Added by john_lee | Tue 27 Jan 2009 @ 20:15
We\'ve been eating bread since before our ancestors hauled Stonehenge into place, and most of us eat it at least once a day. But this Neolithic invention has undergone some ugly changes since the 1960s. For the most part, the artisanal bakeries of yore are now industrialised, mechanised monsters, where a simple dough of flour, yeast, water and salt has morphed into a tasteless concoction of bleach, emulsifiers, preservatives and E numbers. In light of this, our daily bread suddenly seems a whole lot less wholesome. It\'s been a few years since I last baked bread, and while living in Italy, the bread was good and cheap, so there wasn\'t much incentive to roll my sleeves up and get kneading. But since returning to the UK last year, and realising how insipid and unnatural most supermarket bread is, I realised that it was time to think again. I\'ve found that breadmaking is a a tactile and theraputic experience, and for a little effort you\'ll be rewarded with a malt, chewy, nostalgic, morish loaf which tastes like you always imagined bread should. Considering that a mass-market loaf of cardboard now costs over a pound, perhaps bake-your-own could become the \'in thing\' for these credit crunch times!
(makes 2 small loaves or 12 rolls)
650g of strong, unbleached bread flour (preferably with added seeds and grains)
10g of unrefined caster sugar
5g of sea salt
2 x tablespoon of olive oil
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
400ml of warm water (half boiled, half cold)
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast, sugar, salt and oil.
Pour in the water a little at a time (you may not need it all) and use a fork to bring the flour into the liquid, stirring until you have incorporated most of the flour. When using the fork becomes too difficult, continue mixing with one hand.
Scrape the dough, and any leftover flour, onto onto a clean, well-floured surface. Start kneading and stretching the dough in any way you like, but use plenty of elbow grease. You may need add more flour if the dough seems too wet, but try to keep the dough as moist as possible. After about ten minutes, you should have a smooth, gently yielding ball of dough.
Make sure your mixing bowl is quite clean, and place dough back into it, covering the bowl with clingfilm or a damp tea towel. Leave the bowl for at least 30 minutes in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
Tip the dough back onto the floured surface and knead again briefly to push out all of the air.
Shape the dough into two loaves or a dozen rolls, or a mixture of the two. Place the loaves into tins, and the rolls onto a floured baking sheet, dust them with flour, and cover again with clingfilm or a wet tea towel. Preheat the oven to 220C.
After 30 minutes, place the tray or tins into the preheated oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes for loaves, and 15-20 minutes for rolls. You can check if the bread is cooked by tapping the bottom - if it sounds hollow it\'s ready. If not, place it back in the oven for a few minutes more.
Cool the bread on wire racks. It\'s best eaten warm, and a quick blast in a hot oven before serving will bring it back to life!