A table without bread is not a table, but bread is a table on its own. -Scottish Gaelic Proverb
Used plain flour and water, not milk. Image Credit : Ubuntu Courtyard
Whether you're looking for an easy bread recipe during a lockdown or need to try something new, this tried and tested recipe will guarantee good results.
Makes two 23 x 13 cm or 9-inch loaves
1 cube fresh yeast (42 grams) OR 15ml / 1 tbsp active dried yeast 50ml / 2fl oz / ¼ cup lukewarm water 2 tbsp sugar 2 tsp table or fine sea salt 475 ml / 2 cups lukewarm milk or water 2 tbsp sunflower /vegetable oil or 25g /2tbsp butter/margarine at room temperature About 900 grams / 2lb / 8 cups strong bread flour, ordinary plain flour is still OK
Mix the yeast, water and 1 tbsp of the sugar in a cup and leave for 15 minutes until frothy. This step is known as proofing or proving. If you’re using fresh yeast, you don’t have to wait that long.
Pour the milk or water into a large bowl. Add the remaining sugar, butter, margarine or cooking oil and salt. Stir in the mixture yeast mixture, then stir in the flour, about 1 cup at a time, until you have a stiff dough.
Transfer the dough on to a clean and floured surface. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes), then place it in a large lightly greased bowl. If using a bread maker, follow the instructions in the manual. I'd say about 10 minutes to prepare the dough.
Leave it to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume; it takes about 1.5 hours to 3 hours. This process is known as fermenting.
Grease two loaf tins or let your creativity run amok! To get the plaited loaf, divide the dough into two equal pieces. From the two parts, further, split into three similar pieces. Roll each piece into a long thin strip. You can plait from the centre or one end (twist-out) and make sure to tuck in both ends. If you opt for two loaf tins, divide the dough in half and mould into loaf shapes before placing in lightly greased tins. I made one plaited/ twisted and one simple loaf. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190 °C / 375 °F / Gas 5.
Brush the dough with the egg and milk glaze and bake until golden, about 45 – 50 minutes.
Turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Allow it to cool before slicing; spread butter or margarine and enjoy. Remember, nothing beats the lovely aroma of homemade bread in the oven!
Bread Baking Tips
Some people argue that there’s no real difference between dry and fresh yeast but I find fresh yeast easier to bake with. It also gives a more professional result even if you’re a novice baker. Use what you can find. I buy fresh yeast (butter section) from Morrison’s Supermarket (U.K.), and it comes in packs of 4 cubes. You can also freeze it soon after purchase, and defrost overnight before use.
Proving or proofing allows the yeast to multiply, which can contribute to a light loaf. Fresh yeast usually works instantly. Don’t let the smell put you off; it disappears as you progress with your baking.
If you’re a novice baker, make sure you’ve measured your ingredients in advance as accurately as possible. You may have to add a little bit of extra flour to make the dough as elastic as possible. Don’t worry about the technical details; just enjoy the process and allow room for experimentation according to your taste.
You will know that the dough is ready when your arms hurt (joke!) or when the dough is less sticky and maintains its round shape.
Avoid using cleaning products on the surface which you will use to knead the bread. Water and soap should do just fine. I usually add a little vinegar to make sure that I have a clean, germ-free but not soapy surface. The last thing you need is an extra cocktail of cleaning products in your bread.
In this recipe in pictures, I used plain flour and water, not milk, but I also use strong bread flour from time to time. I must say that the quality of your flour can determine your outcome. If in doubt, get what looks like a good brand, but sometimes, it’s all about the technique that gets you good results.
I hope this bread recipe works for you. Let me know how it goes! More than happy to answer questions, but I can only encourage you to go for it. Baking a lovely loaf of bread is not as complicated as most people seem to think.