Baking bread is something I haven't done for a while, I used to do it lots as I couldn't buy the bread I liked, but the introduction of Artisan bread in Australia over the last few years has made me drop the habit. This morning however we had run out of bread and as today is a public holiday, getting decent fresh bread is not really possible, I decided to dust of my bread making skills and make us some.
I used a simple wholemeal recipe from Delia's How to Cook, Book One, Quick and easy wholemeal loaf, p. 82. If you've never made bread I recommend this recipe as it is easy and delicious.
Quick and easy wholemeal loaf
Makes 1 large or two small loaves
1 lb 4 oz (570g) 100% organically produced wholewheat flour, plus a little extra for the top of the bread (I used bread flour which has more gluten and provides a better structure)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried yeast
about 14 floz (400 ml) hand-hot water
You will also need a 2lb (900 g) loaf tin or two q lb (450 g) loaf tins, well buttered.
Begin by warming the flour slightly in the oven for about 10 mins, turn oven off for now.
Next, tip the warm flour into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt, sugar, yeast into it and mix together.
Make a well in the centre of your mixed flour and add the water. Mix this in with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough; the exact amount of water you need depends on the flour. Finish off by mixing with your hands until you have a smooth dough that leaves the bowl clean - there should be no bits of flour or dough remaining on the sides of the bowl and unlike pastry, its better to have too much water than too little. (NB: I use my Kenword dough mixing hook for this but hand mixing is just as good and more authentic).
Transfer your dough to a flat surface (your clean kitchen table is fine) stretch the dough into an oblong, then fold one edge into the centre and the other over that. Now fit the dough into the tin, pressing it firmly all round the edges, so that the top will be slightly rounded. Next, sprinkle the surface with a generous dusting of flour, then cover with a damp, clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 - 40 minutes or at room temperature for about an hour. If your making two loaves, divide the dough in half before following the steps above and folding it into two tins.
Meanwhile, pre-eat the oven to 200oC. When the dough is risen to the top of your tin/s, bake the bread for 40 minutes for the 2 lb or 30 mins for the two 1 lb loaves. When the bread is cooked, turn it out of its tin/s, turn it out on a cloth to protect your hands - it will sound hollow when wrapped underneath with your knuckles. Then return the bread, out of its tin/s, upside-down to the oven for a further5 - 10 minutes to crisp the base and sides.
Cool the bread on a wire rack, and never put it away or freeze it until its absolutely cold!