I got the bread bug back in the spring. For weeks I lovingly made my dough, kneaded it, let it rise, knocked it back, let it rise again, shaped it, baked it and devoured it. But then, as quickly as I’d got into the habit, I fell out of it again. The usual story – busy at work, busy at home, and frankly it was all taking a bit too LONG.
Fast forward to the autumn and I wanted to try again. I wanted to know what was actually in my toast at breakfast time (no preservatives or E-numbers, thanks very much), I wanted to experience that feeling you get when you turn flour, yeast and water into a lovely springy dough by hand, that calm that descends as you knead, that feeling that you are partaking in something that humans have done for centuries; ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ I wanted that therapeutic bread-making experience (man).
But I also needed to keep it real. I work. I have a family. I have a lot of boxsets to watch and blogs to read. I needed the simplest bread recipe IN THE WORLD. I consulted my cookbooks and found lots of differing opinions, lots of chat about precise water temperatures and thermometers, lots of mentions of spelt flour. I just wanted something easy that worked.
And where, dear reader, did I end up finding this recipe? ON THE YEAST PACKET. Of all places. Yup, the good old Allinson’s 6 x 7g Yeast Sachet packet has the winning bread recipe. It works Every Time. It is very easy. The bread tastes great. I like it. I am sharing it here. Try it. You will thank me. Your other half will thank me. Your offspring will thank me.
In return, I thank you for reading and sharing 🙂
Allinson’s Easy Bake Bread Recipe for Hand Baking (the name says it all, really)
650g (1lb 7oz) Allinson Strong White Bread Flour (or other SWBF)
10g (2tsp) salt
5g (1tsp) sugar
15g (½ oz) soft butter or 15ml vegetable oil
7g sachet of Allinson Easy Bake Yeast
400ml (14floz) warm water (1 part boiling, 2 parts cold)
What to do:
- In a bowl mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Rub in the butter, or stir in the vegetable oil.
- Add warm water and mix to form a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface or until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Shape as desired and place into loaf tins* or onto warm greased baking sheets.
- Preheat oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 (or do this in about half an hour)
- Cover dough with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for around 45 minutes, or until double in size. (At this stage you can brush top of your loaf with milk and sprinkle seeds on top – pumpkin and poppy work well, I find.)
- Place in the centre of your preheated oven and bake for around 30 minutes (around 15 minutes for rolls). When ready, the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire tray.
For wholemeal bread, follow the recipe above, using Allinson Wholemeal Bread Flour and add an additional 50ml (2floz) warm water.
*My top tip here is to pre-warm your loaf tins if you can; it seems to make a difference – just put in a v. low oven to warm through.
This post was not sponsored, not anything, just hopefully helpful!
So after the success of my first white loaf, I decided to turn my hand to granary bread, having discovered Wessex Mill Six Seed Bread Flour in my mum-in-law’s local health food shop – where I also found poppy seeds and fresh yeast (I was very excited). I loved the sound of this flour, which contains linseeds, millet seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, plus it won three stars and a Great Taste Gold award in 2012. Yes, please.
Fresh yeast seems to make the dough rise even better, and Loaf 2 was more successful than Loaf 1. Once again, the Aga came into its own. Following the success of Loaf 2, I made Loaf 3 on Friday – without an Aga, back in London – and not only did it work, but I found it really easy to fit around my day – I made the dough after school pick-up and let it rise for a couple of hours, then kneaded for a couple of minutes and let it prove for another half an hour or so while the littles were in the bath, and then baked it when it suited me. Having originally been put off by the idea of making bread because it felt as though it would be a hassle, it actually feels as though I can fit bread-making into everyday life. Rising and proving times seem to be pretty flexible, which when you’ve got two small and unpredictable children in your care, is a Good Thing.
In term of eating the stuff, the Wessex Mill flour makes a fantastic loaf with a lovely springy texture and a great taste, and I am really happy with my Mermaid 2lb loaf tin. I like knowing exactly what is in our bread, and I highly recommend trying it. This granary loaf is lovely eaten freshly sliced, also toasted with butter or for sandwiches. The added bonus is the lovely smell of fresh bread baking in the oven wafting through the house.
So, the only challenge remaining is to not bore my entire family to tears as I endlessly discuss a) making bread b) the bread I made and c) what I’m going to make next.
(Cue Mutley laugh.)
So, here’s the recipe that has worked every time. It’s from The Aga Book by baking doyenne Mary Berry. The book is, as far as I can tell, out of print. I like this recipe as it’s worked three times in a row, plus it doesn’t really require much effort. Which we like.
White, Brown or Granary Bread
Recipe by Mary Berry with notes by The One-Handed Cook in italics
Makes 2 x 1lb (450g) or 1 x 2lb (900g) loaf
1½lb (675g) strong white, granary or wholemeal flour (plus extra for flouring work surface and hands)
2 tsp salt
¾oz (20g) butter
¾oz (20g) fresh yeast
¾ pint (450ml) water, hand hot
Grease the loaf tins or tin. Measure the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre, crumble in the yeast and then pour in the water. Mix by hand and knead into a ball in the bowl. Turn out onto a clean dry surface and knead for about 4 minutes (brown bread will not require as long). Return the dough to the bowl, cover with loosely oiled clingfilm, or an oiled polythene bag, and leave to rise near the Aga – or any warm place – for 1–1½ hours until double in size.
