‘A very exaggerated idea of the difficulty and trouble of bread making prevails amongst persons who are entirely ignorant of the process’.
How true. At TheBigForest we are on a two person mission to encourage people to make their own bread. The actual effort involved is minimal and the rising takes no effort at all and can be worked around your daily activities. Making your own bread is a winning activity on so many levels. The repetitive process of kneading seems to stir up creativity for other projects, the results are delicious and all the praise from people who assume it has taken unbelievable skill make you glow.
So here we go, a simple wholemeal loaf adapted from a recipe by Allinson’s flour and we have even written the imperial measurements as we love our (many) American readers!
650g (1lb 7oz) Organic wholemeal strong bread flour
10g (2tsp) salt
5g (1tsp) sugar
15g (1/2 oz) butter (we use Trex baking fat which works brilliantly)
7g sachet (2 tsp) of easy bake yeast (that’s the stuff you stir straight in to the flour and doesn’t need to be made up with water/sugar)
450ml (16fl oz) warm water (to make this the right temperature use 1 part boiling water to 2 parts cold – remember that heat kills yeast, cold only slows down the rising process so if in doubt make sure the water is warm/cool not hot)
In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Rub in the butter/baking fat till the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Add the warm water and mix to form a soft dough. We use a wooden spoon and when mixed we transfer the dough to a well-floured work/counter top.
Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If you are unsure how to knead there must be a YouTube demonstration (our ‘go-to’ source for any practical process we are unsure how to do!). Listen to some nice music whilst you do this and let your thoughts wander (and wonder). We let our mind sort out difficult problems whist we knead bread!
Clean the bowl with warm water and dry thoroughly. Shape the dough roughly in to a ball and put in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel.
Put in a warm place to rise. Remember – again – heat kills yeast so not a hot place. In the summer we just leave it covered in the kitchen but not in full sun or by a draughty window and it happily rises. In the winter we have used the airing cupboard, a steamy bathroom or near, but not next to, the woodburner in TheBigForest hut.
After an hour it will have risen to about double the size. Take the dough out of the bowl (it will kind of deflate and that’s fine). Put the dough on the floured work/counter top and knead again for 3 mins. ).
Either well oil or put a square of baking parchment on a thick baking tray. Shape the dough in to a nice smooth round and put on the baking tray. Slash a cross in the centre with a sharp knife if you like. Or you can cut into eight pieces and shape in to small rounds to make rolls.
Heat the oven to 230 C degrees/200 C degrees fan oven/450 F degrees/ Gas Mark 8.
Once the bread has risen for the second time you can put some milk on the top and cover the loaf/rolls with poppy seeds if you like them or you can dust with flour or just leave it alone and it will still taste fantastic.
Pop the bead in the centre of the oven for around 30 mins for a loaf and 15 mins for rolls. When you take the bread out of the oven it should sound hollow when you tap on the bottom. If not put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes more.
Take the bead off the tin and let it cool on a wire baking rack.
When cool cut and enjoy with butter or jam or soup or marmalade for breakfast.
This is one of our occasional posts on English Food by TheBigForest. If you want to find out about our wonderful goods just click ‘about’.
If you read the recipe carefully you will see it really needs very little of your time. 1. Mix and knead 12 mins. 2. Second knead and shape 5 mins. 3. Pop in and then take out of the oven 2 mins.
This bread has two risings so it will keep OK – two or three days but it has no preservative like shop bought bread so we tend to slice straight way, put in a big plastic bag and freeze as soon as we make it. Providing you leave enough space around the bread when you freeze it the slices will come away one at a time and you can just defrost as much as you need.
I’ve chosen the most ugly looking rolls from a batch to encourage you to make bread and not stress about how it looks!
The illustration is from a wonderful book from around 1950 that was given to me as a gift by an equally obsessive bread maker!
The fish runner is from Skansen in Stockholm.