Apologies for the terrible pun (I’m not even that sorry), but one of the side effects of our bizarre current situation is that the nation is baking more than ever! (And I mean actual baking, not getting baked, although based on any given intake of breath when I leave my home, that’s also up at record highs – this pun unintended, but happy with). Cakes, biscuits, banana breads, you name it, we’re making it.
Pre-lockdown, the last time I ever baked anything was many moons ago, and the delicious cookies I thought I was making for work somehow ended up smelling like meat. Now I like meat, but I’m not always keen on the idea of my biscuits tasting of offal. Still, if you’re happy to take guidance from someone who was known as Meat Biscuits for a couple of months, then read on my friends, and we shall undertake this doughy adventure together.
By far and away the most popular item of baking, perhaps inspired by the blue eyed, mid-life-crisis-battling philanderer, Paul Hollywood, is our trusty old chum, bread: brown, wholegrain, seeded, sourdough, rolls, baguettes, wraps – I can’t do any of them. However, I did recently bake a white loaf which, even if I do say so myself, was edible. And if a moron like me can make a loaf, then it really must be very easy. So here goes, one white loaf recipe, followed, more ambitiously, by an olive loaf and a sourdough loaf.
Simple White Loaf
500g strong white flour
350ml tepid water
7g instant yeast
- Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt on one side and the yeast on the other, rubbing them into the flour (making sure they don’t mix at this stage).
- Add the tepid water and mix together until you have a nice sticky dough. Cover bowl (cling film/damp tea towel) and leave somewhere warm for 30-40 minutes. Maybe open a beer.
- Fold the dough in half, turn 90 degrees and fold again: repeat until smooth. Cover bowl again and leave for another hour – it should double in size. Maybe get some snacks with this beer.
- Put the dough on a heavily floured chopping board or baking tray and shape it with floured hands into a ball. Leave for a final hour in which it should double in size again (although mine didn’t, but didn’t seem to affect it). Maybe invite me over for this round, I’ll bring extra snacks.
- Score the bread and pop it into your oven, pre-heated at 210˚C for 40 mins or until golden brown. Maybe move onto a nice bottle of Merlot and some brie.
- Take out, marvel at your creation, and start mopping up the booze with your delicious, and still warm bread, hopefully soft in the middle with a gorgeous crust.
This simple recipe makes 8 small rolls, but you can amend the ingredients and timings to make one large loaf instead.
250g bread flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
150ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
A dozen olives (or more/less to taste)
2 sprigs of rosemary
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast together in a bowl.
- Chop up the olives and tear up the rosemary. Add them both to the mixture.
- Make a hollow in the mixture and add the water and olive oil. Mix with a fork until sticky.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface, stick it back in the bowl, cover, and leave somewhere warm for an hour.
- Tear the dough into 8 balls, grease with oil and put in a pre-heated oven at 210˚C. They should only take about 10 minutes, so keep an eye on them.
- Scoff with cream cheese and smoked salmon.
If you’ve got some time (and we all do at the moment) then why not try this hugely popular, more nutritious, and easier to digest alternative to conventional bread?
700g strong white flour
500g strong white flour
1 tsp fine salt
1 tbsp clear honey
300g sourdough starter
- Make your starter by mixing 100g of the flour with 125ml warm water. Whisk until smooth, then put in a large (1L) jar. Leave somewhere warm with the lid slightly open for an hour, then seal.
- 24 hours later, begin “feeding” the starter: pour away half the original starter, add an extra 100g of flour and 125ml of water and mix. Repeat every day. After 7 days, this should be bubbly, and smell sweet. Bingo – we’re on.
- Put all the imaginatively titled “Loaf Ingredients,” including your lovely starter, in a bowl with 250ml warm water, and stir with a wooden spoon, adding more four or water if it’s too sticky or dry.
- Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes (remember my great knead a recipe, joke? Ahh, good times…). You should be able to stretch it without it tearing.
- Throw the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave somewhere warm for 3 hours.
- Tip back out and knead again to get out any air bubbles.
- Form a ball out of the dough and dust with flower. Put it in a bowl that you’ve lined with a flour-covered tea towel, cover loosely with the oiled clingfilm, and leave until doubled in size (around 4-8 hours).
- Preheat your oven to 230˚C, with a baking tray inside. Create some steam by putting some water in a small roasting tin at the bottom of the oven. Once hot, remove the baking tray, cover in flour, and tip the dough into the middle.
- Score across the top for that extra professional look (after all this effort you’ve earned the bragging rights), then bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Call up all your friends and casually drop into conversation your achievement. “Oh yeah, sourdough’s definitely best when homemade. Do I make it? Funny you should say that…”
There are, of course, precisely 1.6 gazillion types of bread and bread recipes out there, these are just three simple beauties to whet your appetite. I hope you enjoy creating something delicious from scratch as much as I did – do send us any great successes (or failures) at our Instagram or Facebook accounts. And forgive me if I’ve been teaching you to suck eggs but, on the plus side, at least I’ve learnt how to make sourdough bread now! And as we know, sourdough’s definitely best when homemade…