Put the greased tins near the Aga to warm (without an Aga, just basically find somewhere warm – I put my tin in the top oven to warm, as it retained residual heat from the bottom oven in which I was cooking the kids’ supper at the time), knock back the dough and knead again for 2–3 minutes then divide in half if making two loaves. Slightly flatten the ball of dough with the heel of your hand and fold in two opposite sides, slightly overlapping, roll up like a Swiss Roll. With the fold underneath, put in the loaf tin, or tins, cover with oiled clingfilm (I reuse the bit from last time) and leave to prove for about 30 minutes. Remove clingfilm. Brush the top with whisked egg yolk, and sprinkle with poppyseeds, or sunflower seeds, or whatever you fancy.
If you have an Aga, put in the Roasting Tin with the grid shelf on the floor of the oven and bake for 20–30 minutes for two tins, 35–40 mins for a 2lb loaf until evenly browned and when the loaf is turned out a hollow noise is made when the loaf is knocked on the base. Not sure if my mum-in-law’s Aga was turned up high, but my 2lb loaf cooked in 20 minutes.
At home, I put the fan oven on to 200°C (which would be 220°C in a normal oven) and baked my 2lb loaf for 35 mins (checked it after 30) and it came out perfect.
Try making bread; it’s not as hard as you might think!
Ah, bread. Sourdough. Bloomers. Multiseed. Soda bread. It seems the whole country has gone a bit bread crazy, what with Paul Hollywood’s book racing up the charts and his TV show getting umpteen million viewers every week. It seems we want to know how to get back to basics, how to make focaccia, knead our own dough and fill the air with the wonderful smell of fresh homemade bread baking in the oven.
Not me. Oh, no. I have never been into bread. Sure, I remember making it as a child once or twice, but as a grown-up (sorry, habit) adult, while I have embraced making many different things – cakes of all shapes and sizes, homemade pasta, casseroles, curries, quiches; you name it – bread has never been my thing. Until now.
I received an email a couple of weeks ago from the lovely folks at Mermaid bakeware asking me if I’d like to try their anodized aluminium bakeware in honour of National Bread Week which runs from 16-22 April. I paused, I deliberated … perhaps my reluctance to bake was because I didn’t have a tin? Perhaps with a 2lb loaf tin in my hands I would be inspired? This was my chance! The 2lb/900g loaf tin duly arrived. It is quite a beast. Solid. So solid, it feels as though nothing could ever dent it or scratch it. I liked it from the minute I saw it. A trustworthy tin.
And so, I thought I’d better seek out a recipe. I turned to Jo Wheatley’s trusty cookbook, A Passion for Baking, and in it found a recipe for a Basic White Loaf. Well, you can’t go wrong with a basic white loaf as a starting point, I thought. Miraculously, I even had some Dove’s strong white flour in the cupboard. Perhaps it was meant to be. I should point out that we were going to the in-laws for a long weekend, so I took my loaf tin, my cookbook and my bag of flour with me. My mother-in-law has an Aga – the perfect environment for bread-making – a lovely warm place to let the dough rise and prove. Plus she’s got a Kenwood mixer. She was slightly non-plussed when, on arrival, I announced, ‘I need to make bread’, but she’s coped with a lot more weird stuff over the years, let me tell you.
So, I set to work. I followed Jo’s recipe to a tee (page 163 of her book, if you’re interested), using dried yeast and the Kenwood dough hook to do the 7 minutes’ kneading required (one-handed I hasten to add). An Aga really is an asset when making bread, I have to say. The dough rose beautifully in the bowl, and I was able to leave the tin to warm up before popping in the dough in and, after proving, into the roasting oven (top right). It only took 20 mins to bake, and it was beautiful.
I was so proud of myself. I’d made a loaf of bread! And I’d really enjoyed it! I don’t know what I had feared all those years. The loaf itself looked nice – Jo suggests brushing the loaf with beaten egg yolk before baking, which gives it a nice sheen. I do think it could rise a bit more, and will experiment next time. But in terms of flavour – wow! I actually wasn’t expecting much, but it tasted really good. As my father-in-law observed, ‘It’s got a proper flavour. It tastes like bread used to taste,’ plus both children really liked it, just plain with a bit of butter. Clearly I’d risen to the occasion (sorry – couldn’t resist a pun). It really did taste great, I have to say. Plus, I knew what was in it. No E numbers, no weird preservatives, no crap. Yes, it takes time to make, but once I know what I’m doing, I reckon I’ll be able to fit bread-making in at the weekend around other activities – and it’s actually relaxing and enjoyable.
Bread-making is clearly addictive, as no sooner had I mastered the Basic White Loaf than I was flicking through Aga cookbooks looking for more recipes. Stay tuned to hear about my Six Seed Granary Loaf, made the very next day. I only wish I could have brought the Aga back to London!
If you’re interested in making the switch to eating real bread check out the Campaign for Real Bread website here.