I use my Mum’s foolproof recipe, she’s been using it for more years than I’ve been alive, and it was probably the one that her mother used before her! She tells me that when she was growing up the housewives would make the bread dough in the morning and then send the kids off with the loaves in tins to the bakehouse for the baker to cook their bread after he’d cooked the shop bread. Life is considerably easier today than in those days though!
The recipe I use couldn’t be easier :
· 1½ lbs strong plain flour (breadmaking flour)
· 1 good tsp salt mixed in with the flour
· 1oz fresh yeast (I get it from the bakery in my local supermarket)
· 1tsp sugar
· Appx ¾ to 1 pint of blood-temperature water, which is to say water that is neither cold nor hot, you should be able to hold your finger in it without feeling cold or hot.
Mix the flour and sugar together and make a well in the mixing bowl.
Put the yeast and sugar together in a small mixing bowl and cream by pushing the sugar and yeast together until the yeast liquefies. Add to the flour bowl and rinse the bowl out with the water.
I can only give an approximate amount of liquid as it depends on the make of flour you are using, and even different batches of flour will absorb different amounts of liquid. You are looking for a dough consistency that is neither too dry nor too wet so either add more liquid, or more flour, until you get the desired consistency.
I mix mine in my KitchenAid with the dough hook for around 10 minutes before turning out onto the worktop and kneeding by hand for about 5 minutes more. I find this very relaxing, almost zen-like!
Pop the dough into a large bowl, cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. The time this takes can vary considerably. In the summer months it was taking less than an hour; this morning it was closer to two hours! I use three tea-towels and a small hand-towel to cover the dough.
When it has doubled in size turn back out onto your worktop and knock it back, i.e. kneed it some more. I cut the dough into three similar sized pieces and kneed them separately, popping each batch into a loaf tin after kneeding. Cover again with your tea-towel and leave until the dough has doubled in size again.
Pre-heat your oven to 200o and bake the loaves for appx 35 minutes. When you turn the loaves out of the tins tap the bottoms, they will sound hollow when they are cooked.
They freeze beautifully so I always pop two in the freezer.