Feeds: millions [w/ Jesus] or 4 without him
Prep Time: 25 minutes plus 2 – 4 hours rising time
Cook Time: 40 minutes
15g fresh yeast; or
2 tsp dried yeast plus
1 tsp sugar; or 1 sachet
easy-blend dried yeast
300ml lukewarm water
500g strong plain flour
2 tsp salt
15g butter or lard
1. Dissolve sugar in the water [this feeds the yeast] and add yeast. Leave for 15 minutes to froth up. If using easy-blend yeast, add it straight to the flour.
2. Toss the flour and salt into a bowl. Use your hands to work the butter or lard into the flour. Then make a well in the centre and pour in yeasty water [or plain water if using the sachet].
3. Stir to form a dough, then knead with your hands until the dough leaves the side of the bowl.
4. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes. You want the dough to be firm and not sticky.
5. I rinse out the bowl I used to mix the dough in at this stage, and then put the firm dough back in. Cover with cling film and put it under the radiator [or anywhere warm]. Leave for 1 to 2 hours, or until double the size.
6. After it’s puffed itself up, give it a good ole punch. This is your chance to channel that aggression pent up from the other half saying “you’re making a mess of my kitchen. You’re gonna clean up this mess!” Punching not only disperses the air throughout the dough, it shows you mean business. You are a force with which to be reckoned. You are in control. You are Zen master. All of your chakras are aligned and you are at peace with the world.
7. You can either make one large loaf, or now divide the dough into two. I always find the loaves rather small anyway, so I don’t divide them, but this is the time to separate if you want, especially if you’re making rolls.
8. Place your dough, seam side down, into a greased tin or tray. Cover with cling film [although carrier bags work well if you are doing rolls or a large round loaf]. Leave to rise at room temperature for 40 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 230C. When the bread has risen for the occasion, brush the top with some salty water. Baked for just over half an hour.
10. If baking in tins, they should fall out when turned upside down. Tap the underside – it should sound hollow. If not, blast away for a few minutes more. If they are finished, rest on some cooling racks. Bring them to the attention of your dissenting party[ies], and watch how they grin sheepishly. They’re thinking they wish they knew how to do that. Comment on the smell. “How lovely”, works well. Use words like “rustic”, “salt of the earth” and “nature’s way”.