Home made bread was a big part of my childhood. It was a real treat to have a slice that was buttered while it was still warm from the oven.
After much nerding out and research, this recipe has been updated. I love home made bread, but it often has that sitting in the bottom of your stomach like a lead weight quality. This solves the problem and gives you a really light loaf. The trick is to replace one cup of flour with self raising flour and to do a really quick first rise and a long second one when it’s shaped to go in the oven (it’s normally the other way round).
Makes one large loaf or two small ones
350g strong white flour
150g self raising flour
500g seeded bread flour
10g quick acting yeast
300ml beer and 300ml water – together they need to be hand hot, so I add water from the hot tap at its hottest. Or use 600ml of hand hot water.
1 tablespoon melted butter
If you’re lucky enough to have a Kenwood mixer (thanks Tony’s mum) then weigh all the ingredients into it, mix with the dough hook and then knead for ten minutes. Otherwise mix into a dough, tip out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes or so.
When all the flour’s incorporated and before you start your ten minute knead, have a look at the dough. It will be very wet. Do not panic.
Leave it in the bowl in a warm place for just half an hour. Then knock it back to push out the air and pop it in a loaf tin. I like my rolls kind of craggy so I just tear off small pieces. In theory, for loaves, round or tin, it’s best to fold the ends underneath so you create a kind of platform for the bread. That works with a dryer dough, but for this I just sort of pour it in.
Get the bread in its shape and in its tin and then leave it to rise again. This is the long rise – maybe an hour, maybe an hour and a half, till it’s doubled in size and is springy. By my warm Aga it just takes half an hour, so keep checking it. Push your finger in and – counter intuitively to me – the dent will remain if it’s ready to bake. You can adjust your rise time by leaving somewhere cooler for a slower rise or warmer for a quicker rise, depending on how much time you’ve got. I think a slow rise is generally better – tastier and supposedly gentler on the stomach. Keep looking and keep pushing a finger in.
Anyway, after its second rise you need to prepare it for the oven. Slash the top, sprinkle with seeds, wash with egg or milk or dust with flour. I brush mine with milk and sprinkle seeds on top.
Then it goes into a hot oven. Put a dish of boiling water from the kettle on the bottom of the oven first – that gives your bread a good crust. If you’ve got a conventional oven, give the loaf a blast in a hot oven first (the hottest you can get it for 10 minutes – gas mark 9 or 240) then turn it down to 170 degrees (gas mark 3) for another 30 minutes.
In an Aga, which seems better suited to bread making, just pop it in two rungs up from the bottom of the roasting oven (that’s about 200 degrees, I think). Total time: 10-20 minutes for rolls, 30-40 minutes for a small loaf, 40-50 for a large loaf. In my Aga this quantity of dough takes 30-35 minutes, but Agas are not neccessarily representative I don’t think. In the gas oven it’s the 10 minute blast then 30 minutes at the lower temperature.
Pre-Bert I used to make this bread all the time. This is maybe the second time I’ve made it since he was born. I suppose the length of the recipe tells you why, but remembering my fresh bread filled childhood has inspired me to start again.