Plain White Bread
500g strong white bread flour
7g instant yeast
a level tablespoon caster sugar
a good drizzle of olive oil
We started off by putting all the dry into a bowl - no need to sieve which makes me happy - and then putting a nice slug of olive oil over it. We started to mix it together and then added 250 ml of warm water. Our tap gets pretty warm so I did it straight from the tap. I started to mix it together until the consistency was pretty even, I added another 50 ml warm water in bits until I got there. You never want to add more than 350 ml of water.... and wholemeal flour is more absorbent, it can take more of a beating.
We then put it a tea towel over the bowl and left it to rise in the airing cupboard for an hour. I had homework: to look up the slap method of kneading.
He says 20 mins in this video, I am assured that you can get away with about 20 slaps. It's mostly about getting to know the texture of the dough. The reason you knead dough is to stretch out the gluten strands over and over again with every knead, so when you break into the bread you get a really nice texture - think of a French baguette, when you break off a chunk you get that slight twirl.
We put down oil on the surface and slapped the dough around. Then we cleaned the bowls, painted them with olive oil so that the bread would come out easily, and then put them into the airing cupboard to prove for another hour.
Then we put the oven on at 180 or 190 C. The dough had about doubled in size. We put the pan in the oven to heat up, that make it easier with not sticking.
We put oil on the surface, gave it a bit of a knead again and then shaped it. I opted for a simple loaf - fold both ends over, fold the sides over and then turn it over to rest on the crease, so all neat and tidy, hospital corners and all that. We put more olive oil on the side and left the loaves to prove again for another half an hour under some tea towels.
If I was doing wholemeal I could do an extra prove for half an hour before shaping it. If I was adding olives or sundried tomatoes or any wet things then I would probably add them now before the shaping. If I was going to add herbs or spices or dry things then I would add them at the beginning. If you over prove it then it starts to flop because it has exhausted all the sugar and goodness that the yeast is liking. In that case, just chuck it in the oven and hope for the best, you will probably get a loaf that doesn't rise as much.
We lifted up the bread - make sure you don't handle it too much because the air will go out - and put it in the centre of the pan. I did some hatching on it and sprayed it with water all the way round so that it gets a decent crust on it and then put it in the oven.
We checked on it midway, left it for about 30 mins in the oven. You know it's done when it comes off the tray easily, if you turn it upside down and tap it then it should sound hollow. We left the loaves on a rack to cool for a while, my one is the one on the right.
Finally we got to cut into it and sample some!
I'm really happy with how it turned out - it cuts well, it has a nice texture when you tear it, and the housemates gave it the thumbs up. I think next time I'll try half white and half wholemeal flour and maybe a bit less salt. Exciting!