Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baking Bread

I've put the following together for friends (especially from Singapore) who have taken an interest since I wrote about making bread. I had borrowed a couple of bread books from our local library and looked at various sites on Internet. Not a bread machine in sight, I'm afraid. I started when I need to take out my frustration and there was no turning back.

Then I read this article.

It does not take all that long to knead, but you must be patient with waiting for the dough to rise. I now gather all the ingredients together before starting and can get a lump of dough ready for first proofing within 20 minutes.

It's cheaper to buy a packet of yeast rather than the 7g sachets. In the UK and if you have room, you could also have bigger bags of flour delivered. You could then opt for locally-grown and/or milled flour.
For Basic White Bread

• 625g strong (bread making) white flour (Sorry, don't know which or where brands are available in Singapore. If you have information, please add to comments. See link at bottom of page.)

• 1½ teaspoons salt

• 2 teaspoons sugar

• 3 tablespoons sunflower oil (or 3 tablespoons butter)

• One sachet (usually 7 g) or 1½ teaspoons of quick action yeast

• 400 ml of warm water. I normally put about 400ml in my 1000W microwave for a minute, take it out to check that it’s warm, but not hot, or you will kill the yeast. Tip some water out and add cold if necessary. Also, I have never used the whole 400ml.


1. Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Give it a good quick stir (with fork, knife, hand, whatever, doesn’t matter).

2. Add the oil. (At this point I normally let the oil left on the measuring spoon to drip slowly onto my ceramic board which I use for kneading the dough. I found that oil on the board is better than flour to stop it sticking.)

3. “Rub in” the bits of flour that will now stick to the oil. Again oil is easier to use than butter.

4. Add the water. I normally add it in in about three go’s LEAVING a little water in the jug. As my mum used to say, “You can always add more, but you cannot take it off” (when adding soya sauce to food).

5. Mix the ingredients by hand in the bowl until a dough is formed. Have fun! This is when it gets gooey. Make sure flour on the bottom and sides are incorporated. Dough is ready when it all sticks together quite nicely.

6. Lift the dough out and knead it on the work surface for 10 minutes. The dough might be very sticky for the first couple of minutes. If it continues to be difficult to knead, a little extra flour can dry the dough up a bit. Usually by the end of kneading, whatever dough is stuck to your fingers would also be incorporated. I suspect that friends in Singapore might wish to do this on a cool surface, like a marble slab.

7. KNEADING: (Source: the bread book by Sara Lewis, 2003, page 16) – This is essential to mix and activate the dried yeast and to help stretch the gluten in the flour so that the bread can rise fully. Begin by turning the dough out on to lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough by turning the front half away with the heel of one hand while holding the back of the dough with the other hand. Fold the stretched part of the dough back on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat for five more minutes, until the dough has been turned full circle several times and is a smooth and elastic ball.

8. Once kneaded return the dough to the bowl (don’t wash out your rolling-out board yet) and leave it to rise in a warm (not hot, Singaporeans please note) place. Most recipes tell you to cover with oiled cling film. Being anti-plastic I use wet tea towels. Let the dough rise to twice its size. It could take, for me, more than an hour. I normally set the clock and concentrate on doing something else.

9. When the dough has doubled in size, “punch it out”. You will hear the air escaping. Turn it out on to your rolling-out board, scraping the sides if necessary.

10. At this stage I would normally divide the dough into two lots. One lot is kneaded again, very quickly, and rolled into a long roll about 1½ times the length of the loaf tin. Fold the ends under to make it fit into a slightly greased loaf tin (500g/ 1 lb). If you do not have a loaf tin, just make one big “cob” and put it on a lined baking tray. The rest is divided into six smaller or four larger rolls, kneaded quickly, shaped and placed on a lined baking tray (I use a baking tray liner).

11. Cover with tea towel as before and leave to rise a second time, this time for a much shorter period. This is usually 30 minutes for me. At the 10-minute mark, it’s time to put the oven on: 200 deg C.

12. Once the bread has doubled in size, or reach the top of the loaf tin, remove the cloth and place straight into pre-heated oven.

13. For a loaf, bake for approximately 12 minutes, then cover loosely with foil, and bake for another 18 minutes (ie 30 minutes in all). For the rolls, I put 8 minutes, cover with foil, and then bake another 7 minutes (15 minutes total)

14. Remove from the oven and turn out with oven gloves. If you tap on the base of the rolls/loaf they should sound hollow. This is an indication that the bread is complete.

15. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Granary bread

625g strong granary flour

3 tablespoons butter (or oil)

2 teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons brown sugar

1½ teaspoons fast-action dried yeast

400ml warm water

Wholemeal bread

325g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

3 tablespoons butter (or oil)

1½ teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons caster sugar

2½ teaspoons fast-action dried yeast

400ml warm water


I hope you found this useful. Tell me how you got on.

The "personalized" bread roll I made for my son: