Before I moved to the country and got my housewife on, I was terrified of making bread from scratch.
The closest I got was a bread machine that churned out horrible, wet loaves and the science of home bread making seemed to me like… a science. Full of mystery and secret recipes that would go flop if I didn’t execute them perfectly. I read things about gluten strands and strong flours that intimidated me. Also, I thought it would take all day.
But I was wrong. Bread making is a piece of piss and everyone is disproportionately impressed when you tell them what they are chewing on is homemade. I sincerely encourage you to jump in.
The brilliant sneaky truth of bread making is - although it does take a few hours from start to finish, you don’t have to do anything for 99% of that time.
All you have to do is be at home, or even in the vicinity. You could pop down to the shops or out for lunch in the middle and no one would know.
For the work-from-homer I think bread making is pretty much the perfect daytime activity for maximum return out of minimum investment. It’s 15 minutes at the start and then 5 minutes every hour (which is a good incentive to get up from you desk and make some tea anyway) and you get ultimate domestic goddess kudos when everyone gets home, when in fact you have been reading blogs all day.
Are you ready? Let's begin.
Easy homemade bread
I know the recipe looks long. But trust me.
I got this recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion, an Australian kitchen bible. When I want to know about any new technique or ingredient I always ‘ask Stephanie’ first. I’ve made a few changes to make it simpler and more likely to involve things I have about the house. I think you could absolutely experiment with adding things and other types of flour though.
- 1kg plain flour (white or wholemeal)
(I’ve got the posh ‘strong’ flour from the IGA here but you can use whatever brand you like. I have and it still works fine)
- 1 tablespoon dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 600ml luke warm water
Now Stephanie knows her stuff but my advice is to be careful with the amount of water. Where I live it is pretty humid and this amount of water is too much and makes for rather sticky dough. I just don’t add it all at once.
Stage One (15 minutes)
A) Throw all the ingredients into your freestanding mixer with a dough hook attachment fitted.
(NB: You could do this by hand if you don’t have a free standing mixer but I can’t promise it will seem as effortless and I should tell you that this mixer is pretty much the most awesome appliance ever. Getting one has changed.my.life. Just look at all the extra attachments you can get for it. Crazyness.)
B) Mix dough (for about 10 minutes) Eat a biscuit or something while you wait.
C) The dough should now look like this. Flip it out on to a board.
My dough here is a little wet (as explained above) so I added a touch more flour on the board at this stage to stop it sticking. Give it a little knead if you feel like it.
D) Cut your dough ball into two pieces and pop each piece into a mixing bowl that you have rubbed with a little olive oil first
Put the bowls near the window (or wherever is warm in your kitchen) and throw over a couple of clean tea towels. Walk away for 1 hour.
Stage two (5 minutes)
E) Return to kitchen and admire how much your dough has risen. Punch dough with your fist.
F) Tip dough onto board and knead for a few minutes. (You can find lots of advice online about proper kneading technique but if you’ve ever played with play dough you’ve probably got the technique down)
G) Return both dough balls to their bowls by the window, cover with tea towel. Walk away for 1 hour
Stage three (5-10 minutes)
H) Punch the dough again. (very satisfying)
I) Sprinkle a handful of flour on one of the tea towels you were using to cover the bowls.
J) Make your dough bread shaped.
Stephanie says to make ‘two cigar shaped loaves’ at this point which is why we’ve been doing everything in two bowls but I was feeling creative the day I made these so I went with a plait and two vaguely baguette shaped sticks. Make a giant anatomically correct dough man if you like. Be free.
K) Turn your oven to 220 degrees celsius and pop a big baking tray in there to heat up. (I use a cookie sheet). Walk away for 30 minutes.
L) Roll loaves onto hot tray and cook for 20 minutes.
That’s it. When they are cooked they will be a nice light golden colour and sound a bit hollow when you tap them on the bottom and you are a domestic goddess with a kitchen that smells like heaven. Hurrah.