A Battle for Good Bread

Have you noticed in the last few months that bread from supermarket bakeries has changed shape and got a lot more airy? Tesco's small loaves are now square not oblong and have more in common with that Swedish diet bread - useless for sandwiches. M&S loaves are getting smaller too and it won't be long before they count as rolls. We do have a few bakeries in Leamington but one makes artisan bread that's all sourdough and mostly useful for propping doors open, but hopeless for a sandwich, and another who's bread is delicious but who rations it to about 3 people a day and only if they smile and grovel for the pleasure!

So I thought I'd make some bread! I'm not the worlds greatest cook so am looking for a really easy and successful recipe which involves research and experimentation I guess.

It has to be quick, it has to be easy. My "bread day" runs like this:  About 5pm start making tea, and measure out the bread ingredients. Mix in the food mixer and leave in the same bowl to rise. Have tea, watch telly and forget you're supposed to be kneading the bread now it's risen. Watch that nice Mr Gardening Monty Don on the TV and finally go at shape the bread at 8pm. Pop it in the fridge overnight to prove. Get up next morning and put on to bake at about 9am after a couple of coffees. Nice bread for lunch and 2 in the freezer.

Here's 2 recipes and my results in case you're interested in baking bread at home.

(above) The bread police say you need 2 tsp of salt per 500gms of flour for flavour, but it's too much for me, so this recipe reduces that:

Recipe 1

750gms of strong white flour
1 oz butter or 2 tblsps olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 x7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
3/4 pt lukewarm water.
oil for greasing

Combine the flour and butter and rub in. Add yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl (salt is supposed to adversely affect the yeast action - can't say I'd noticed) and add water to mix to a soft dough. Knead for about 5-10 mins until smooth and elastic (Tip: use your food mixer and mix on minimum until a dough forms and then 3 minutes on speed 1)

Leave to rise for about an hour until doubled in size. Knead again for about 5 mins (2 mins on minimum in a machine) and shape into rolls or put in a loaf tin. Leave to rise again until doubled and then bake at 210 Fan for about 25/30 minutes. Cook at 200 for a longer period if you prefer a crisper crust.

Recipe 2

(Bakes 3 continental style richer loaves - apologies for the switch to imperial measurements, it's from a very old book - a machine is best unless you have very strong arms)

2lbs 14oz flour
1 1/8 pint milk
5oz sugar
8oz butter
25gms fast action dried yeast
3 eggs
2 tsps salt.

Melt the butter, add the milk and keep until luke warm. Add the dried yeast and leave for 10 mins.

Add flour and sugar to a bowl and then add the salt at one side. Add the eggs and milk mixture and mix until a dough is formed (1 minute on minimum in a food mixer)  Knead for 10 minutes or 3 minutes on 1 in the mixer.

Leave to rise until doubled in size.

Knead for 10 mins or 2 mins at speed 1 in the mixer, and shape. Leave to prove for another couple of hours (it takes longer because of the other ingredients inhibiting the yeast) and bake at 210 Fan for 30/40 minutes depending on loaf size. The crust will brown because of the sugars, but is delicious.

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