It's such a cliche, but sometimes the simplest pleasures in life are the best, and food is no exception to the rule. Cornflakes and cold milk, Baked Beans on toast, hot Jacket Potatoes with lashings of butter are all seriously underated - and then there is freshly baked bread...
I personally have avoided making my own bread for years, in the belief that the secret to making it is closely guarded by bakers alone. I had in my mind visions of kneading for hours, dough that refused to rise, and hard baked rocks at the end that would make me the laughing stock of my friends and family. Instead I have hovered by the bakery sections in supermarkets, waiting to get my hands on still warm bread that I could rush home and tear into (and yes, on occasion pass off as my own).
Yet, how wrong I was!
I have now in the oven a magnificent loaf of white bread baking and the smell that is wafting through the house is so tantilising that I have the butter knife out already in anticipation. And making it could not have been easier. This is my basic white bread recipe, and by following a few basic rules, it works every time;
Sieve 700g of Strong White Flour, and add a tbsp of Salt. Rub in 25g of Butter. Add 1tsp of Caster Sugar, and 1tsp of Yeast. (You can use Fast Action Dried Yeast for this, however wherever possible I try to use fresh Yeast, as it reacts better. I find mine in near the butter section in my local supermarket.) Make a well in the middle of the dry mix, and add 150ml of Milk, and 300ml of Warm Water. Mix to form a dough, and tip out onto a floured surface.
Then Knead. The most useful thing I ever learned about making bread is that you cannot over-knead the dough. Do not be afraid to get stuck in, and you should knead the dough until the surface of the dough is shiny, and when you prod it with your finger it should spring back to it's original shape. If you do this, you will not go wrong with your bread.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and place in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Turn the dough back out onto the floured surface and knead again for a couple of minutes, knocking the air out back down to it original size.
Now shape the dough to suit, either shape into an oblong and place in a loaf tin for a classic loaf, form a round and place on a baking tray for a more rustic appearence, or separate into smaller sections to make individual dinner rolls. Cover with clingfilm again for a further 30 minutes to rise again, then place in an oven at 200 degrees c until golden brown, and it makes a hollow sound when you tap the base.
The whole process should take a couple of hours max, and is worth every minute when you break the still warm crust and cover with butter. Which is exactly what I am going to do right now...
Mmmmm.... V x