Easy bread for beginners

For some reason, the men “around “me are baking bread. Office and outside the office, Uk and Spain. It is quite a phenomenon and can i feel that can only be understood going back to the basics.

In the same way as a BBQ, the bread seems to provide a link back to the original instincts of hunting-gathering that cakes, say, don’t. Well, that, and the science behind fermentation.

My husband and I have discussed this and concluded that we should try… When I say we, the intention is for him to do so in the New Year, but after a conversation with my dear friend Aritz, two weeks ago, I had a chance to look through his bread achievements on the phone and I had to try it too.

I will tell you a funny story, if you promise not to laugh.

Two years ago, whilst in Japan, the same thought came to mind as we visited an enormous Muji in central Tokyo. We had been looking to buy a rice cooker for a while, but were always put off by the size of those we could find in London. We are two people but the rice cookers seem to be designed for crowd feeding. ( The day that western companies tap in the market of small appliances , for one or two, they will strike gold)

In Muji we found a small and simple machine which, not only cooked rice but baked bread! It was genius! (We thought) I was beautiful, perfectly sized, distinctively brand-less and multipurpose at a very affordable price… So excited we were that we forgot that Japan still runs at 120v and on arrival to London, we found out that the transformer was twice the pice of the mini appliance…

Without transformer or appliance i truly imagined a bread-less existence… Either that or more complex permutation which involved traveling to the depths of north west London to a place where buses don’t go but transformers are less expensive.

It was then that I discovered Delia’s easy bread recipe.

Of course being the way I am, I felt compelled to had to change some ingredients but the result turned out great!

Cookings time: 15 minutes activation, 15 minutes prep + overnight resting+ (30+10) minutes bake
Quantity: This mix makes 2 small loafs of 450gr each

Tips:

1. Buy good flour. Bread’s basic ingredient is super important. I used the supermarket’s own “special brand” wholegrain seeded flour.

2. If you can, it is worth investing on good quality loaf baking tins because you will use them a lot and your life will be much easier. London is full of specialist kitchen shops: Andrews of Hampstead, Kitchen ideas in Westbourne Grove, Nisbets London or Leon Jaehgi and sons in Shaftesbury Avenue and if all fails, i am sure that Google will show you where to buy.

3. There are many types of yeast. In this recipe (my version) I have used dried active yeast. The granule one. If you used another one, I would advise you to look at the pack to make sure that you find out what equivalences you need for the same amount of flour.

4. *The water will be, roughly, half boiled half cold to achieve the right “room temperature”.

Ingredients:

570 gr of flour … For bread!
2 teaspoons of salt
450 ml of water*
15 gr (1 spoon flat) of dried active yeast
1 tea spoon of sugar
Vegetable oil to oil the baking tins

Cooking Instructions:

Dissolve the yeast and sugar on 150 ml of water (half boiled and half cold) and let it activate for 15 minutes. (Remember this is what mine required)

When the time is up, mix the flour and salt on a clean bowl, and make a well in the middle.

Pour the yeast mix and rest of the water (300 ml) on it and mix with a wooden spoon until you make a ball that you can take outside the bowl). If your mix is not coming together, you may add a touch of water, as apparently it is better to have a slightly wet mix than a dry one.

With some flour on the working surface, separate the mix in two.

If you want to add things like wall nuts, raisins, seeds etc., feel free to do so at this stage.

Take each half and make them rounded. Then, only using your hands, not a rolling pin, makes a flat oval type of shape. Mine was about 1.5 cm deep. Fold each side in, almost as though you were wrapping something up. Make sure that you overlap.

Turn the folded mass upside down and press it a bit on to an elongated shape.

Oil the tins, place each half in one and cover with a wet cloth. The original recipe suggested using butter, but I prefer to use vegetable oil.

Leave them to rise until they double the size.

There are two possibilities, according to the experts: You could either leave them at room temperature (less if the room is warm) or, you could leave them on the bottom of the fridge overnight to slow down the process.

I have to come clean and admit that I left it out for two hours and then placed it in the bottom of the fridge overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven at 200 degree C (gas mark 6)

Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven, until you hear the hollow sound when tapping the bread. (Your oven might be different to mine so be mindful)

Take the bread out of the tin, and place it upside down. Bake for further 10 minutes.

Leave it to cool down on the baking wire or similar to allow the crust to crisp up.

If you are going to freeze it, wait until is totally cooled.

I lasted me 4 days and tasted very good but I have been advised by my friends that sometimes, depending on the yeast, bread might go off earlier than that…

Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe adapted from Delia’s by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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