I will start with this basic white loaf. I make it all the time. There are just so many uses for it from the obvious in the form of toast and sandwiches, to crisp olive oil drizzled bread with aioli, or a crusty loaf alongside a bouillbase or a hearty casserole.
I must admit that here, while I did knead it by hand in part for the sake of photographic instruction, I do not usually knead. There is something enormously theraputic about doing so, and one day, as I once did, I’m sure I will again. But right now my life is busy and while time out for kneading would be a good thing, that time out for me is spent walking dogs, ironing, or whatever other exciting duties have befallen me in recent years.
I make two loaves at once, because one will go into the freezer and by using my magical kitchen aid mixer, it will happily knead enough dough to make two at once, as can you, just with a little more effort for those muscles. So I will give you a recipe for one loaf, and by all means do as I do and double it.
500g strong white bread flour 1tsp salt (inedible without it)
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
250ml tepid water
1tbsp olive oil
The water measurement is approximate as how much you need to add is dependent upon the conditions in the kitchen.
1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Add the olive oil then the water gradually, stirring it with a knife to combine.
3. Tip the bread onto a clean surface. It is useful if the height of this surface is worktop height because otherwise this can be back-breaking work.
4. Now knead away for 10 minutes or until it is springy and smooth. We all have our own technique but pull and push and stretch and don’t be too soft with it. You may find that swaying your hips from side to side while kneading will help you achieve a comfortable motion and even make you feel as if you are vaguely exercising!
5. Now place the dough back in the mixing bowl with a tea towel on top of it for two hours in a warm place in the kitchen until it has doubled in size. (photo will be added) 6. Knock it back, i.e. punch the air out of it and shape it into whatever shape you want, or put it in a loaf tin and leave it to rise for an hour, sprinkled with flour if you like (I like the rustic look this gives to the finished loaf).
7. When it has reached a decent size, bake it at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. I have a two door aga and bake mine in the top oven. It is hotter than this so with two loaves in the oven the top one on the shelf comes out rather dark (pictured above) and the other on the bottom comes out lighter (pictured below). Both are good, just different. The lighter is better for toasting and the darker for casseroles, sandwiches, anything that calls for fresh bread.