I have decided to document this for the benefit of aspiring bread makers, so I am asking for it all to go horribly wrong. It is also an exercise in using my nice little Asus Eee 1000 netbook for blogging, which I have not done in earnest since I took it to the Hydra Rebetiko conference in 2008.
I started by waking up the yeast. which had been sitting in the fridge for a while. It was fresh yeast from Tesco, who are currently selling 100g for 20p. So, put the yeast in a jug of warm water, with a heaped teaspoon of sugar for it to feed on. Hot water will kill the yeast, so be careful.
Then, I weighed out three pounds of flour. I have used one pound of stoneground wholewheat and two pounds of Allinson's Very Strong Bread Flour. Strong means lots of gluten, which good bread needs, to hold the structure. I tend to experiment with different mixtures of flour, for variety. Half a pound of rye flour, for instance, can give a very interesting flavour.
I made a hole in the middle of the flour, poured in the pint of water with the now very lively yeast, and another pint of warm water. I mixed it with a blunt knife, and then my hands, until it started to make a dough. At this point, it was very sticky, and the knife came in handy for scraping the dough off my hands.
Then, I put flour on my work surface, and tipped the dough onto it. I started kneading. This step generally takes five to ten minutes, and should not be skimped. I stop when the dough stops sticking to my hands, which tells me the gluten has done its thing...
This picture shows the state reached after kneading, and resting the dough for a while. Notice it has grown...
Then, I gave my ancient bread tins a tiny squirt of spray cooking oil, although they are already pretty much non-stick. I cut the dough in halves, kneaded and shaped both, and stuck some sesame seeds on one, for variety. The tins were left until the dough had risen above the top by about half an inch. Then I put them in the oven, which had been pre-heated to 250° Centigrade.
Baking time in our oven is 25 minutes, and all ovens vary, so watch for burning, or undercooked loaves, and adapt accordingly. Half way through the baking, I turn the tins round to make sure the bread is evenly cooked.
I always tap the bottom of each loaf as I turn it out, as tradition says the sound it makes tells you if it's done. To be honest, I can't remember them ever making a different sound, even when I have made bad bread. Then again, that doesn't happen all that often now I've been baking for a few years. I realised recently it has been over thirty years. Where does the time go?