Recipe: Really Basic Homemade Bread

bread1.jpg

Long weekends is all about having fun, and there are few things more fun than making a loaf of home-made bread! It allows me to relive my childhood, take out my frustrations and feed me all at the same time. I’ll show you how.

Get the following ingredients ready.

  • 1 tbsp of active yeast (any good supermarket will have this)
  • 1.5 tbsp of vegetable oil (or melted butter for a tad bit extra richness)
  • 1/4 cup of milk (low fat will do as well)
  • 1.5 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3-3.5 cups of flour (just regular milled flour will do, not the self-rising or ultrafine stuff)

the “cup” i used is roughly the size of an English teacup, about 160-200ml in size. No need to be too exact as far as the milk and sugar are concerned


Put some warm water into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the yeast and
watch it bubble about a bit. Stir a bit to make sure the yeast breaks
down. Add in the sugar, salt, oil and milk and stir vigorously for a
few seconds, until everything is well mixed. Let it sit for 20-30
seconds, and if you put your ear close enough to it, you’ll be able to
hear the pop and fizz of the yeast at work.

The pour in 2 cups
of flour and stir like crazy (or you can use your hands if you like – i
did). Its all really sticky and gooey at first. As you stir, slowly mix
in another cup of flour, pouring it in bit by bit. In just 3-4 minutes,
the dough will be well formed and should lose some of its initial
stickiness.

Ok, get a fistful of flour in your hands, then
sprinkle a table top or other flat surface with it. Get some on your
hands as well, the fun is about to begin! Grab the dough, and plonk it
onto the floured surface, and go to work kneading it. Do whatever you
like to it. Here i relive my childhood memories of all those hours
playing playdough.

Smack it, flatten it, fold it (this part is
really important – remember to fold the dough!). Then smack it, twist
it, punch it, really put your fist and palms into it, then fold it some
more. Fun times and a real stress reliever if there ever was one.

After
about 10-15 minutes of this, shape it up into a round ball. It should
be the size of a large orange. Then put it into a clean bowl, cover it
with a clean cloth, then put it somewhere warm and just leave it. Magic
is going to happen, the yeast is going to have a feast and work its
powers on the dough.

Clean up the mess in the kitchen, but leave the table top floured, you’re going to be using it once more.

bread2.JPG

After
1 hour give or take a few minutes, you’ll find the dough has more than
doubled in size. Take a look at the pic above, it was less than half
the size when i first put it away.

Give it another good pounding
for another 10-15 minutes. Remember to FOLD, FOLD, FOLD. This helps the
texture of the bread and makes it all nice and fluffy.

bread3.jpg 

Then,
use your hands and flatten the bread out, somewhat into a square, with
length dimensions roughly the same as the baking pan you intend to use.
Once its flattened, just roll it, like a swiss roll, and drop it into
the bread pan. Cover it up with a cloth, put it somewhere nice and
cozy, and leave it for 60 minutes.

This is a good time to clean up the rest of the kitchen.

bread4.jpg

You’ll
find the dough ballooning in size once more, but this time, nicely
fitting the shape and size of the bread pan. Nothing more needs to be
done, just chuck it into the oven at 200 degrees celcius for 30 minutes.

Once
the bread is done, let it cool for 20 minutes or so before taking your
first slice. Use a bread knife if you can (the one with a serrated
edge) to make a clean cut through the crust.

bread5.jpg

And
thats it! On the part of the cook, you only spend like 20 minutes total
actually doing anything. The rest of the time, the yeast is doing all
the work. How’s that for an easy cooking job!

bread6.jpg

When
the bread is still warm, it’ll taste great with butter, jam, honey or
peanut butter. It tastes wonderful even on its own, all fluffy on the
inside, and thinly crusted on the outside. When you’re comfortable with
this basic recipe, you can slowly add things like nuts or raisins, or
herbs like oregano and parsley to add more colour to the flavour of the
bread. Try experimenting with different types of flour too do find out
how this can change the texture and flavour of the bread.

Easy, cheap and healthy — it doesn’t get better than that.

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