When I was little we used to visit the local bakery, Bromwich’s, where my mother would buy bridge rolls, cob and cottage loaves, tea cakes and iced buns. On a Thursday, my half day, we would take custard tarts and pineapple tarts from Bromwich’s to my grandmother’s for afternoon tea. This was an old fashioned bakery with a wonderful smell, a long queue and a great selection of plain, English bread, buns and cakes. My father, unaccountably, always sent a request for a macaroon and this increased his mystery for me.- for who could choose a macaroon when there were pineapple cream tarts in the offing?
Be patient if you haven’t made bread before. Even if this is your first attempt your bread will be totally irresistible when it comes out of the oven. Once you get familiar with the dough you will be able to make bread that is also delicious cold.
1000g strong white flour
2 x sachet easy bake yeast
1.5 pints of hand warm water
Salt to taste
- Put your oven on its highest setting and set a shelf low down for the bread.
- Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and bring together with a flat knife into a dough that you can eventually tip onto the counter.
- Knead briefly and scoop back into the bowl. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.
- When the dough has grown and has visible air bubbles in it after about an hour tip it back onto the counter with some flour and knead it back and forth again. When it feels like a baby’s flesh, soft and springy, it’s ready to go into the baking tray.
- Cut some baking parchment to cover a baking tray and divide the dough in two. Roughly form two loaves and put them side by side in the baking tray.
- Again leave for 45 minutes to an hour – maybe on top of the oven which is heating up. After an hour or less the dough will have expanded and this time it is ready for the oven.
- Bake half an hour at your oven’s highest temperature and then check the bread is cooked. Turn the load upside down and knock on the base. When it sounds hollow it is cooked.
- Cool on a wire rack.
If this is your first attempt your bread will taste delicious hot but may take some practice to be edible cold. Make bread each week and you will quickly get to know the texture that will bake into good bread.
Now rejoice. You have joined thousands of years of bakers. You are celebrating your links to thousands of years of history across many other cultures. Before the Flood they were eating bread like yours.
With bread like this you can upgrade all kinds of meals from shop-bought hummus to home-made soup. A lettuce, a piece of cheese and a home-made loaf is all you need. Or to quote Omar Khayyam ‘A jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and Thou!’ I have a feeling this is the loaf he had in mind.
After a month or so you when your bread is pretty reliable you can try variations. Add cooked onion to the dough for a wonderful sweet onion bread. Top with seeds or grated cheese. Add pitted olives to the dough and some olive oil for an authentic Mediterranean taste. You can let your imagination off the leash here. There is nothing you can add to your bread that won’t be worth trying. Let me know what you do!