There is something magical about transforming basic ingredients into something so tactile and yummy. Everybody has their favourite way to knead the dough into an optimum texture, and favourite ingredients to spice up their loaves. With so much room for experimentation, I find myself tweaking every time, just to see what will happen.
This recipe is an easy starting point for you to establish your own classic.
Simple Bread Recipe
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fast-action yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
Combine ingredients, let rise,
bake for half an hour at 210°C.
That’s it. Really!
Activate the yeast in a couple teaspoons of warm (not hot!) water and a teaspoon of sugar. Give the yeast several minutes to get nice and bubbly.
Toss the flour and salt in a bowl that is twice as large as you think you need. Add the oil, water, and yeast. Cut, fold, blend, and otherwise moosh it all together. I like to use a plastic scraper for this, but you might prefer bare hands or a strong mixer set on slow.
Add flour or water and keep working your dough until you get a nice stiff consistency. Most dough is a little sticky at this stage and during the kneading stage. In both cases, continue to liberally dust your dough with more flour. This step is as much art as science, but I assure you it’s almost impossible to screw up. Your bread might end up a bit heavy, or a bit moist, but it will still be delicious.
Ball up your dough, oil it lightly, and leave it in a covered bowl to rise. There are recipes that skip this step, or add baking soda for in-the-oven-rising.
When your dough has risen to roughly twice its original size, dust with flour and knead it until you are exhausted.
Shape your dough how you like, rolled in to little buns, pressed into a loaf pan, or simply balled and dropped onto a cookie sheet. Dress it with a dusting of flour, baste it with oil, or sprinkle some rock salt and spices on there if you want to be fancy. Let it rise a little bit before you bake, time permitting. It will rise more in the oven.
Set your oven to 210°C/fan or 400°F or thereabouts. Everybody has their favourite temperature. I have baked as low as 150°C in my convection toaster oven. Bake for 20-30 mins depending on oven temperature and size of your loaves.
when you first take the bread out of the oven and are tempted to dive in right away, please remember that the temperature inside the loaf is the same as the temperature inside your oven. Be patient!
Fun Ingredients to Try:
olives, spice blends such as rosemary and thyme, garlic, bacon, grains, nuts, mixes of oil and water, soup stock, even the left over water from boiling potatoes. It is pretty cool how far you can go. I hope you have fun with this!