I’m a bit of a bread purist.
Bread purism is a thing, it really is. When I gave up wheat and therefore bread a couple of years ago I felt amazing – really really amazing – but I missed bread. Put it this way, of you asked me which I missed most, bread or my best friend who lives in New York, it’d be a close contest.
And that’s because bread is the best. Crunchy, fluffy, stodgy, beautiful bread. Served warm with a cold hunk of butter melting into its pillowy goodness, toasted with marmite, covered in cheese. It’s a genius food and a life without bread is a life I don’t want to live.
So I returned to bread. Not with the same abandon as I had approached it with before, but with a slightly more measured approach. I stopped buying Hovis, baguettes and Tiger bread at every opportunity but became more thoughtful about our bread consumption.
I came up with a rule: we could eat bread, but only if I baked it myself.
The thing is, supermarket bread contains a lot of nasties. It might keep fresh for days, but it does because it has all sorts of chemicals and additives in there. And don’t even get me started on the sugar content.
The combination of the supermarket bread wheat and those additives leaves me feeling all bloated and unhealthy, and I think it’s important that my kids not only learn how to make healthy choices when it comes to the food they eat, but they learn the provenance of it, too.
And so bread making has worked its way up to being one of our most favourite weekend family activities!
Making your own bread is one of the easiest things you can do. No fancy kitchen equipment is needed – I knead my bread with a KitchenAid and dough hook but you can otherwise do it by hand – just a loaf tin (I have this one and it does the job brilliantly), a couple of spare hours and some enthusiasm.
The ingredients could not be more simple. Grab a bag of strong white bread flour (found at your local supermarket), a 7g packet of yeast, a bit of salt, butter and some lukewarm water. You’ll need a big bowl to mix it in, and either a dough attachment or 10 minutes to knead with clean hands.
It’s important to let the dough rise in a warm place – I choose the sill above my radiator but an airing cupboard is perfect – and have a damp tea towel to drape over it while it’s proving.
An enthusiastic knead, two proves and a quick bake in the oven: you’ll soon find yourself with a beautifully light yet crusty loaf of bread that’ll hands-down beat any supermarket loaf. I like to enjoy mine while it’s still warm from the oven, standing up in the kitchen, slathered in butter. Yum.
Let me know how you get on!
Easy Bread Recipe
500g Strong White Bread Flour
7g Quick Yeast
Pinch of salt
Olive oil to grease the tin
- Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C.
- Combine all the dry ingredients and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the water bit-by-bit and mix well until you have a lovely dough. You can either do this using a dough attachment on a mixer (low-med speed) or with your hands.
- If you’re using a mixer, turn the speed up to med-high and knead the dough for 7 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. If you’re working the dough by hand, do this for ten minutes (have a watch of this video if you’re wondering how to do it).
- Cover your mixing bowl with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove for an hour.
- Grease your loaf tin with a spot of olive oil. Knock down your dough and transfer from the bowl to your loaf tin, making sure it’s evenly spread over the bottom.
- Cover with your damp tea towel and leave for another hour to rise.
- Scatter with flour and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes to bake. It’s done when it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
- Leave to cool on a baking rack – and if you’re like me, chop off a little crusty morsel to munch on while you wait ;)