If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you might know that I have been terrified of baking my own bread. I have no specific reason for this. I can just imagine it’s because I am a very lazy cook and the idea of kneading dough scares me. BUT, another blogger made me promise that I will bake bread before the end of the year (and this was in July already) and as the end of the year is fast approaching, I got a bit nervous.
I knew I couldn’t just bake the bread, to bake the bread. I wanted to incorporate it into a meal, this way I couldn’t just cop out and not do it. I decided on bunny chows because you can’t do a bunny chow without the bread right?
So off I went buying plenty of yeast and bread flour and as I was shopping, I walked past the bakery and the smell of fresh bread both inspired me, and made me just want to run in and get 2 loaves from them. But I persevered and allowed the inspiration to wash away the laziness. I must have googled a thousand recipes and decided on a mixture between Jamie Oliver and Justin Bonello’s recipes. They both seemed simple enough.
I must say, whilst making the well with the flour and slowly mixing in the water, yeast and sugar, I was incredibly nervous. It just looked like a giant mess and when I accidentally ‘broke’ the wall of the well, and yeasty-water started running over and off of the kitchen counter, I almost threw the entire mess into the dustbin. But I didn’t. I just kept on working the dough, praying that eventually it will all come together. And just as I prayed that, the dough formed a ball and I could see it becoming beautiful and smooth. I was so excited! I felt like a real 1950’s housewife. If only I had on a ball skirt and a cute little apron, instead I was standing in leggings and a giant man-style shirt. But those are all just details.
And I think the most impressive and exciting part was that when I put the dough in it’s oiled bowl and covered it with cling-wrap, after an hour, it was risen. But not just risen, it was HUGE! Like a proud child showing off in front of it’s mama. I was over-the-moon.
To cut a long story short, the dough was transported to the bread tin (which was used by my grandmother when she owned the Margate hotel in the 60’s and 70’s) and allowed to rise again. And then it was popped into the oven for an hour. I was waiting with baited breath to see if my baby was baking like it should and when the timer went and I took it out of the oven, I yelped with delight. I first ran to my husband to show him and then to my younger brother, my 2-year old twins ran after me not knowing what the hell was going on. But they were laughing, so I’m sure they could sense the pleasure and joy I was feeling. My first ever home-baked bread was a huge success.
So if you’re one of those who are scared of doing something in the kitchen, just know that you’re not alone. I think so many of us are scared but we think we’re the only ones, I can promise you, you’re not. All cooks and chefs have something they’re nervous about making, but they just do it anyway. So go ahead, conquer those fears. You have no idea how happy it will make you!
Makes 1 big loaf or 2 medium ones
1.2kg bread flour
650ml luke-warm water
extra flour for dusting
- Start by piling all the bread flour into a pile on your working surface. Make a large well in the center. Pour in half of the water, followed by the yeast, sugar and salt.
- Stir with a fork until the water, yeast, sugar and salt are all combined then slowly start bringing some of flour in with the fork. When the mixture is thick and porridge-like, add the rest of the water. Repeat the process of bringing the flour slowly into the paste until the mixture is thick enough so the water won’t run all over the place. Now you can start working the dough with your hands.
- Gently start working the dough into a ball and knead it until it becomes soft and smooth. About 5-7 minutes. Also remember that depending on the weater and the type of flour, you might need a bit more water or a bit more flour to get the dough smooth and soft.
- When you’ve finished kneading the dough, place it into an oiled bowl and cover with clingwrap or a damp tea towel. Allow to rise (prove) for about 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure the dough is left in a relatively warm place.
- When the dough has risen, knock it down by punching it and then transfer it to the greased bread tin. Once again, allow to rise again for about 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
- Gently place your bread in the oven and don’t bang the door closed (this is Jamie’s tip) as then you’ll lose all the air you need. Bake your bread for an about an hour (my oven gets very hot so I baked it for 53 minutes on the dot). You can check whether your bread is cooked by tapping the bottom, if it sounds hollow, the bread is cooked.
- Allow your bread to cool on a wire-rack for at least 30 minutes.