Back to Basics Two Simple White Bread -Slow Living
Updated: May 17, 2020
Okay, as promised, number two in our back to basics homesteader, slow living offerings. I don’t know how things are going where you are, here in the Adelaide Hills our supply line issues seem to have eased somewhat, but some things are still scarce, and some things are just good to know how to do for yourself, so here is my take on a really basic white bread. This bread will never be any good for fairy bread or cucumber sandwiches, but for a robust slice to make a bruschetta with or wipe up some gravy or toast to go with a gorgeous soup, this bread is a cracker.
I haven’t been able to take any tutorial pics on kneading or shaping as I was working on my own, but if you are interested in bread making I highly recommend Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf, Mr Lepard introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about bread making and his book is well worth a look for any home baker.
So now, to our own special loaf, well, actually, we are going to make two because if you make just one it will all be gone before it is cold and you will never get the enormous pleasure of tasting this most simple of foods as a toast, which is where it truly shines.
850ml warm water, we want this around about the same temperature as you are, so stick your finger in it and check, too warm you will kill the yeast, too cool and everything will take AGES and you could end up with a leaden and sour loaf
14g instant yeast
14g salt, yes, this seems like a lot but it will be divided between a lot of slices
2g sugar, this will help wake up your yeast 1kg bread flour, you can actually use plain flour or a mix of both, it will just give a different, but still delicious, result
Mix together the warm water, yeast, salt and sugar, let it sit until it is nice and foamy.
Now, pour your flour into a big bowl, make a well in the middle and add your wet ingredients, squidge them together until you have a soft and sticky dough.
If your flour is very strong it could need a little more water, this is the time to add it in, but go slow, a tablespoon at a time, we don’t want it too sloppy. Let it sit and think about life for ten minutes and then on to step two.
Pour a slug of olive oil onto your bench and spread it into a large circle, make sure you get some on both hands too, now, turn your dough out onto the bench, if you have a dough scraper, this is the time to use it, otherwise a spoon, a bowl scraper or your hands, we want as much of that sticky dough as possible out of the bowl and onto the bench.
Now, knead it to the count of twenty, there are as many kneading techniques as there are bread recipes, I use Dan Lepard’s technique, with my left hand I anchor the bottom portion of the dough to the bench, with the heel of my right hand I push the top half of the dough away from me, not too rough or too far, we are stretching this dough, not tearing it, then fold the top half over the bottom, turn it a quarter turn to the left and do it ten more times or until the dough begins to tighten and resist your hand, then, back in the bowl to ponder for another ten minutes.
Give your bench a scrape if it needs it, we want the dough back in the bowl, not on the bench, add a little more oil if it needs it, not too much, is not a slip n slide, we should not need much more oil now as the dough will become less and less sticky.
Turn the dough out again, repeat the last step, by now the dough should be changing, becoming silky and much easier to handle.
Knead it again until it becomes resistant to your hand, back in the bowl for ten minutes. I want you to do this four times in total, by now the dough should feel alive under your hands and have some nice air bubbles forming.
Now pop it back in its bowl for another ten minutes and clean any residual oil off your bench and hands and give each a nice dust of flour. Turn your dough onto the dusted bench and cut into four equal-ish portions.
Now, turn each portion cut side up and make it into a round by pinching around the edge and pulling it towards the centre, all the way around.
Now turn the ball over so your pinched centre is on the bench and gently form the round into a ball. Repeat with your other three bits of dough.
Place two balls side by side into a lined loaf pan, about 10 x 23 cms or 4 x 9 inches, repeat with other two dough balls in a second pan. Set them aside to rise for a bit.
Now, heat your oven to 190 degrees C if fan forced, 200 if not, when the bread has risen by at least half and looks puffy and swollen, slide it into your hot oven. Cook until golden brown and gorgeous, this will probably take about 40 minutes. Turn the bread out and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow and cooked, not wet and soggy.
Cool on a wire rack. When cold (if you can wait that long), slice and put into a bag or container and store it in the freezer, remember, this is a preservative free bread so it won’t stay fresh long, but it freezes very nicely. Ta da!