Use Your Loaf

While supermarket bakeries make it easy to buy freshly baked bread, few things can beat the smell of fresh, homemade bread wafting through your home. In fact, this is one of the most enticing smells a home can have, according to estate agents. Despite being so easy, baking bread still baffles many cooks.

People mistakenly think it is time consuming and complicated when, in fact, it is really quick.

During the rising stage, you need not do anything at all – just add yeast and sugar to warm water and wait patiently for the yeast to do its trick.

Forget costly bread making machines. All you need is a good old-fashioned mixing bowl and good quality ingredients. Choose from a selection of different flours, or mix them together. Add the risen yeast and knead, then leave to rise. Knock it back (see below) then shape into loaves, rolls or pizza. Allow to prove (see below), then bake in a hot oven.

Whatever you are making, follow some simple tips and you could be buttering your own bread in the time it takes to say “cheese sandwich”.

Tips for successful bread making

Ensure the room you are working in is warm or that you have a warm place to put the dough to rise before you begin. Ideal places include an airing cupboard, a sunny draught-free window or a shelf above a warm radiator. Cover with a tea towel to keep draughts off.
To knead bread by hand, turn the dough on to a floured work surface and knead it by folding towards you, then pushing down and away from you with the heel of your hand. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the action. Knead until smooth and no longer sticky.
To knead in a mixer, prepare the yeast liquid in the mixer bowl, add the additional ingredients and, using the dough hook, mix on the lowest speed for one minute or until the dough is formed. Increase the speed slightly and knead for a further three minutes.
‘Knock back’ is to pummel the dough to let the air out and then to knead it for a few minutes.
To make soft-sided batch rolls, place rolls 2cm apart on a baking sheet so they batch together during rising and cooking.
Proving is the second rising method through moisture and warmth. Once you shape your dough into either rolls or a tin loaf, you need to cover the dough with an inverted bowl and leave in a warm place. This yeast will begin to quickly kick in and the dough will rise.
Rising times can be varied to suit your convenience:
Quick rise: 30 minutes in a warm place (as above)
Slower rise: 60 – 90 minutes in a warm kitchen
Overnight rise: up to 12 hours in a cold place such as an unheated utility room, conservatory, porch or even garage.
Once the dough has risen well – it should double its size and spring back when lightly pressed – bake immediately at your oven’s highest temperature.
To get a crusty loaf or refresh a slightly stale loaf, wrap in foil and put in a hot oven for 10 minutes and allow to cool in the foil.
To make crusty rolls with wheatmeal or non-milk doughs, place 4cm apart on baking sheet and brush tops with lightly salted water or milk.
If you make excess dough, store it in a lightly oiled, polythene bag, secured shut and place it in the fridge, Use within 2 days. Before using, remove from fridge and allow to stand in a warm place for 15–20 minutes, then shape as bread or rolls and use as normal. You can also freeze dough.

A morning’s work will see you with a week’s worth of bread, rolls and pizza bases in the freezer.

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