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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Basic Bread Recipe

The recipe I'm asked for most (apart from my top secret chocolate brownie recipe) is what bread recipe I use. So here it is the standard bread recipe that I know off by heart and use most often. I've been using it for many years so am unsure of its exact origins, I think it may have been my Nan's. I've adapted it over the years too, this is the current version. I can't guarantee that I won't change it again though LOL You can halve the recipe if you don’t want to make as much bread, but bread can be frozen for later so I usually make a decent batch so there’s always some on available.

My daughters love kneading bread and I often give them some of the dough from a batch to shape how they choose and bake it for their lunch. It’s like edible play dough. Their favourite shapes are snails, hedgehogs and Catherine wheel/windmill shapes. They’ve even kneaded 100s and 1000s into the dough when they’ve had friends over to make it fairy bread. Traditional variations of shape and flavour follow the main recipe.

7 cups plain white or bread flour (use what you have)

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons salt

2 sachets instant yeast

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine – to make lukewarm liquid, not hot:

1 1/4 cups hot water

1 1/4 cups cold milk

Mix the dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Stir in the liquid, using more or less liquid as required to make a soft dough. Add the liquid gradually but don’t panic if you add too much liquid, you can knead in extra flour.

Once a soft dough has formed, turn the dough onto a floured bench and knead well - stretching and turning the dough for 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Add flour to the bench as required during the kneading process to prevent the dough sticking. Less and less flour will be needed as the dough is worked. Try not to add too much flour as it may dry out the dough. Alternatively, do what I do, knead it using an electric mixer with a dough hook for about 5-7 minutes until it becomes smooth and springs back when a pushed lightly with a floured finger.

Put the dough into a clean greased bowl, flip it over once to grease the top surface of the dough, cover with cling film and leave it to rise. Covering the bowl with cling film, traps warm moist air around the dough, keeping it at the optimum temperature to promote rising and get the yeast to work its magic. If you have a microwave, and are short of time, you can speed the rising process up by giving the dough bursts of 1 minute on low power (10-20%) then allowing it to rest for 10 minutes before repeating with 1 minute on low power. If you don’t have a microwave, set the dough aside in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

When the dough has risen to double its original size, knead it lightly and shape as you like.

For loaves, divide the dough in 2, roll or press the dough into rectangles slightly longer than the loaf tin. Roll up tightly from the long edge (like a Swiss roll), tuck the ends under and put them, seam side down, into a well greased loaf tin. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or recover it with cling film. When it has risen for about 10 or 15 minutes, cut diagonal slashes in the top with a serrated knife.

Leave until doubled in size again and then bake at 200°C for around 30 minutes, until the bread looks golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Flavour and shape variations

Rolls

Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Roll each piece on the bench and shape it how you like; if you want them to look fancy you can shape them into knots and tuck the end underneath to hide it. Put the shaped rolls on to a tray lined with non-stick baking paper. When the rolls have doubled in size brush them gently with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy, sesame, or a mixture of other seeds. Bake for around 20 minutes at 200°C.

Wholemeal bread

Substitute up to 1/2 the flour with wholemeal flour and continue the recipe the same as for white bread. You can also shape this version into rolls.

Mixed seed bread

Use 3 cups white flour, 2 cups wholemeal flour and make up 2 cups of mixed seeds. I use a combination of pumpkin, sunflower, linseed, sesame and poppy seeds. Increase the yeast to 2 1/2 sachets to help the bread rise. Because the dough is much denser than 'all flour' bread it won't rise as much. The bread is delicious with cheese and tastes fab toasted if you like dense, seedy breads.

Spicy fruit bread

Use 2 1/2 sachets yeast, as for the mixed seed bread. Replace the white sugar with 1/2 cup firmly packed light soft brown sugar. Add 1/2 cup currants, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup mixed peel and 1/2 cup sultanas - or 2 cups luxury dried fruit mix to the dough. Mix into the dry ingredients: 3 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice, 3 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons all spice and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Use 1/2 cup of oil and add 2 eggs. Reduce the other liquid to 1/2 cup each of water and milk.


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