I don't know why the smell of a freshly baked loaf of bread feels like home to me... If my memory serves me well (and I have an excellent memory by the way, I have even been referred to as "the elephant who never forgets"), there wasn't a whole lot of bread-baking going at home when I was little. Brown rice and lentils, yes, but bread, no (sorry Mum!). But it is undeniable - a slice of homemade bread, still warm from the oven, butter melting, a pinch of salt, that wholesome aroma finding its way around the house = Home. Maybe it's some kind of evolutionary inherited memory... Bread = we're not going to starve. We're safe. We're content.
What follows is the recipe for the absolute basic, no frills, bog standard, goes with everything kind of wholemeal bread. Simple and delicious.
- 600g strong wholemeal bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 400ml warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to its lowest setting.
Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and into the oven to warm for 10 mins.
Meanwhile, boil the kettle and measure out the 400ml water, add the oil and put aside to warm down/get less boiling!
Add the remaining dry ingredients to the warm flour and mix well.
Make a well in the flour mix and slowly pour in the warm oily water, mixing as you go to form a dough.
The dough should be firm and holding itself together - if it feels too wet and sticky add a little flour; if it feels too dry and crumbly, add a little more water.
Turn the dough out to a clean surface dusted with flour. Give your hands a little dusting too. Now start kneading your dough. Knead firmly for a good 5 mins or so, adding a little extra flour if it starts to feel sticky. You want to achieve a smoothish, elastic consistency that bounces back into shape when pinched.
Dust the bowl with a little flour and put your ball of dough back in. Cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm spot. The dough needs to pretty much double in size, which should take about half an hour.
When the dough has risen, turn it back out onto the floured surface and quickly punch out the air. You don't need to knead it again this time.
Place the dough on an oiled baking sheet or into an oiled bread tin. Cover and leave to rise one last time, again for about half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
When the dough is done rising, put it straight into the hot oven and bake for 30 mins. When it's done, it should have a nice and crisp crust, and make a hollow sound when you tap the bottom.
If you baked your bread in a tin, when it's ready take it ouf the tin and put back in the oven upside down for 5 mins to crisp up the bottom and sides.
~ Now this is the important bit - eat while it is still warm!