Bread – not so hard!

So I decided that I would try bread-making, having had the best vegemite on toast at Wild Basket, Neutral Bay the other morning. It convinced me that all breads are not equal and something as simple as vegemite on toast done well, could leave me thinking about it for days. And besides, even if my first attempt at bread flopped, at least the apartment would smell like fresh bread…

So I Googled “Best bread recipe” (which is obviously the best way to find the best recipe!) and clicked on a Jamie Oliver recipe. Thank God for comments though as everyone complained that their’s didnt turn out. One commenter strongly recommended a step-by-step recipe on this blog here. The author basically GUARANTEED you could not go wrong with his recipe. And the commenters agreed. So … recipe found.

First hurdle – yeast. I had yeast in the cupboard from making pizza dough. But the author warns against using the wrong type of yeast – NOT Active Dry Yeast but Fast Action Yeast. The yeast I had was simply called Dry Yeast. After much googling I was no wiser as to whether this was the right or wrong yeast so I thought the best way to find out is to give it a go. Turns out it was fine.

So here is the recipe as I made it:

  • 500g “00” Pasta grade flour
  • 30g slightly salted butter (recipe states unsalted is best)
  • 7g (or one sachet) of Tandaco Dry Yeast
  • 10g sea salt (I used a morter & pestle to give it a finer consistency)
  • 305g lukewarm water (technically 2 parts cold to 1 part boiling gives lukewarm. I’d say less than 1 part)
  • 2 desert spoons of honey (or 35g)


Smart tip to clean your work surface thoroughly so that you dont get any little surprises in the bread. Clean it with disinfectant then with soapy cloth so you dont have a disinfectant taste.

Measure everything out so you are all ready to go.

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and then pour the yeast in a pile on one side and the salt on the other, not touching each other. Then swirl your finger in the yeast and flour so that it mixes. Do the same with the salt, then mix everything together. I think its important you dont get concentrates of yeast and salt together – you have to dilute them in the dry ingredients first.
  2. Now make a well in the middle of the bowl, deep and wide enough that you can see a decent amount of the bottom of the bowl. Now pour your lukewarm water in the well and your honey in as well.
  3. Now it gets messy. Use your hand to start mixing the flour in the water slowly. Shave a bit off the outside of the well and mix that before shaving more off. when all the flour is mixed with the water/honey you are ready to start kneading it. Just make sure you get all the flour in the mixture – dont leave any on the side of the bowl.
  4. Now you need to knead. For a solid 10mins. I thought the dough was too wet and sticky, but as I had been careful to measure everything out exactly I decided to trust the recipe. It is difficult to knead when it keeps sticking to your hand, but if you perservere it gets less sticky so that you can pull your hand away without too much residue remaining. Its not like pizza dough or pasta dough. Its supposed to be wetter. The recipe says you can use a little flour on your work surface – maybe I’ll try that next time, but it worked fine as it was.
  5. So after 10mins the dough should feel and look quite silky. Try to make a smooth ball (tricky when its sticky) and grease a large bowl with a little sunflower or olive oil. Cover the bowl with a wet tea towel (that has been wrung out so it doesn’t drip) and find a warm humid place. I put it in the laundry with the dryer on as it was a cold day and it worked a treat. Leave it for 1 hour.
  6. After 1 hour it should have doubled in size. Put your hand on the dough and push it down so that the air is forced out. Now take the dough out and put on the work surface and using your fingers like a claw, poke the dough all over so that it is evenly deflated. At this point its best to look at the photos on the original blog. You need to pinch a bit of dough and pull it into the centre, and repeat all the way around till it looks like it did before the first proving.
  7. Now you need to put it on a baking tray. I lined the tray with silicon mat (because its my latest cooking toy). If you dont have a silicon mat, you need to grease the tray with a bit of cooking oil. Cover the dough on the tray with your wet tea towel and let it sit for another hour. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and put a deeper baking tray on the bottom shelf.
  8. Take the tea towel off (I found mine stuck a little – not sure what you can do about that) and sprinkle some flour over  the dough, using your hand to rub it over the entire exposed surface evenly. Now take a sharp knife and make 2-3 slices across the top. Pour some cold water in the tray on the bottom shelf and put the bread in the oven for 25mins.
  9. Apparently it is important not to open the oven door for the first 10mins at least, otherwise you might have flat bread. After 25mins take it out and tap on the bottom to check for a hollow sound. If you are not sure, put it in for another 5 mins. I wasn’t sure so put it back in for 2 mins. I think another 5 would have given it a bit more crunch on the bottom.
  10. Let it rest for 15mins and then enjoy your freshly baked bread!
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Posted in Baking

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