I made bread today, real homemade stuff - the kind with a crisp light crust and a soft inside. This is my fail safe loaf when making it by hand rather than in the machine, sometimes I want to mix and knead myself and remind myself how therapeutic bread making can be. I vary the shape nearly every time, today I fancied a plait/braid and wanted sesame seeds on top, I love their nutty taste and smell when they are toasted. This recipe only requires one rising, no proving at all so it's a quick bread to make but you must use fast acting (instant) dried yeast, the dried regular bakers yeast and fresh yeast just won't work here.
Basic White Bread
500g strong white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 x 7g sachet of fast acting (instant) dried yeast
15g soft butter
300 ml warm water (100ml boiling and 200 ml cold)
Because it's cold here at the moment I warm the bowl first. I put the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and mix then pop it in the oven set on the lowest setting for about 5 mins. If it's warm weather I skip this process.
So, mix your flour, salt and sugar together, then stir in the yeast. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and rub it into the flour until it disappears. Then add the warm water all at once, mix it into the flour mixture, clawing at it with your fingers until its pretty evenly mixed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. It seems never ending but you must make sure you knead for at least this time if you want your bread to have a lovely fine texture. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
While it's resting I prepare my tray/tin. If I'm baking on a tray I use silicon paper to line it, if I'm making it in a loaf tin then I grease the tin thoroughly with a light coating of butter or oil.
Shape the dough into whatever shape you desire, I braided mine but I often just make it into a cob loaf by making an elongated oval and slashing it 3 times diagonally across the top. Then cover with either oiled cling film or a damp, warm tea towel and put it in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes until it's doubled in size.
Remember to preheat your oven, I do this about 30 minutes into the rising time. You need it to be at 230 deg c.
If you want a crispy crust then dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 4 tablespoons warm water and brush over the top, or dust with flour for a soft floured cottage stye bread, melted butter brushed over gives a nice deep golden crust with a superb taste. Scatter with poppy/sesame/sunflower seeds or whatever you fancy.
Put the bread in the hottest part of the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200 deg c and bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes as all ovens vary. The bread will be golden brown and should sound hollow when you tap it underneath. Allow to cool on a rack if you can wait that long!
Here's the same bread recipe but made into something different. Make the same dough, roll it out thinly then spread it with a little melted butter (about 2 tablespoons), scatter over some strong cheddar, a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, some snipped chives and a few slivers of roasted cloves of garlic. Roll it up into a swiss roll type shape, bend it around into a ring and tuck one end inside the other. Make deep slashes all the way around the edge with a very sharp knife, cover as before and rise for 45 mins to 1 hour in a warm place. When it's doubled in size brush the top with a little melted butter and sprinkle over some more grated cheddar and parmesan. Bake exactly as for the bread above. This is lovely served with homemade vegetable soups.
I also made the Everyday Chocolate Cake from Smittenkitchen for the second time this week. I highly recommend this recipe! The first time I was really pleased with it but felt it needed something to top it off so this time I added a chocolate fudge icing: