Baking bread

This recipe is for a single loaf of wholemeal bread. It comes out quite dense (i.e., there are no big air bubbles in it) but is pretty darn tasty.  If you replace the wholemeal flour with granary flour below, you end up with a granary loaf instead.  (Surprise!)  My normal bake is two loaves, one wholemeal and one granary as it's more economical with the oven.  I always make the wholemeal one before the granary as the latter leaves the bowl and utensils too sticky!  The emphasis here is on speed, not culinary excellence: the two loaves take me about 20 minutes of preparation and another 5-10 minutes spread over 90 minutes or so.

  1. Weigh out 20 oz of strong wholemeal flour and put it in the oven, set to 50 degrees Celsius, for 10 minutes.

  2. While the flour is warming through, gather together the other things you'll need: and boil the kettle too.

    The yeast needs a little further explanation: you can buy dried yeast that can be added to the flour and rises at room temperature -- none of this messy faffing about that our parents remember.  Being congenitally lazy, I use this.  While I remember, there's no kneading either: that's why the bread isn't full of air bubbles.

  3. You'll need a loaf tin in which to cook the bread.  The loaf tins I use were bought really cheaply from the local co-op.  (I sterilized these with boiling water when I bought them, but they've never been washed since as that encourages the loaf to stick to the tin.)  Grease the inside of the tin with fat (butter, margarine or whatever).

  4. Clean a region of a bench.  You're going to put the dough onto this.  Then make sure it's nice and dry.

  5. When the four has warmed up, measure out about 3/4 pint (that's a UK pint, not one of those short measures one gets in the USA) of water.  It should be hot but bearable.

  6. Mix together the flour, yeast, a teaspoon of the sugar and about 2 teaspoons of salt in the mixing bowl.  Then add the water, a little at a time, mixing it in thoroughly with the wooden spoon.  The aim is to produce a single lump of dough which has taken up all the dry flour, but which isn't wet and slimy to the touch.

  7. Sprinkle flour onto your cleaned bench surface and onto your hands.  Then work the flour in the mixing bowl a bit, making sure it's a single, homogeneous lump of dough.  Then lob it onto the bench and spread it out a bit with your knuckles.  I aim for something about half an inch thick.

  8. Roll the dough up and put it into the loaf tin.  Push it in quite hard, to make sure it fits into the corners.  Then put it to one side and cover it with the damp cloth.

  9. You want the bread to rise for an hour, then put it into the middle of a a hot oven (190 degrees Celsius).  My oven takes 15 minutes to heat up so I set my oven timer for 45 minutes, turn the oven on and leave it for a further 15 minutes.

  10. Wash the mixing bowl and utensils.  Wet flour is really sticky (remember using flour-and-water paste as a kid?) so, if you leave them, you'll need a pneumatic drill to clean them.

  11. The loaf should be cooked for 40 minutes.  Then take it out of the oven, remove the load from the tin, and put it back into the oven upside down for a further 5 minutes.  This crisps up the crust.  When the loaf tin has cooled, just wipe it out with some kitchen roll.

  12. Take the loaf out of the oven and leave on a wire cooling rack until it's well and truly cold.  Or if you can't wait, wait until it's tepid and cut yourself a slice!