I love making bread. It’s not as much effort as you might think and once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever ate anything else. We find it’s less bloating and our diabetic friends find that it doesn’t affect their blood sugars the way that shop bought can. The reason is simple – my bread contains no sugar, in fact, it only has 4 ingredients – flour, salt, yeast and water. I was first inspired to make bread by “Dough”, a book by Richard Bertinet. In it, he explains how simple and easy bread making can be. I cannot recommend his book highly enough for anyone looking to start bread making.
When I started out, I used to make it by hand following the method Richard Bertinet demonstrates in his book and accompanying DVD. But since, then I have found that I can get a pretty good result by using the dough hook in my KitchenAid. It also allows me to get a loaf of bread ready to rise in under 10mins
There are a lot of variations you can play around with and as time goes on, I’ll post the things I like to do. Once you get the hang of this basic loaf, the rest is easy and your imagination will be your only limitation.
Accuracy is important in bread making and I suggest you weight everything carefully including liquids as it’s more accurate than using a measuring jug. I have a very accurate digital scale which is reliable to 0.5g increments.
7g (1 sachet) easy bake yeast. or 10g fresh yeast
500g strong white bread flour (OR 350g strong white bread flour, 100g strong wholemeal flour, 50g rye flour)
350g water. Mineral water is good as it contains less chlorine than tap water which can retard the action of the yeast which is only really a factor if you are using a very small amount of yeast – a 7g sachet will not be affected in my experience.
Method (mixer method)
Place the bowl of the cake mixer on the scales and zero the readout.
Weigh the 10g salt re-zero and weight out the 500g of flour on top of it.
If using easy bake yeast, sprinkle the sachet of yeast over the top of the flour; then weigh out 350g of water over the yeast. I find it easiest to pour it from a bottle or jug as you can very carefully pour the last few grams. I used to mix the yeast with the pre-weighed water, whisk it in and then add it to the flour but I found that it doesn’t make a lot of difference and just adds an extra step.
If you are using fresh yeast, weight out the water in to a separate container and whisk the 10g of yeast into it and pour it over the flour.
Attach the dough hook onto the cake mixer and start mixing on a low speed initially. Increase the speed to a low/medium and mix for a total of 7 minutes. It should be an elastic soft dough by the end.
Lightly oil your hands and the work surface. Using your oiled fingers, scrape the dough off the dough hook and using a scraper (or clean plastic credit card) turn the dough out onto the oiled work surface. Work the dough into a neat ball and transfer back to the oiled mixer bowl (or another large bowl). Cover lightly with an oiled piece of clingfilm…. you are not aiming for an airtight seal here!
Depending on the temperature of your room, it will take 1-2 hrs for the dough to double in size.
Shaping and rising the bread:
After this time, turn the dough out onto an oiled work surface. Use a dough scraper or an old, clean credit card.
Either shape into a free form loaf by gently pushing the dough into a rectangular shape and folding lengthways into thirds and tucking the ends in slightly. Keep the folded seam under the loaf to leave a tight smooth upper surface. This can rise just like that or you can place it in an oiled loaf tin for a more controlled shape.
Or you can divide into separate pieces and shape into individual rolls.
Once shaped, cover again loosely with the oiled clingfilm and allow to double in size again. It won’t take as long to rise this time, only about 15-30mins. I generally allow the shaped dough to do this final rise on a silicone baking sheet; as this allows me to easily transfer it to the baking stone in the oven, without knocking the air out it or altering the shape during the transfer.
After this final rise, lightly dust the surface with more flour and then slash the surface with a sharp blade or knife. As well as being decorative the slashes allow the bread to rise evenly without splitting.
Baking the bread
A really hot oven is important. I can get my oven up to 250c. I leave a marble slab in the bottom to heat up for at least an hour so that it also reaches 250c. The idea of the baking stone is to act as a heat sink. It “absorbs heat” and when the cold dough is placed on top of it, it won’t cool at all and can transfer it’s heat to the bottom of the bread and help form a crust on the bottom and give an even cook. Something like this will do the job – just make sure it will fit in your oven and remove any rubber pads on the bottom before you use it!
Slide the bread onto the hot stone. In my oven (Miele H5461BP), as soon I close the oven door I give the bread a burst of steam as my oven lets me do this. If you have a normal oven, then you can spray the bread with water from a plant spray as soon as you put it in and then close the door immediately. The steam in the oven is said to be important in helping form a crust.
For a larger loaf, I tend to turn the temperature of the oven down to about 200c after the 1st 10mins in the oven and then leave it for about 30minutes in total. If you are making thinner or smaller breads then they will take less time and may not need to turn the temperature down.
The video below gives you an idea of what the dough looks like and how it should feel and some of the simple techniques described above: