Sunday, February 15, 2009


Bread of course, is the ideal accompaniment to any soup. There is a lot of mysticism attached to bread making, but a simple flat loaf is fairly straightforward to make. A couple of ingredients will make the result more predictable. Firstly, use a strong or breadmaking flour. This has more gluten and makes a more springy dough, so trapping more bubbles and giving a lighter loaf. Secondly use a dried yeast with flour improvers in. Here in New Zealand it is called “Surebake“ but there will be a type in your supermarket, usually next to the flour. You can use ordinary plain flour and normal dried yeast but I find that it makes a more solid loaf. Finally, and this is probably the most important part, remember that your dough is alive! So keep it warm and always treat it gently but firmly.

For a small bread, enough for two or three people, take a warm mixing bowl and pour in two cupfuls of flour. Add in a teaspoonful and a half of yeast, a teaspoonful of salt and the same of sugar or honey. Mix them all around a bit then add in 200ml of warm water. That is warm to the touch but not hot, blood heat I suppose. Mix it all together and you will get a sticky dough. Tip this out onto a floured surface and knead it. You can look up any bread book for how to knead , but basically you flatten out your ball of dough from the middle with your hands then fold it back into the middle and stretch it out again. Do this for a good ten minutes, gently but firmly - it and should become smooth and elastic. If the dough is quite wet then use some sort of spatula to knead it with, scooping it from the outside over and into the middle. It will pick up more flour as you work it and get drier.

Now put some olive oil into a bowl, pop the dough ball in and roll it around a bit. Cover the bowl with Gladwrap (clingfilm) or a damp tea towel and place the bowl somewhere warm for an hour. I use the airing cupboard or a sunny windowsill. The dough will get bigger eventually threatening to engulf the whole bowl!

Put the oven on, I use 190 centigrade. Flour a baking sheet or tray and tip the dough out onto it. Knead it a bit and flatten it out to about ½ an inch thick. Pop it in the middle or bottom of the oven for about ten minutes until cooked and as brown as you like.

I am not a great fan of flavoured breads but I do like toppings – walnuts, cheese, garlic, onions, herbs, olives etc, etc. To stop the drier toppings burning I mix them in a bowl with some olive oil and spread that on the bread before it goes in the oven, pressing it all in as much as possible. Walnuts will come out beautifully toasted this way. They tend to drop off again once cooked, but you are going to pick at them and nibble at them anyway so it makes little difference.

That's all there is to it really. The kitchen will smell glorious.

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Nicola said...

Arrr "treat your bread gently and firmly". Just like you treat your wife.

Peter said...

Hmmm . . .. I think you may have that the wrong way round.


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