I can't believe it's nearly August. Where have the last seven months gone? Occasionally I think 2011 is shaping up to be quite the annus horriblis, but then I try to remind myself of the good things that have happened so far.
My breadmaking resolution has stayed the course, bar a few loaves bought in extenuating circumstances. I even made some the morning after my dad died, finding comfort in the familiar rhythm of kneading. I haven't been particularly adventurous and I still haven't got a sourdough starter on the go, but for the most part, breadmaking is a much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. Perhaps I need to upgrade the resolution to posting a new loaf every week...
Daily Bread 3.0
This is our new daily loaf. Occasionally I feel guilty about eating white bread, but then I remember there are so many other things to feel guilty about that this is surely well down the list.
The recipe below is for one loaf, but I usually double it and freeze one. It's great for sandwiches and makes wonderful toast (or toasted sandwiches). Or you can blitz the crusts and any stale ends into posh breadcrumbs. Don't be put off by the long list of instructions, it's really very easy.
300ml tepid water
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
3 Tbsp olive oil
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pour the water into a large mixing bowl (or the mixing bowl of your freestanding mixer, if you have one). Add the yeast and stir briefly. Leave for a few minutes while you're getting the other ingredients ready. Add the olive oil, half the flour and the salt. Mix roughly with a wooden spoon, then add the remaining flour. Use your hands, the wooden spoon or the dough hook on your mixer and mix/knead until you have a smooth, satiny dough that springs back when you punch it (5-10 minutes by hand, 3-5 minutes by machine). Grease the bowl with a little olive oil and return the dough to it, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm place for around an hour, until doubled. You can also put the dough in the fridge at this point and leave to rise slowly.
When the dough has doubled, take out and knock it back - that is, give it a punch or two and knead until it deflates (don't be too harsh). Form it into a ball, stretching the dough around itself so it's taut. Dust a piece of baking paper with flour and put this ball on top. Leave to rise until doubled - about another hour.
About 20 minutes before that hour is up, preheat the oven to 220. When the oven has reached the right temperature, slide a baking sheet in and let heat for five minutes. Then take it out of the oven and slide the baking paper and bread on top. Slash the loaf decisively in four or five places - I use a serrated bread knife - then dust it with flour. Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool on a rack.