This is my go to loaf for.....well nearly everything. It really is perfect, light, fluffy and delicious.
I can add fruit, tomatoes, onion, seeds, honey, whatever I fancy, or just keep it a simple white loaf which is equally tasty. It's taken me a long time to get this right, so I thought I'd share it with you so you don't have to go through the same pain :)
So let's get to the nitty-gritty, here's what you'll need:
- 500g Strong white flour (known in the US as bread flour and 1.1lb for my American cousins. You could use 1lb and drop the water to around 250ml)
- 4 heaped teaspoons dry milk powder (I use Tesco Value skimmed milk powder)
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking yeast
- 300ml luke-warm water
A bread tin is really handy too - I'm using a 2lb one.
You can knead it by hand, or using a mixer with a dough hook - I'm using a kitchenaid classic as my arthritic hands aren't quite as good as they once were for kneading.
For those who prefer, I've also made a Youtube video which I've added onto the pics above :)
Step 1: Prepare the Yeast
Grab a mixing jug and fill with 300ml warm water (luke warm)
Measure out the 2 teaspoons of yeast into a mixing jug and give it a stir.
Pop a very small pinch of sugar in with the mixture and 1 last stir around.
Cover with a clean tea towel or similar. While we're waiting for the yeast mixture, proceed to the next step.
After around 10 minutes, the mixture should have a frothy head on it like a good beer (like pic 2). It's ready to use.
Step 2: Grab a Mixing Bowl and Measure the Ingredients
Grab a mixing bowl, pop it on some scales and add:
500g flour (1.1lbs).
4 heaped tsp milk powder (this is what makes it super soft and light)
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
With the mixer
Pop the bowl on the stand, attach the dough hook and just give the ingredients a quick 'dry' stir. While the mixer is still running on a low setting, grab your yeast mixture and slowly pour all of it in. This mix I made was a little short of the 300ml I usually use, so I added a couple of tablespoons of water.
IMPORTANT: Before you start adding water, give it a chance to fully mix through first. You are looking for a consistency which is sticky, but doesn't stick too much to your hands. I can usually pull my dough out of the mixer by hand at the end without a scraper. You can add flour too, but I like to try and get it right 1st time.
Mix on the low setting for around 6-7 minutes until it's become elastic and dough like. Whilst it's mixing, lightly grease a 2nd mixing bowl. (Make sure your bowl is big enough for the dough to expand into as it'll double in size.
Take the dough out and place onto a lightly floured surface. I always like to hand knead for the last 30 seconds/minute to ensure the consistency is right. With this load, I didn't use hardly any flour whilst hand kneading. Knead it into a ball and place into the greased bowl. Cover with a clean tea-towel or clingfilm/food wrap and leave somewhere warm for an hour or until doubled in size.
If you're going hand-solo (see what I did there). Mix the flour, salt, sugar and milk powder in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add the yeast mix. Mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add 1-2 tbsp water. Mix again, then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead (around 10-12 mins I find). Once the dough is satin-smooth, place it into the greased bowl. Cover with a clean tea-towel or clingfilm/food wrap and leave somewhere warm for an hour or until doubled in size.
Go sit down for an hour, you've earned it. Then proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Knock Back and the 2nd Rise
Look at that, your dough is MASSIVE! The first thing we need to do is knock it back. Take off the clingfilm, make a fist with your hand and gently push into the middle of the dough to release the gas that's built up.
Tip the mixture out onto the lightly floured surface and gently knead it again (doesn't need much - around 30 seconds to a minute). Try to knead it into the shape of the loaf you're making. I'm using a greased 2lb loaf tin, so I've kneaded the shape into an oval.
Place the dough into the greased loaf tin. TOP TIP (dust the top with flour to stop the top sticking when rising. Loosely cover ( I used kitchen towel this time) and leave for around 40 mins.
Check the progress of the loaf after 40 minutes. It should be almost there. Switch on and preheat your oven to:175 degrees C (fan oven), 190 non-fan or 375 degrees F.
Come back in 15-20 mins.
Step 4: The Finale
So hopefully, your dough looks something like pic 1.
Now it's time to pop it in the oven. It should take around 30-35 minutes. The top should be a golden brown and quite solid at this point. A sure-fire way to check it's cooked through is once you've taken it out of the loaf tin, flick the middle of the bottom of the loaf. The sound should be hollow.
That's it, you've got an awesome loaf. Give it around 20-30 minutes to cool before cutting. Don't be tempted to dive in when it's hot - be patient.
I hope you enjoyed the instructable, and have fun making it! If you like what I've done here, please feel free to vote for me in the Cooking Basics competition :)