Following disastrous, inedible offerings produced in school cookery classes, I have always had a great aversion to baking bread and yeast mixtures. The whole process seemed time consuming, complicated and fraught with opportunities to fail….. until a certain TV Baking competition nurtured a spark of self belief and inspired me to buy a bag of flour and some yeast……
This recipe has been tweaked and adjusted and is now the one that works best for me and produces a basic loaf that is wonderful when first cooked, keeps quite well for another day and makes toast to die for! As for time consuming – I’ve worked around that issue after discovering that bread dough doesn’t necessarily need warmth to prove, in fact the flavour develops better if allowed to prove slowly overnight in the fridge. So, invest 15 mins before bedtime to mix up your dough, leave overnight in the fridge and then shape, prove and bake the next morning in time for lunch – enjoy!
700g strong white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt flakes, crushed
1 x 7g sachet easy bake yeast
1 level dessertspoon golden syrup
425ml skimmed milk
100g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed, sesame) – optional
- Melt the butter and golden syrup gently in a small saucepan, don’t allow to sizzle.
- Add the milk to the pan and heat until just lukewarm i.e. feels neither warm nor cold to your finger.
- In a large mixing bowl weigh out the flour (and seeds if you are using them) and add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other.
- Gradually add the liquid to the flour, salt and yeast and mix (either with your fingers or use the dough hook and minimum setting on your food mixer) until you have a nice, soft dough that is neither sticking to your fingers nor stiff and dry with crumbs still left around the bowl. Different flours will absorb varying amounts of liquid so adjust the quantity you use accordingly.
- EITHER turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead thoroughly by hand for at least 10 mins
- OR knead for about 4 mins using the dough hook and setting 1 on you food mixer.
- You are after a dough that is pliable, smooth and silky.
- Shape the dough into a ball and return to the bowl, cover with cling film and either leave in a warm place until doubled in size (approx 60-90 mins depending on the temperature) or leave in the fridge overnight.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead again by hand for about a minute to re-distribute the gas bubbles. Cut in half and shape each piece of dough however you wish (round, oval, plait, twist!) making sure that any folds in the dough are on the underside of the loaf and that the top of the loaf is nice and smooth.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment and position the loaves well spaced apart, slash the tops with a sharp knife a couple of times. Dust with flour, cover lightly with cling film and leave to prove at room temp for approx 1 hour until just doubled in size again.
- Prepare the oven by putting a roasting tin in the bottom and preheating to 200ᵒC fan oven, gas 7.
- Put the loaves on the baking sheet into the oven and pour a cup of cold water into the roasting tin to give a burst of steam. Bake for 15 mins then reduce the temp to 180ᵒC, gas 6 and bake for another 15 mins until golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped underneath.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack – if you prefer a softer crust to your loaves then cover with a clean tea towel.
Make a good traditional Dorset Lunch with thick slices of your warm bread with a big hunk of Cheddar cheese and a nice crisp apple or a couple of home pickled onions, washed down with a glass of cider!