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.
You need STRONG flour. White, wholemeal, granary, whatever, or a combination.
I now regularly use 1 kg of flour, usually a mix of wholemeal and white and/or granary. I normally make one loaf (about 950g wet weight) and turn the rest into rolls of about 70g (wet weight), some of which I take into the advice charity on Mondays just in case we get clients who have gone hungry or are homeless.
• 20g salt (you might use 15-18g instead)
• 4 tablespoons sunflower oil (optional)
- Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Give it a good quick stir (with fork, knife, hand, whatever, doesn’t matter).
- Add the oil if using. (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.)
- “Rub in” the bits of flour that will now stick to the oil.
- Add the water.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once kneaded return the dough to the bowl and leave it to rise in a warm. 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 (or at least one and a half times). It could take, for me, more than an hour. I normally set the clock and concentrate on doing something else.
- When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl and put it back on the oiled surface. Make sure you scrape the sides if necessary.
- At this stage I would normally divide the dough into two lots. 950g is kneaded very quickly, and rolled into a roll that fits into an oiled 2 lb loaf tin. 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 nine rolls of about 70g each. Again kneaded quickly, shape into a roll and place on a lined baking tray. I use a baking tray liner to stop it sticking.
- 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: 220 deg C (fan).
- 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 for 15 minutes.
- Cover loaf tin with foil and return to over for another 20-25 minutes. You might wish to turn the oven down to 200 deg. (You will know what to do after baking a few times.) Usually the smaller rolls are cooked by now. When you tap the bottom of the bread it should sound 'hollow'. Leave on wire rack to cool.
- Then remove loaf and tap on bottom to check if it sounds hollow. Cool on wire rack.
I cannot stress enough how it is not difficult to bake bread at all. There are many advantages to baking your own bread.
You know what goes in it. You can choose and vary the ingredients. Add cheese, herbs, reduce salt, add honey, etc.
Homemade bread might get stale, but it does not get mouldy, which used to be a problem for us and we just had to throw it away. My mum used to steam stale bread to revive it. We just tend to toast it.
If you must turn on the oven to do one loaf you might as well do a few loaves. Share the extra ones with a neighbour or take turns to bake.
In the long run it is cheaper especially if you are able to buy the ingredients in bulk.
If you find it takes too much effort, you could bake less and eat less, which is not a bad thing if you wish to lose weight!
Please do tell me how you get on.