AN IDIOT’S GUIDE TO BAKING BREAD

Hands up if you bake your own bread? Of course you don’t, because most people have jobs, friends and rent to pay so don’t really have half a day to stay in and “feed” your yeasty, stinking sourdough starter.  This was pretty much always my attitude to long-winded, laborious cooking processes. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but I love eating too and can’t really be arsed to wait more than 30 minutes for any form of pleasure (easy tiger).

However, over the last couple of months, my approach to baking my own bread has matured from “can’t be bothered”, to “can sometimes be bothered”. How’s that for personal growth? This is mostly due to an awesome cookery course that enabled me to bake actual edible, non-stuck-to-the-tin, bread.  Professional chefs guided me through carefully using both demonstrations and hands-on practice. The best part? You get to take him shed loads of bread and impress people by saying; “oh that? I just baked it myself…” I hate to sound like a yummy mummy, but it’s true what they say – you really do notice a huge difference in quality when it’s baked by your own fair hands (see below for my first attempt at Sourdough…).

Not only that, but home-baked bread actually only requires three, extremely cheap ingredients and once you know how, it’s actually not totally taxing. It’s worth saying that indeed, sometimes a loaf of Warburton’s (the orange one, obvs), is the only guy for the job – for bacon butties, for example. Although if you can spare an hour or two, and don’t mind sticky, flour hands, I would highly recommend rustling up a loaf yourself. Oh, and a flat scented with the aroma of freshly baked bread is great for covering up the smell of your boyfriend’s farts. Trust me.

 

Here’s how we did it

Makes one small wholemeal loaf (you can substitute flour for a flavour of your choice i.e white, spelt, rye).

INGREDIENTS

700g Wholemeal flour

1 tsp Fine sea salt

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

1 x 7g sachet fast-acting dried yeast

WHAT TO DO

  1. First thing’s first, you gotta get that yeast going. Add the sachet to a bowl of 500ml of tepid water and stir.
  2. Add half the flour and mix with a wooden spoon (or any big spoon, actually), until you reach a rich, thick cream-like consistency.
  3. Stir in the salt, oil and most of the rest of the flour (reserve a very small amount for dusting).
  4. Once the mixture starts to come together, tip out onto a floured service and knead until you have a soft, elastic dough. This should take around 10 minutes of using the palm of your hand to push the dough away from you, before bringing it back.
  5. It’s important that you pick a top and a bottom for your loaf and stick to it. This will help the loaf to keep its shape whilst it rises.
  6. Lightly oil a loaf tin, shape the dough to fit the tin, remembering to stick to your top and bottom. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for at least one hour. *
  7. When the loaf is risen, preheat the oven to 220°c and bake for 35-40 minutes. To check, tap on the bottom of the loaf – it should sound hollow.**

*Top Tip 1: If it’s a particularly chilly day, turn the oven on for five minutes, then turn it off and tuck your loaf up in there. MAKE SURE THE OVEN IS OFF (it’s an easy mistake to make…)

**Top Tip 2: Every oven is different so keep an eye on your loaf as it cooks to avoid a lump of burnt bread.

See – pretty simple. If you fancy a go at something more advance, like Sourdough or Rye for instance, you may need to begin prepping a day in advance. Alternatively, do what I did and let the Waitrose Cookery School handle the pre-prepared ‘ferment’, whilst you crack on with kneading, eating and having a Ryet old laugh…

Waitrose cookery school have branches across London and Sailsbury with prices between £25 and £150 per person, depending on the course. NPB went for the “Knead For More” bread course, which makes a perfect birthday present for budding bakers, btw.

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