Freshly Made Bread

I’ve been toying around with a bread recipe, adapted from Nigel Slater’s fantastically practical and very approachable book Appetite. I’d been faffing around with other bread recipes and a bread machine. I gave up on being lazy with the bread machine – sure, it’s easy, but it turns out bread that isn’t a great deal different from the stuff in the shops in the plastic bag. Baking my own bread seemed much more satisfying as the loaves that came out were beautifully crisp on the outside, and when still hot, soft and yielding on the inside. One of the joys in life is a simple home made soup with freshly baked bread spread lavishly with butter. I toyed with the original recipe, adding wholewheat flour and bran, and trying out various shapes and sizes, from buns…

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… to freeform loaves as per the original recipe, and finding that the freeform loaves tend to spread a lot. Plus the control freak in me doesn’t like how slices from the end and slices from the middle differ so freakin’ much that portion control is an issue. So I slapped it in a tin and it came out just as nice, only not quite as pretty.

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Here’s my tweaked recipe:

Ingredients:

600g bread flour
150g atta flour (wholewheat flour)
10g bran
1½ tsp salt
3 tsp yeast
500ml warm water

Method:

  1. Measure out the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. I use a jumbo-size metal mixing bowl about 60cm in diameter so I can knead and do everything directly in the bowl.
  2. Pour about 450ml of the warm water gradually into the dry ingredients and mix with one hand (this is to keep the other hand free in case you need to grab more flour or water). Work the water into the flour mixture to form a dough. Start kneading it by pushing it down firmly with the heel of your hand, turning and folding and continue to do so for about 10 minutes. It needs more flour if the dough won’t come off your hands, keeping kneading more flour in till it stops sticking. If it’s very hard to knead, you may need to add a few drops more of water till the dough is easier to work.
  3. Cover with a dish cloth and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Punch down the dough and knead again for 2 minutes.
  5. Flour a paper-lined tray and plonk your dough in whatever shape you want it to be. Remember that the dough rises and spreads significantly. One recipe makes 6 small buns and one loaf of bread in a 500g loaf pan. You can also do it free form but this requires either leaving the bread either rather flat and long or, as Nigel does it, tucking the bread in very gently to a high ball. I’ve only done it successfully half the time without making the whole thing collapse.
  6. Thickly flour the top of your bread and leave to rise till doubled again, about another hour.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 250°C and when the dough is risen, put in the oven. Bake at 250°C for 10 minutes, then turn down to 220°C for another 20 minutes or until the bread turns golden brown. Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack. If you’re using a loaf tin, it’s probably a good idea to take the loaf out of the tin when the time is up (30 minutes) and bake upside down for another 5 minutes to allow the insides to brown slightly.

Makes 1 loaf and 6 small buns or one large free form loaf.

I’ve also made some rather lovely sandwiches with the home made bread. It’s a delicious filling with some common things I tend to have in my fridge – chicken shreds, Chinese cabbage, mustard and yogurt. If I have homemade yogurt, I normally strain it in cheesecloth so it’s almost solid. Otherwise, I’d use Greek yogurt for similar thickness. This filling is a take on chicken coleslaw, so use carrot slivers if you can be bothered with the knife work, or onion if you like the flavours punchier, or mayonnaise if that’s what you have on hand. Leave out the meat altogether if you’re going vegetarian or add canned tuna. I happened to have some ham in the fridge, and it really upped things a notch. Let me know what combinations you like to use!

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Sandwich filling

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
2-3 handfuls of shredded Chinese cabbage (about 4 large leaves)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (or to taste)
3 tbsp strained yogurt or Greek yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  1. It can’t be easier – combine all ingredients and taste till you’re happy.
  2. When assembling the sandwiches, make sure you either spread the bread generously with butter or use a lettuce leaf (dried with paper towel) to separate the bread from the filling. Otherwise, the sandwiches will get soggy if you’re not eating them straight away. Another good reason to use thick, strained yogurt.

Fills 4 generous sandwiches.

 

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