One of Our Favourite Recipes: Endlessly Adaptable Bread

 Bread Pan

This is a marvellously versatile recipe; you can make a wholemeal loaf, a white cob, or anything in between, with the addition of flavourings, herbs or any of the vegetables in the previous post.

The original recipe comes from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. He is the ‘bad cop’ to Mary Berry’s ‘good cop’ on The Great British Bake Off and his books are all brilliant, as are hers. They are easy to follow and have a balance of favourites and more unusual recipes. How to Bake has recipes for a mixture of breads, pastries, puddings, cakes, pies and tarts, all of which are delicious.

Most vegetables are better with strong white flour, rather than wholemeal.

If you want a sweet pumpkin bread, add 2 teaspoons of runny honey instead of the butter. If you are using a purée of vegetables reduce the butter by about half. Always add the water slowly so the dough does not become too sticky.

The flours and yeast that we use are in brackets, but any strong bread flour and quick yeast will work; experiment to find your favourites.

For 1 loaf

  • 400g stoneground strong wholemeal flour (Waitrose Canadian and Very Strong)
  • 100g strong white bread flour (Waitrose Farm: Leckford Estate)
  • 10g salt
  • 10g instant yeast (Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast, this is loose rather than in sachets so you can measure the exact amount)
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 320ml tepid water
  • Oil for kneading and to grease the bowl

Tip the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other.

Add the butter, three-quarters of the water and any puréed or grated vegetables. Turn the mixture round with your fingers and add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is soft, but not soggy. You may need a little more or less water. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl, folding the edges into the middle. Keep going till you have a rough dough.

Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 10 minutes, by which time the dough should be smooth and silky. Oil a large bowl, put the dough into it and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until it has at least doubled in size, at least 1 hour, possibly 2 or even 3.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.

Dust the work surface lightly with flour and tip the dough onto it. Knock the air out of the dough by folding it inwards repeatedly until the dough is smooth. Flatten the dough and roll it up into a sausage, then roll this out with your hands until it is about 30cm long. Tie the dough in a knot and place it on the prepared baking tray. Put the tray into a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for about an hour. Large recycling bags are excellent for this, using a wire mesh food cover to keep the plastic off the dough. The dough should have doubled in size and spring back when prodded lightly wit a finger.Wholemeal 1

Meanwhile heat the oven to Gas 7, 200C.

Gently rub flour over the dough and put the loaf into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, then check it is cooked by tapping the base, it should sound hollow. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Jane

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