The fact is, that if you mix flour, lukewarm water and yeast together – you *cannot* stop your bread from rising!
All my recipes follow the same path – and they all follow three simple breadmaking rules.
The three simple rules which you should bear in mind when making bread are:
1. Use strong, breadmaking flour – look for the words ‘strong’ or ‘bread’ on the packet. Plain flour will work in an emergency, and a mixture of strong and plain will work fine.
2. Use lukewarm (hand hot) water, and don’t put your dough anywhere too hot. Forget airing cupboards and radiators, the bread will rise on your worktop.
3. Give your bread time to rise after its final shaping and before it goes into the oven. White bread will double in size – a pizza base should look puffy compared to when you rolled it out.
And that’s it!
There’s also a couple of things to bear in mind, but aren’t rules as such:
1. Make sure your dough is soft and squishy – never be afraid to add more water whilst you’re mixing the dough.
2. If you have the slightest doubt whether your bread is done or not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Look for colour on the bottom of your bread.
Yeast: Whatever yeast you’re using – fresh, active dried (comes in a tin) or easyblend (comes in sachets), treat them all the same.
Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water until dissolved, then add it straight into the flour.
As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as fresh – so if the recipe says a dessertspoon of fresh yeast, use a teaspoon of dried.
But don’t worry too much about the amount of yeast you use: the more yeast you use, the faster your bread will rise; the less you use, the longer it will take.
A bread dough made with 400g (2 mugs) of flour will make a medium-sized loaf, about 8 bread rolls, two or three pizzas or 8 sizzlers (wraps, really) – or any other savoury bread you can think of!
I want to use this blog to demonstrate just how easy and accessible home breadmaking can be (is)!
Breadmaking is far easier than pastrymaking, and the dough is much more forgiving. What's more, virtually anything that can be made with pastry can be made with a bread dough – which can be completely fat free!
Apart from all this, there are several other reasons for making your own bread:
It's a lot cheaper - a 1.5kg bag of own-brand white flour, which will make three large loaves, currently costs around 70-80p. A 25cm (10") cheese and tomato pizza can be made for around 70p. And you can make a small batch of Chelsea buns for the price of one in a baker's shop.
It's healthier. You control the quality of the food you feed your family. Check out the number of ingredients on a wrapped sliced loaf.
It's more convenient than buying your bread - one of my students, who lives about 300 yards from a large supermarket told me she thought it was quicker to knock up a batch of rolls rather than nip to the supermarket.
At home you can make many different varieties of breads that you cannot even buy – or are very expensive to buy in the shops.
If you'd rather have organic bread it's much cheaper to make your own. If you want bread without salt, you have to make it yourself. The only way to make breads like pane casereccio (filled with Italian sausage and Gruyere), tarte Alsace* (a thin dough covered with creme fraiche, then thinly sliced onions then lardons of bacon – or slices of mushroom and tomato) is to make them yourself.
*Recipe to come
It's very enjoyable, dammit! It's fun to make your own bread - it's very satisfying to see a batch of terrific-smelling, great-looking bread come out of the oven. You get a sense of achievement you cannot get with any other branch of cooking (IMO!) (But beware – it can become very addictive.)
And if you're around kids, it's lovely to share the experience with them. Kids and breadmaking just go so well together.