I make this bread all the time. It is quick, easy and best of all, foolproof. Sometimes I tweak it a bit, add a few new flavours, slice and fold and plait, stuffed with fruit or anti-pasto bits and pieces – but this is the basis for them all. I do hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
600g Bread Flour*
400g Wholemeal Bread Flour**
1tbsp. Dried Yeast
3tbsp. Olive Oil
*/** please click here to see what I have to say about flour and the types that I prefer.
Mix flours together. In a separate bowl put 1 heaped tbsp. of combined flours and dried yeast, pour in 100ml of water and stir until well combined. Cover with cling wrap and pop it somewhere warm for 10 – 15 minutes until it’s full of bubbly goodness.
While this is going on, prepare your tins. I use tins sized L28xW12xD11cm. Spray liberally with olive oil and then give it another squirt, just for good measure. OR, if you are going for free form loaves, just have your baking paper and a couple of boards at ready.
In the bowl with the combined flours, add the salt and olive oil and the contents of bowl of bubbly goodness. Give it as good a mix as you can until it is pretty much combined, this is where you may need to add a bit more water. Turn out onto your floured bench and knead, knead, knead for a good 7 – 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic and all the icky-sticky mess has been tamed. If you go a bit overboard with the extra water, you may need to dust with some extra flour a time of two – the wetter the dough the better tho, so hang in there and knead a bit longer before you add flour.
When your dough is all soft and springy (give it a good poke with your finger, it should bounce back pretty much as it was before), you are all good to go. Cut your dough in half and shape as you like; if I’m using tins, I kinda just roll, squash and cajole the dough to roughly the same shape as the tin and place it in there, free form loaves – no rules, just shape as you please.
Spray the top of your loaf with plenty of olive oil and cover the tin/loaf loosely with tented cling wrap. Do it all over again with the 2nd half of your dough. Pop both loaves somewhere warm – window sill, your car (if it’s parked in the sun… ), wherever works for you.
Give them a good hour of proving, then have a look-see, it could take up to two hours – there are a million reasons for this, but mostly it boils down to the weather. If at this stage they have risen quite a bit (about double), it’s time to pre-heat your oven to 210C (if going with free-form loaves, put your pizza stones in now and pre-heat with the oven, you will get a much better crust this way). When the oven is up to temperature, remove cling wrap, now bung tins in the oven – or trim excess baking paper and transfer loaves (paper and all), to hot stones and bung in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 180C (I like to open the oven door now to reduce the temp quickly) and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes.
Turn bread out onto a wire rack. Give the bottoms a bit of a knock – if they sound really hollow all is well and the bread is done. If they sound quite dull, pop them back in the oven upside down for another 5 minutes. Check for done-ness before removing, decide if cooked or not, then proceed to give them another 5 minutes, or turn off the oven.
Put on the kettle and make yourself a well-earned cup of tea. Enjoy said cup of tea while you wait for the bread to cool enough to slather on the butter and dig in.