I’m the kind of girl who likes to make New Year’s Resolutions.
I know … you are probably wondering … why?
I like the feeling of starting the year with a bit of an action plan. What can I do different? Better? How can I challenge myself?
Last year the Resolution was limiting my buying of books to 3 new ones per month – excluding anything I bought for book club reading.
I joined 3 more (virtual) book clubs … ones in which we normally read more than one book a month. I didn’t really get the result I was aiming for – spending less money on books, and reading more from my already fully stocked bookcase … but I did sure read some good books!
This year my Resolution is all about making bread.
That’s right! 2014 IS GOING TO BE MY YEAR OF THE BREAD. My goal is to finally get comfortable using yeast (oh how yeast has scared me away from recipes in the past), enjoy kneading the dough, and turn out a decent loaf.
So far … so good!
We’re three weeks into this New Year and I have been baking bread 2 to 3 times a week. The same recipe mostly – but I’m finding myself encouraged that:
(1) each and every single loaf has turned out
(2) yeast isn’t as scary as I always assumed, and
(3) I’ve been able to bake a loaf first thing in the morning and slather a piece of warm bread in butter.
Life is pretty grand when you make your own bread.
My confidence is really all thanks James Morton, runner-up of BBC’s 2012 The Great British Bake Off (ps. my favourite show … tied with MasterChef Australia – both worthy of being downloaded & obsessed over). James is actually a medical student at the University of Glasgow who loves to bake bread. He competed on The Great British Bake Off, won hearts of viewers and then published a book: Brilliant Bread.
If you are considering bread making at home – go out and get this book. Seriously. James is able to make bread accessible to the home baker. Nothing fancy. Nothing crazy. Just good bread. The book is basically divided into three parts.
1. No-knead bread.
2. Kneaded bread.
3. Fancy breads and things to impress.
I’m still enjoying section one. I’m not kneading … I’m allowing the yeast to work in its own time. Considering one of the things that has always scared me about bread making is the kneading aspect, this suits me just fine.
This recipe is the very first in his book. I haven’t changed a single thing. There’s no need to. I can tell you that the first 2 times I used all-purpose flour, and have since switched to bread flour (or as the Brits say – “strong flour”). I like the texture that I get out of bread flour, but honestly, this recipe works just fine with all-purpose flour.
Bakers note: The one thing I will recommend getting is a kitchen scale. I have done my best to convert the amounts for you – however, the scale is more accurate.
Join me in the mission of baking homemade bread. Your kitchen will smell brilliant; you’ll impress the pants off your friends and family (and yourself!); and honestly … there’s nothing better than a fresh loaf of bread!
Basic White Bread
500 g (3 cups less 3 tbsp) bread flour
10 g (1 ½ tsp) salt
7 g (1 packet or 1 ½ tsp) instant yeast
350 g (350 mL) tepid water
*tepid water = when you turn on the water to hot and cold, you shouldn’t be able to feel whether it’s hot or cold.
Grab a large glass bowl. Add your flour. Sprinkle the salt on one side of the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on the other side of the bowl. You don’t want the salt and yeast to touch right off … since the salt can kill the yeast (thank you James for that bit of information)!
Rub the salt and yeast into the flour (on their respective sides).
Add the tepid water. I used my hand to mix it into a ball of dough. You might freak out slightly, thinking there isn’t enough water. Don’t worry. Keep mixing the dough together. It’ll become a cohesive ball.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and allow it to sit for about 1 hour. You’ll notice that the yeast starts to work – the dough should increase in size, and appear airier. That’s good.
When ready, wet your hand slightly and use it to pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl and continue folding over the dough until it appears smooth and the air has been removed.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for another hour. To be honest, I sometimes let it sit longer – my goal is to get the best rise out of it as possible.
*baker notes: you can even place your bowl in the fridge and allow it to rise overnight between 10-12 hours – your bread will still bake beautifully!
Once your dough has risen, use your hand to scrape the dough onto a floured surface. This is the part where you do the most work: shape into a ball.
I’d explain the process of shaping into a ball… expect James’ book has such a wonderful visual. I’ve included it. All credit to Brilliant Bread and James Morton.
Once the dough is shaped, place it on your cookie sheet and set aside for another 40 to 60 minutes. It’ll double in size and spring back to the touch.
With 20 minutes remaining in the final prove; turn your oven to 410 F (210 C). You might think this is too high a heat. It’s not.
When you’re just about ready to plop that loaf into the oven, grab a serrated knife and score the top of your bread.
Place your tray on a low rack in your oven and bake for 40 minutes. This will create a beautiful golden crust that has a real crunch. It’s pretty spectacular.
You’ll know the bread is ready when you pull it out, turn it over, and knock on the base. If it sounds hallow (or if your dog barks at the sound because he thinks someone’s knocking at the door), then you know – your bread is done!
Allow the loaf to cool on a wire rack. If you cut into it right away you might think it’s a little doughy … so just be patient and allow it to cool slightly.
This recipe has NEVER failed me. It’s the kind of thing that is building my confidence in becoming a bread baker. I can’t wait to get tucked into the tea loaf recipe this weekend. But until then … I’m happy to slather a slice of this loaf with butter and honey. That combo is never a bad idea :0)