Introduction: Baking Bread the Easy Way
In this instructable I'm going to show you an easy way to bake bread. First I should say something about why I like to bake bread at home rather than just buying it from the super-market. The answer is that with very little effort it is possible to bake bread that is much nicer than they sell in the the supermarket, or any other shop unless you go a specialist bakery and pay about £3 a loaf. This is the method I use and I have baked over 200 loaves over the last couple of years. It is certainly not the only way and may not be the best way but it is quick and easy and produces very good bread.
600g plain flour
400ml cold water
3g dried yeast
You do not need to use very expensive 'strong' flour. I have cooked many nice loaves with Sainsbury's plain flour that has a protein content of just under 10%. I prefer the Belbake flour from Lidl which is 11.7% protein. Using either flour produces a loaf that rises well but the slightly higher protein in the Belbake flour means that the flour seems to absorb the water better so the dough is less sticky.
If you want to bake a brown loaf using this method you can use 200g of wholemeal flour and 400g of plain flour. If you use more than one third wholemeal flour I find that the loaf does not rise as well and ends up a bit too dense. I use dried yeast that comes in 7g sachets. I only use half a sachet per loaf because that is enough make the loaf rise. I bake 2-3 times per week so I soon the other half a sachet. If you are not going to bake regularly you might as well put the whole sachet in.
Step 1: Steps and Timings
Everything you need to know is in the video but here are a few extra notes.
The dough will be ready to knead after about 6 hours but you can leave it over-night or even longer if you don't want to knead, rise, and bake it right away. Once you have kneaded it timing is important. If you leave it rising too long you will get big air bubbles in the top of the loaf and you won't get such a good loaf. As I say in the video, the timings are for 22 C (the normal temperature of my airing cupboard) it will take longer at a cooler temperature. The important thing is not the length of time you leave it but how much bigger the dough gets. As I hope you can see in the video when I prove it the dough expands to be about four times the volume when it proves. That is ideal. At the very least it must expand to be twice its original size. When you let the dough rise (ie the last step before you put it in the oven) you want it to double in size - no more and no less. When it is twice as big it is ready; put it in the oven.
2) Prove - 6-18 hours
4) Rise - 2 hours
5) Bake - 55 minutes at 200 C (gas mark 6)
I don't bake my bread in a loaf tin because I find it can be difficult to get it out of the tin once it's baked. Instead I use a baking sheet which I put inside a small baking tray to stop it spreading out too far. I am currently using a teflon sheet but a silicon one is as good or maybe better.
55 minutes at 200 C will be enough to cook the loaf right through. If you want it to have a darker crust then just leave it in a bit longer or for your next loaf use a slightly higher temperature (220 C or Gas Mark 7).
If you find that when you turn your cooked loaf over it looks a bit pale and soft underneath just put it back in the oven for ten more minute without the baking sheet or baking tray.