager has just devoured 3 slices of marmite on toast – courtesy of my homemade bread! Success!
Basic White Bread
- 500 g Strong White Bread Flour
- 1 ½ tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Caster Sugar
- 1 sachet Fast Action Yeast 7g
- 300 ml Warm Water
- Put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Make sure the yeast and salt are on opposite sides of the bowl!
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Add the warm water (make sure this is not from the hot tap, but is a mix of water from your kettle and cold water, should be between 40°c and 50°c, or warm to the touch).
- Mix the water into the dry ingredients until you have a dough. It might be a bit sticky, but don't worry.
- Turn the dough onto a clean table and knead. Keep kneading until the dough feels warm, soft and not sticky. This might take about 10 mins.
- Lightly oil the bowl and place the dough back in. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 2 hours.
- When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and turn out onto the table surface again.
- Knead again, but only for a couple of minutes this time. Shape into a sausage, trying to keep a smooth surface on the top. Place into a loaf tin.
- Cover and leave for 1 hour.
- Heat your oven to 190°c.
- When the dough has again doubled in size, slash the top with a serrated knife and put in the oven.
- Bake for 25-30 mins. You can take the bread out of the tin with a clean tea towel and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, then it's done.
- Take your bread out of the oven and out of the tin and leave to cool.
- The finished bread keeps well, I keep mine in an old loaf's plastic bag.