Simplicity is the key to happiness – in all aspects of life, electronics, cooking, art, and on it goes. With simplicity goes timesaving.
I cook as I breathe – always have done. And unless I have simplified the cooking of a dish down to its bare minimum of fuss, ingredients and time taken, I work on it – even if I think I can hardly improve on it.
Breadmaking is one of those dark arts that need to be brought into the light. After all, if you can eat a really good loaf at less than a third of the price of a bought, polystyrene-like object, why not make bread yourself, by hand – if you do not already have an expensive machine and use electricity to run it.
Every time I come to make bread, there will be a new slant on it – simplicity and time taken being the main variables.
So I write this after only one experiment because I am so pleased with what happened, and delighted with the result.
The basics are the same – 1 ½ kilos of bread flour, salt, a hint of turmeric (only for colour), sugar (I used to use honey but can taste no difference when using sugar), a dribble of olive oil (I don’t know why), some dried yeast, and 1 ½ pints of warm water.
Normally I make the mix, knead it, allow the dough to rise in a warm place (sometimes twice), knead again, divide it into three well-buttered bread tins (never letting the metal to go near water), wait for the dough to rise in the tins, then bake the result in a hot oven for 1/2 an hour, followed by another 1/2 an hour at a medium to low setting.
The dough-rising bit has, until this experiment, taken place on a small area that is of under-floor heated.
In winter this was ideal. But in summer the floor is cold and unsuitable. So where was I to find a warm place - in the oven, of course.
So, when kneading, I switched on the oven enough to warm it, divided the kneaded dough into three bread tins, and watched the dough rise to the top of the tins in the oven, checking and sometimes adjusting the warmth about every quarter of an hour. And there they were, ready to bake, with no fuss, no unnecessary movement of tins, and no trouble. The resulting bread was wonderful.
Actually, I make six loaves at a time, filling the oven, then freezing the bread that’s not wanted when it has cooled.
So to re-cap – for three loaves. Empty a 1 1/2 kilo bag of bread flour into a large bowl. Add some salt and a trace of turmeric. Stir it around.
Take a Pyrex pint glass measure. In it put a heaped teaspoon of sugar. Pour in boiling water to the half-pint mark. Melt the sugar. Add cold water up to the pint mark. Test it for blood-heat warmth. Stir in one and a half teaspoons of dried yeast.
Place this measuring jar of liquid in the centre of the flour in its bowl, and cover the surface of the yeasty liquid with a little of the surrounding flour.
In a while the yeast will react with the sugar and bubble up through the flour. Whisk it all together. A creamy foam will result.
Pour this yeast mixture into the flour, adding another half-pint of warmed water and a dribble of olive oil. Stir it together with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms into a rough ball that you can lift out and knead.
Knead the dough by using your fingers and the heel of your hands. The dough might be a little sticky to start with, but will firm up. Keep at it for about five minutes. This is a most satisfactory process.
Roll the dough with your hands into a sausage shape, divide into three, and put these into the buttered bread tins, scoring into the top of the dough from end to end with a knife.
Put the tins of dough into your warmed oven and proceed as directed above.
Tip out the baked loaves onto a wire mesh surface, allow the bread to cool, then eat one freshly baked and freeze the rest.