My office is full of interesting people, one of them, who shall remain nameless is the food police. He (and it seems that it’s always a he) lost a lot of weight some years ago and now exercises strict discipline over his food intake during the week.
Which clearly works for him because honestly grown ups should eat the way they want to, but I do find his find his comments on other people’s food choices and his assumption that he makes better food choices pretty damn annoying because ‘better’ is subjective and ‘better’ depends an awful lot on time and ability and budget.
Given how much or maybe because of how much I talk a lot about the food I eat on this blog, I don’t talk much about it in my actual life, so last week when my colleague was bragging that the only bread he eats is the bread he makes himself because cooking from scratch is better for you, I was amused, because that is more or less my mantra. I don’t often buy bread, because making bread at home is easy and in fact one of the earliest recipes I posted was for a basic loaf of bread. I’ve made and blogged about bread rolls, pizza dough, sourdough and potato bread. It’s not a big deal, it’s just what you do, so when I made marmalade last week, I knew that I needed to make some bread for toast for Sunday breakfast, and this white loaf is the one I turned too. Partly because it was the only type of bread I could make because I haven’t replaced the wholemeal or rye flour that was thrown out in the post mouse purge (fortunately for me there was a packet of strong white flour in a cupboard untouched by the rodents) and also because it’s easy and it’s never failed me yet!
It’s an uncomplicated white loaf, it toasts well, is good for sandwiches and will keep for a week, it’s not going to win any awards for beauty or innovation but it’s a good recipe to have in your arsenal because it’s so much better than a sliced load but probably assuming you have the ingredients as standard in the cupboard cheaper (sliced bread is pretty cheap and that it a bold claim but I’m making it anyway, given that Lidl sells strong white flour for 89p). It also freezes well and I often just cut it in half and lob half of it in the freezer for next week. It’s also good in bread pudding.
Before we start we need to talk about yeast. I buy the 125g tin of Dried Active Yeast because it’s more cost effective than buying the sachets or the 100g tin of the Easy Bake Yeast. Anyway the point is that this yeast needs to be reactivated in water and shouldn’t be used in bread machines (as I don’t have one, it’s not a concern for me). If you have the Easy Bake Yeast, use a sachet or weight it out but you won’t need to reactivate it first so just add it to the flour and cut out the first step. (I’ve never done it that way so I can’t tell you if it works but commercial yeast is pretty reliable so it should). I don’t use additional flour when I’m kneading dough and I knead much less than most recipes recommend. When I read The Handmade Loaf I realised I didn’t have to and it changed my life, instead, I oil my hands and the surface I’m kneading on.
7g dried active yeast
300ml warm water
500g strong white flour
1tsp fine sea salt
3 tbsps oil plus more for kneading
- Put the yeast into the warm water, give it a thorough stir and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.
- Weight out the flour and salt and mix together in a large bowl.
- Add the oil to the yeast and water mixture and then pour into the flour
- Mix together until you have a shaggy dough
- Turn out onto a oiled board and knead until smooth about 3 to 5 minutes, you may re-oil your board or hands as you go.
- Rinse out the bowl if you need to and oil it.
- Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave it alone for at least an hour until it’s doubled in size. You could put it in the fridge overnight at this point and finish it in the morning for really fresh bread.
- Take the dough and gently knock it back. Form a rectangle with the dough, fold into thirds and place in a loaf tin.
- Leave the dough for another hour or so until it’s risen above the edge of the loaf tin
- Bake at 180C for 25 t0 35 minutes, it should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
- Leave in the tin for 5 to 10 minutes and then turn out and allow to cool.