Hello, readers! Crikey, it’s been a long time since I posted anything. I’ve had a lovely holiday, been super-busy with the thesis and – well, it has been rather warm for running an oven, hasn’t it?
The holiday was definitely the high point of my month. A week away in the Lake District with my favourite people in the whole world – Jef, my Mum, Dad and little sister Sophie. We’ve never been away as a group before and I was a tiny bit anxious as to whether we’d all get on but I shouldn’t have worried. We had a brilliant time, the hotel was amazing and the weather just about as perfect as I could have hoped for. (This was the ‘heatwave’ week so we were very glad to be in the one corner of the country where it was hot and sunny but not insanely airless!) My one complaint was that it just wasn’t a long enough holiday – I could happily have stayed for another week.
All over now, back to normality which includes making friends with my kitchen again. Just before I went away, Dan Lepard’s ‘Short and Sweet’ thunked through my letterbox and I got as far as the easy white bread on p19 – this is his novel method involving the dough getting lots of quick kneads and several rests rather than the traditional half an hour of pummelling. Never tried it before, but on Saturday we were having a fast day and I was, as ever, restless, hungry and keen to bake. But baking said loaf would be a very bad idea – the house would smell of tantalising bread we couldn’t eat! Happily, you can do all the work up to the first rise, bung the dough in the fridge and shape it the day after. Perfect. So I did.
The flour I used was a special one – a seedy mix from Claybrooke Mill. I’ve written about Claybrooke Mill before, their goods are wonderful and they’re based in my old neck of the woods, Leciestershire. This mix is called Woodhouse which always makes me smile because I remember family trips to that area when I was little. Now, Dan’s recipe is for white bread and this is mainly wholemeal with seeds so it really shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Perfectly.
- 400g Woodhouse Flour Mix, plus more for shaping
- 1 tsp dough improver, also from Claybrooke.
- 1 tsp dry instant yeast, from a sachet
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 300ml warm water
- oil for kneading
Put the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl, pour in the water then stir into a sticky mass. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes. Lightly oil your worktop and hands. Knead the dough for 10 seconds and return it to the bowl. Repeat twice more at 10-minute intervals, then leave in the bowl for 45 minutes. Wipe the worktop, dust it with flour then pat the dough into a rough oblong. Roll it up tightly, pinch each end to keep it neat then place seam-side down on a floured tray. Cover with a cloth and leave for 45 minutes or until the dough has expanded by a half. Flour the top of the dough, cut a slash down the middle and bake at 220°C/fan 200°C/425°F/gas 7 for 35-40 minutes.
It might not be the most beautiful loaf of bread but it was honestly the best loaf I’ve made by hand and it’s nicer than many of the ones I’ve made in the bread maker. Lovely crust, nice airy texture, beautiful flavour. And ridiculously easy – not sure if it was the lazy method or the night in the fridge that did the tricky but yes, very good! Thank you Dan – next time I’ll behave and try proper white flour.