Portion/Yield:Makes 2 loaves
Baking bread is nothing new to me. My aunt lives on a farm and bakes bread every day. As a child I loved visiting the farm and one of the very familiar aromas I remember was the freshly baked bread. I also believe that you are never too old to learn new skills or improve the skills that you already have. A few years ago, I went to Bath to participate in a one-day bread baking course at The Bertinet Kitchen. After watching a video clip on the internet of Richard Bertinet passionately demonstrating how bread should be baked, I thought that I could learn a thing or two from this master baker.
Yes, I was right, Richard is full of passion and the way he helped us to understand the dough was impressive. Well worth it if you are into baking bread.
Well, I have baked a lot of bricks in my life but Richard deserves a big thank you for passing his passion on and helping me to understand how to make a good quality dough.
One of my beliefs about food and cooking is that you should always use the best quality ingredients that you can afford. It’s no different when it comes to choosing the right flour for my bread. I like to use Shipton Mill organic strong white flour. I have also chosen to use fresh yeast; there is nothing wrong with using dried active yeast, but if you can, I recommend using fresh.
Ingredients & Method
- 750g strong white bread flour (I use Shipton Mill organic flour – see intro), plus extra for dusting
- 15g fresh yeast
- 10g sea salt
- 525ml tepid water (see Cook's Notes)
- sunflower oil, for greasing
Place the flour in a medium mixing bowl – I prefer to use a round-based metal bowl as it’s easy to manoeuvre. Add the yeast, then rub it into the flour using your fingertips, making sure it’s rubbed in completely. This should take about 3–4 minutes.
Add the salt and stir it in. Never let the salt get in direct contact with the yeast before it’s rubbed in as the salt will kill the yeast and your dough will not rise.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the water, then use a flexible plastic scraper to help you to work the water into the flour with long folding movements.
Once the water and flour are mixed to form a dough, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface (do not add any extra flour to the work surface).
Knead the dough for 7–8 minutes, using folding movements to work the dough – pulling the dough towards you and folding it over, repeating these movements as you knead. The dough will become smooth (use a flexible plastic scraper to scrape any bits of dough that get stuck to the table).
Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, then use your fingertips to spread the dough out, but be gentle and do not bash the dough as you have worked very hard to work air into it. Once the dough is spread into a rectangle, fold one short side over towards the middle, followed by the other short side. This reinforces the spine or backbone of the dough.
Cut the dough in half widthways. Place a portion of dough into each prepared loaf tin, then lightly cover with a clean dry tea towel. Leave to rise again (prove) in a warm place until doubled in size, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.
When the loaves are ready to go in the oven, use a sharp knife to make several incisions on the top of each one. Dust each loaf with flour and then bake the loaves in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until risen and golden brown with a lovely crunchy crust. To test if the loaves are cooked, turn each loaf out of the tin and tap the bottom – if it sounds hollow then the loaf is cooked.
Remove the loaves from the oven and leave them to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely (see Cook’s Notes).
Richard taught us that if you weigh the water instead of using a measuring jug you get a more accurate measure. Note – the quantity of water, either weighed or measured as a volume, is equal (i.e. 100g is equal to 100ml, so for this recipe 525ml = 525g).
This bread is best eaten on the day it is baked. Any leftovers will keep, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days. It also makes great toast. Alternatively, freeze for up to a month, then defrost overnight at room temperature before serving.