It’s suddenly freezing cold, the kind of cold that penguins say is ‘a bit much for May‘. The rain is thundering down outside, bouncing off the cobbles as though they were trampolines. It’s clearly time to change the plan – this is not a day for making ice lollies.
That’s just how it was on Saturday – something more akin to a miserable day at the end of November, not something you want in the middle of May. Oh sure, I could have easily continued with my ice lolly-dominated plot, however, the prospect of going shopping for moulds in the rain didn’t exactly sound like my kind of fun. I was on my second set of clothes for the day at 11am – my trip to the post office to pick up a package having firmly established that an umbrella is useless when the rain is bouncing back up to the sky.
The child within me – the one that shows up every now and then (/every day) – doesn’t like being cooped up indoors and even by two in the afternoon my levels of restless energy were building up (doubtlessly buoyed up by a couple of cups of coffee and that bar of chocolate that magically vanished) and the risk of bouncing about and breaking something was increasing almost exponentially with each passing minute. Clearly I needed to do something.
There’s only so much Mariokart I can really play and I’d already caught up on the two episodes of Mad Men that I’d missed, so my thoughts turned towards the kitchen. Even in my restless, sugar-fueled state I realised that something with even more sugar in it was probably going to end badly, so I decided that it was time to conquer my all-time greatest baking fear. It was time to make bread.
Baking with yeast has always held some hidden fear for me, and even after successfully making Swedish cinnamon buns back at the end of last year I was still a little too scared to make bread.
As well as being a massive wimp I’m also easily tempted by a challenge (as if you were under any illusion that I am still a complete child), so when I saw that this month’s Random Recipe Challenge (hosted over on Belleau Kitchen) was bread I knew that I could resist no more. I’ve been meaning to enter this blogging challenge for a few months now, but somehow have never quite got round to it. Until now, that is. I don’t own any bread books, so chose a page at random from the bread section of my Great British Bake Off book – it turned out to be a picture of one of the contestants, but the page facing it was the end of the basic loaf recipe. Given it was my first bread attempt sans breadmaker this seemed a sensible recipe to go for.
Something indoors, requiring energy and a little focus – my boredom-riddled brain pounced on the opportunity and as soon as there was a 20 second break in the rain I made the quick dash to the shop across the road to buy some yeast.
I’m really glad I finally took part in this challenge and (once again) thwarted my culinary cowardice. I won’t lie and say that the finished product was perfect, but it wasn’t at all bad for my first attempt and I’m already beginning to come up with ideas for my next loaf.
Basic White Loaf
This recipe was picked out of The Great British Bake Off’s How To Bake – given that it has three ingredients (not including the water) there wasn’t much room for adaptation. I halved the ingredients, so this makes 1 medium sized loaf.
350g strong white flour
1 tsp sea salt
3.5g fast-action dried yeast
225ml luke-warm water
Sift the flour into a large bowl and add in the yeast and the salt. Mix it together and then make a dent in the centre for the water.
Pour in your water (it really needs to be about 37ºC – I’ll save you the full biological explanation, but suffice to say that if it’s too hot you’ll kill the yeast) and use your hands to form a soft dough.
Lightly flour your work surface, then turn your dough out on to it and begin the kneading process. You’ll need to knead the dough for a good ten minutes, until it becomes silky looking and elastic-y. Put it back in the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel/clingfilm and leave it to rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size (I put mine into the oven at about 40ºC, because the house was so cold).
Knock the air out of the dough and then turn it again so that you can knead it for another minute or so. Cover again and leave for another hour until it has, again, doubled. Towards the end of the second rising pre-heat the oven to 220ºC and put a roasting tray in the bottom.
Put the twice-risen dough into the oven and pour a jug of water into the hot roasting tin (the steam will help develop a good crust). Let it bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, then tuck in.