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A simple loaf

October 1, 2010
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This is England, Indian summers are rare and short lived. The nights are starting to draw in, it rains, its cold, this week the insipid English autumn truly arrived; that wonderful hint of an Indian summer is gone. To think that only a week ago I was paddling in the sea, where the water was warm and the sun was shining, where surfers were taking to the waves (ok, I know surfers are hardcore and don’t lend a thought to seasonality or temperature). In Cornwall I baked and baked, that kitchen lends itself to being cooked in. The worksurfaces are the right height, there’s an ever-so useful marble table, the kitchen is bright and light and mostly importantly there is an Aga. An electric Aga, which I turned into a sauna by turning off the fan and placing a roasting tin full of water onto the bottom of the oven. A sauna for making bread.

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My mum gave me Piri-Piri Starfish, a Tessa Kiros cookbook, for my birthday, then promptly sat down with it to mark all the recipes she wanted to make. One of those was a cabbage, potato and chorizo soup, which I’m sure has a proper Portugese name. We found some stunningly dark green, unusual variety of cabbage in the local farm shop, but out of season they only have fresh bread on certain days of the week, the day my mum wanted to make soup wasn’t one of them.

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My bread making tends to be a little hit and miss and while its been more hit than miss recently, I didn’t want to take the risk of my usual method, chucking flour and yeast into the bowl and hoping for the best. I wanted a simple a straight forward bread recipe I could use, to ensure my quantities were right; I did what I never do and turned to the back of the packet of bread flour. I think this is one of the best loaves of bread I’ve ever made, my Dad complained that you could taste the honey I’d put in, I was a little over generous with it but then again my father is exceedingly difficult to please.

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Bread

Based off the recipe on the back of a packet of Hovis Bread Flour

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450g Strong white bread flour

50g wholemeal plain flour

2 tbsp olive oil

1 sachet fast action yeast (7g)

300 ml warm water

2 tsp honey

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Try to start with all ingredients lukewarm.

Place a tray of water in an oven, at ~ 200˚C

Mix together the flour, yeast and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the water and honey.

Use your hands or the back of a knife to slowly bring the dough together, turn out the dough.

Knead the dough on an UN-floured surface, for at least 10 minutes until it become soft and elastic, it may be a little sticky at first, but just keep kneading.

Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, covered with a damp tea-towel, or until doubled in size (in a cold house it will take much longer, in a warm house less time).

Knock back the dough, shape into a round, cover and leave again, for 15 -30 minutes.

Place dough on a preheated tray and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped.

Leave to cool before slicing.

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