Basic bread

Basic bread

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery
Makes
2

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
30g compressed yeast
or 2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
500ml lukewarm water, (or warm for dry yeast)
60g butter or margarine, melted
670g strong white flour
or 670g half strong white flour and half wholemeal flour, (for wholemeal bread)

Method

  1. Sift flour and salt into a large warmed bowl, then take out 65 g and sift it onto a work surface. Mix yeast with 60 ml water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve. Run your fingers through flour in large bowl and make a well in centre. Pour yeast mixture into well and add butter or margarine (which should be warm, not hot) and 375 ml water. Mix flour and liquid ingredients with the fingers, then beat with your hand, adding a little more water if necessary to make a firm dough. With your hand, fold and slap dough against sides of bowl until it begins to feel elastic and leaves the sides.
  2. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the floured work surface and knead by folding the far edge towards you, then pushing it firmly away with the heel of the hand. Turn dough a little and repeat. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when you make a dent with your finger. Place dough in a clean, warm, oiled bowl, turn it so that it is lightly oiled all over, and cover with oiled plastic wrap and a cloth. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or in a cool place for longer). Test by pushing a finger into the dough. If the indentation remains, it is ready. Knock back dough by punching with your fist several times, squeezing out any large bubbles. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times.
  3. For tin loaves, divide dough equally and pat each piece into a round, then fold sides under to form a neat oblong. Press together to seal and place in lightly oiled 12 × 23 cm bread tins. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and a cloth and leave in a warm place until risen to the tops of the tins. The dough may also be formed into any shape such as plaits, twists, cottage rounds or crescents and baked on a greased baking tray. Bake in a preheated very hot oven for 15 minutes, then turn tins round, reduce heat to moderate and bake for a further 20–25 minutes. If you want a crisp crust all over, take bread out of tins and bake directly on oven bars for last 10 minutes. Bread is cooked if it sounds hollow when underside is knocked with the knuckles. If not, return to the oven for more baking. Turn bread out of tins as soon as it comes from oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Variations

  • Vienna twist: Break off about one-fifth of the dough and set aside. Pat remaining dough into a rectangle and roll it up towards you from a long side, tapering dough toward ends with your hands to make a long shape with pointed ends. Squeeze edges together to seal and place, seam side down, on a greased baking tray. Divide spare piece of dough in half, roll each piece into a long rope between your hands, twist ropes together and lay on top of loaf, pressing ends to seal. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Bake as for tin loaves.

    Bread rolls: Pat dough out into a rectangle, cut into 24 equal parts and shape each into a thick round. Turn under all round to make balls, pressing edges together underneath to seal. Place on greased baking trays, cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk. Bake in a preheated hot oven for about 25 minutes, turning trays round halfway through baking time.

    Toppings: These may be varied. For a crisp crust, brush dough with cold water and repeat several times during baking. For a golden shiny crust, brush with a little beaten egg; for a cottage loaf, dust the bread lightly with flour and for a rich crust, brush with melted butter. Coarse salt, poppy, sesame or caraway seeds, or coarse wheat can be sprinkled over the bread before baking for an attractive loaf with good flavour.
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