So, it was the hottest day of the year, and instead of grabbing a cold beer and the best spot on the decking – I was baking bread. But, hey, home-made bread is hard to better, eaten still slightly warm with a bit of salted Breton butter and a wedge of Lincolnshire Poacher. Bliss. I know that a bread-machine can be really useful, but it’s not the same is it? not in the eating of the end result and definitely not in the making of it. Kneading bread (even in the heat) is so therapeutic, either to assuage your anger or express your love, switching on a machine doesn’t really share the romance does it? Anyway, this recipe is so quick and easy, it is almost no effort.
Makes 1 largish loaf.
500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting 1 tsp salt 7g sachet fast-action yeast 3 tbsp olive oil 300ml water Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add the oil and water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead. Once the dough is satin-smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover (with, say, a large plastic mixing bowl or damp, clean, tea-towel) and leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Knock back the dough, then gently mould the dough into a ball. Cover, Place it on the baking parchment to prove for a further hour until doubled in size. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Dust the loaf with flour and cut a cross about 6cm long into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Place it in the pre heated oven along with a small, deepish tray of water (which create a damp heat that helps make the crust) and bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.
If you really can’t be bothered or really don’t have the time, there are so many wonderful small, local, independent and artisan bakers around now, as this traditional art is revived and appreciated, that you could always seek one of them out and just pretend!