The bread of life is …well, bread?

15 Jan

A few weeks ago I ran out of bread. It’s a common event in a household of 4, with packed lunches to consider too. My normal reaction would have been to jump in the car and hit the supermarket, or send one of the kids on their bikes to the local Co-Op. But that day I decided to give baking my own loaf a go again, not least because the supermarket loaves contain ingredients that I don’t understand, and I’m sure that they aren’t that good for you.

My main influencer is Erika – a friend whose home I stayed overnight in recently. In the evening I hardly noticed her throwing a few ingredients into her Kitchenaid, but in the morning it was wonderful to come downstairs to the aroma of freshly baked bread.  The competitive side of me said “if she can do it; so can I!”  She’s much more earth mother than me though, so I wasn’t entirely confident, but nothing ventured….

I tried baking bread years ago and it’s taken me a long time to get over the memory of the rock hard, doughy, salty nastiness that I produced. I even own a breadmaker and the results from that have been… average. The hole in the middle is also useless for proper sarnies too.

However, Erika’s bread was made with no elbow grease (no time for all that kneading!) and as my slightly eccentric mother has something of a thing for vintage Kenwood mixers, I knew I’d be able to lay my hands on something to do the hard work for me.  Here’s the aged mixer that I discovered gathering dust:

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The recipe I chose was from baking god Paul Hollywood. I’ve been a fan of his for years – maybe even from my student days… did he do “this morning” or “ready, steady, cook!”?

And here is the result of my first time!

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Since then I have popped the ingredients into the Kenwood most days. It keeps for a day or 2 if you wrap it in a teatowel – if you don’t eat it all.

I’ve adapted the recipe a bit though:

500g bread flour

About 1 tsp salt (we only have Maldon salt in the house – God, we’re so bloody middle class! – so I grab some and scrunch it up a bit)

1 sachet yeast (PH suggests 2 but 1 does the trick for me)

About 320ml warmish water.

And finally – about 40g Flora Buttery (or a dollop)

Chuck the dry stuff into the bowl, pop the Buttery on top and then about 2/3 of the water. Start the mixer on #1 and mix until combined. Add bits of water as you go – just until it combines, but don’t add it all if it doesn’t need it. Once combined leave on #1 and go and have a cuppa. This will be about the right amount of time to knead it perfectly!

Once it’s elastic and lovely, take it out of the bowl and sort of knead it into a ball – I just rub some flour onto my hands and do it without making a mess on the table.  Pop into an oiled bowl, sprinkle with flour, cover with a towel and leave it alone.

I’m lucky enough to own a fabulous AGA and I put mine on the surface next to it to prove. Just for about an hour.

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Once it’s doubled in size, knock it back a bit, shape it into whatever you like or whack it into a tin and then leave it alone again.

When it’s ready to bake, sprinkle with flour and slash the top with a super sharp knife and then get the oven steamy – this is what makes it really good, and the reason my bread in the past has been too crusty and not nice.

I pop a tin with water on the bottom of the top oven of the AGA and splash it around to create steam (careful!) and then immediately put the bread on the middle shelf.  After about 20 mins I put it on the floor of the oven to create a perfect bottom.

Once it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom it’s done – and it’s good.

Let me know if you try it!

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