I was going to put up a lovely braised pulled pork recipe, but train cancellations led to me instead getting drunk in Birmingham Christmas market. Maybe next week.
So here’s a simple loaf of bread I made at the weekend, and my favorite topping for this, toasted. I have never been a baker, and this is my first real attempt at baking in five years- the previous attempt were some scones that had the dense mass of a newly formed black hole. So rest assured, if I am able to do this, literally anybody can.
There’s something so much more satisfying about taking chunks off of a loaf made with your own hands. Every egg and bacon sandwich tastes like victory. And your home will smell lovely. Yes it takes about three hours. But about two and a half of those are spent doing nothing, so it’s not so hard.
250g Wholemeal bread flour
250g Strong white bread flour
1 tsp Yeast (or one sachet)
Mix the yeast with some very warm (not boiling) water. Add the flours and salt to a large mixing bowl. Make a deep well in this and start adding water, about 100 ml at a time. Fold in the flour, making sure you mix as much as possible each time. When a fork becomes impractical, use your hands instead.
By the end you should have a single ball of slightly sticky dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour, too dry, a little more water. In both instances, it should just be a very little at a time.
Flour your work surface, and knead for 10 minutes. Use the ball of your hand, and it’s a gentle massage, not a vicious assault. If your arms ache while doing this, you’re going too hard. Seriously, a generation of TV chefs have sold a lie about this part of the process, in order to try and look more masculine while baking.
As the yeast activates, the dough should start to feel more and more bouncy. Once it feels good and elastic, place it in a large, floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and stick it in your airing cupboard for 45 minutes. If you have no airing cupboard, balance it on top of a radiator. Warm and dry is the watchword here.
After 45 minutes proving, it will have grown as if it were alive, mostly because it is, in a way. Give it another near for five minutes, then put it on a floured baking sheet or tray, cover with a tea towel, and give it another hour to prove.
Yep. It’s huge now. Form it into a high ball, and stick in the oven at 170c for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn it down to about 140c, and cook until it makes a hollow sounding ‘donk’ noise when you tap the bottom of the loaf.
Rest on a wire rack to settle then enjoy. with any luck, it should be light on the inside, but lovely and crusty out. If you’re making toast with it, do have one with marmite and one with picallilli. The contrast between pickled bitterness and salty richness is absolute heaven.