Basic White Loaf

This was my first real bread success, as I discovered that I haven’t been kneading for long enough and that my yeast was so ancient, there was no way it would rise! After buying fresh yeast (sachets are best) and kneading for longer, this regal loaf rose to the occasion – pardon the pun – and everyone in my house is now begging me to make more.

Bread making is time consuming, but the pride when this golden, soft, warm bread comes out of the oven is strangely overwhelming. After putting so much love and effort into what started out as water and flour, the final product is somewhat miraculous. If this doesn’t go right the first time, persevere! My tip is not to under-knead; do it for at least 10 minutes and make sure it gets enough proving time (I always leave more than an hour, so it will more than double in size).

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Oh yes, and this is not my own recipe. As I am a bit of an amateur in breadbaking, I am yet to make up my own recipes. This fabulous recipe is by Paul Hollywood from ‘How to Bake’ (look at my page – My Library of Recipe Books). Now, on with the baking!

Basic White Loaf
You need:
400g/1lb strong white bread flour
7g salt
7g instant yeast (I use Hovis fast action sachets of 7g)
25g/1oz butter (if using salted butter reduce salt by 3g)
250ml cool water
olive oil for kneading and oiling the tin
2lb/1kg loaf tin (to shape)

One note before this recipe. If you do not have digital scales in grams – like my parents – please buy some, or persuade your family to invest in some, as weighing 7 grams in ounces is nearly impossible!

1) Tip the flour into a large bowl and add the salt to one side, and the yeast to the other. If you put the salt and yeast on top of each other, the salt may kill the yeast.

2) Add the butter and three-quarters of the water, and incorporate everything together, turning the mixture with your fingers. Add the remaining water gradually, until you’ve picked up all the flour. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add more – your dough should be more soft pillow, than soggy tissue. Keep cleaning the inside of the bowl with the mixture until a rough dough forms.

3) Coat a work surface with a little oil (NOT FLOUR); using olive oil instead of flour keeps the dough soft and prevents it sticking. Tip the dough onto the oiled surface and begin to knead (see Tips and Tricks – Kneading). Knead for 8-10 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s a bit wet to start with, there will come a point where the dough forms a soft, smooth skin and stops clinging to you and the surface.

4) When your dough is soft and less sticky, put into a lightly oiled bowl (I use the same bowl, just oiled and bits of dough removed). Cover wiht a tea towel and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – this means at least 1 hour, but by all means leave it for up to 3 hours.

5) Rub olive oil inside a 1kg loaf tin or two 500g loaf tins.

6) Tip the dough onto a a lightly floured surface. If you’re making 2 small loaves, then divide in half.

7) First shape into a ball by folding the dough inwards repeatedly until the dough is smooth. Flatten the dough out slightly into an oblong and fold the sides under. Roll it up so that there is a join running along the base, and a smooth top. Put your dough into the tin.

8) Pop the tin inside a clean plastic bag (I use ziplock freezer bags) and leave to prove for about an hour (more is fine!), so that the dough is doubled in size, and springs back quickly if you prod it with your finger lightly. Whack the oven up to 220°C/200°C fan and put a baking/roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.

9) Take the dough in its tin out of the bag. Slash the risen, spring dough with a sharp serrated knife – be brave. A few parallel slashes on the diagonal looks good. Fill the baking/roasting tray in the oven with hot water to create steam and put the bread in the oven.

10) Bake for 30 minutes. Check if it’s cooked by tipping the loaf out of the tin and tapping the base – it should sound hollow. Cool the loaf, out of the tin, on a wire rack.

This bread is delicious warm out of the oven with butter that melts dreamily. Toast it in the morning, make sandwiches and take it to school/work and show off to your friends. Also, if you feel like singing when it come out of the oven, please do. I myself burst into a round of ‘Alleluia’ due to indecent amounts of exaltation when beholding this beautiful bread. Be triumphant that you have achieved this incredible feat.

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